Education ministers must act on public school funding

Education ministers meeting today in Sydney must make ending the underfunding of public schools their top priority so teachers can increase the support and opportunities students receive.

Australian Education Union Federal president Correna Haythorpe said the Albanese government should lead the way and contribute at least 25% of the funding required to bring every public school to the minimum standard.

AEU Federal president Correna Haythorpe said: “We need less talk and more action on public school funding. There needs to be new signed agreements that deliver full funding by 2028, at the latest.

“Teachers in public schools are doing an amazing job but there aren’t enough of them. The right funding will mean more one on one support for students with complex needs, small group tutoring for those at risk of falling behind, more trained counsellors and teachers’ aides.

“Right now, only 1.3% of public schools are funded to the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) which is the minimum level governments agreed a decade ago was required to meet the needs of their students.

The Prime Minister promised to work with State and Territory governments to deliver full funding for public schools but there is no timetable to achieve that, except in NSW, where State Labor has promised full funding by 2029.  

“It’s time for the Albanese government to contribute its fair share for public schools. Only 1.6% of the federal budget is spent on public schools and there is a record surplus.

The Commonwealth has underfunded public schools for decades while overfunding private schools. The reported offer from the Albanese government of $2.3 billion for public schools is less than the $3.2 billion it will spend funding 40% of private schools above their SRS entitlement, including some of the richest in the nation, who are buying office towers and building Scottish-style castles.

“The challenges are too great and the cost of inaction too high for governments to continue to fail on funding.

The Albanese government must lift its contribution from 20 to 25% of the SRS for all states and lift it to 40% for the NT where student disadvantage is greatest.

Ms Haythorpe said that during the negotiations over new bilateral agreements the Albanese government must stop state and territory governments using accounting tricks to artificially inflate the share of funding they were contributing to schools.

“Accounting tricks artificially inflate funding for public schools in every state and the NT by 4% and that creates a $2 billion a year gap between what the governments claim they are spending and what they are actually spending,” she said.

“New bilateral agreements next year must deliver full not fake funding for public schools.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Melissa van der Haak, 0484 674 958

Authorised by Kevin Bates, Federal Secretary, Australian Education Union, 120 Clarendon Street, Southbank VIC 3006

11 December 2023