The Turnbull government’s commitment to pump an extra $1.2 billion into the nation’s schools ahead of Tuesday’s budget has laid bare a major election battleground.
Treasurer Scott Morrison said the funding increase is “real money” that will be paid for by savings in other areas, but the pledge -- that falls more than $3 billion short of Labor’s promised Gonski school reforms -- has been slammed by the opposition as being “pathetically inadequate”.
Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham announced the plan on Sunday that will see the funding boost implemented between 2018 and 2020, increasing the rate of spending growth from 2.5 percent to 3.56 percent each year.
“This is growth that we believe is affordable; that will be budgeted and paid for without the need for an increase in the overall tax burden on Australians, but growth that will be tied to getting real reforms in Australian schools,” Minister Birmingham told the Nine Network on Monday.
“It is not just a question of how much you spend on school that matters, but how you spend it.”
The Coalition’s plan will be tied to a package of reforms that would lift school performance and student results -- and can be read here.
It will partially reverse the 10-year, $30 billion education cut by the Abbott Government in 2014.
But the pledge leaves a marked gap between the Coalition’s commitment and the $4.5 billion extra that has been promised by Labor to fully fund the Gonski plan it struck when last in office.
Shadow Minister for Education Kate Ellis labelled the plan “nothing more than a desperate political band-aid” and a “drop in the bucket” compared to the Liberals’ $30 billion previous cuts.
“The choice is clear: the Liberals’ broken promises and massive cuts, or Labor’s plan to make sure every student in every school has the support they need to achieve their best,” she said.
Turnbull hasn’t kept the promises made on schools before the last election – he simply can’t be trusted to do what is right for students.— Kate Ellis (@KateEllisMP) April 30, 2016
Labor has committed to #Gonski because we believe every child deserves to be supported to achieve their best.— Kate Ellis (@KateEllisMP) April 27, 2016
The Australian Education Union has criticised the funding increase as “a quick fix designed to get the Coalition through an election campaign”.
“This announcement confirms the Turnbull Government’s plans to walk away from Gonski needs-based funding and walk away from those students who need the help most,” federal president Correna Haythorpe told the ABC.
She said the government’s policy will mean “not all students will get the individual support in the classroom they need”.
“We want to see a full commitment to Gonski funding. (Without it) disadvantages students and their schools will miss out on vital resources.”
Minister Birmingham has acknowledged that the Coalition’s pledge ahead of the budget falls short of Labor’s, but says the opposition is focused only on money, not results.
“While Bill Shorten has promised more money for schools, Labor is ignoring the decades of significant funding growth yet declining performance,” he said.
“For all Labor knows, their extra funding will be used to build a second or third sports shed or pretty up a school gate rather than addressing the generation deficiencies of our schooling system.”