New figures expose Turnbull’s false claims on school funding increases

3 February 2017

Figures on school funding released by the Productivity Commission today have refuted Malcolm Turnbull’s claims of spending increases on schools, and shown the unfair funding system that existed before the Gonski reforms.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said the data was more evidence of why Gonski needs-based funding was essential to address past inequities and ensure all schools had the resources they needed.

“These figures show that, in the lead-up to the Gonski reforms, funding to schools barely increased above inflation and that government funding to private schools increased at three times the rate of funding to public schools, despite the higher proportion of disadvantaged students in public schools.

“This is why we needs-based Gonski funding is essential – to ensure that all schools are funded on the basis of student need, and that extra resources go to the schools which need them most.

“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull claimed on Wednesday that there had been a 50 per cent increase in government funding to schools over a decade. The reality is that school funding growth has been modest when inflation and rising student numbers are taken into account.

The PC’s Report on Government Services for Education report found that:

  • Between 2010-11 and 2014-15, real government expenditure per public school student increased at an average rate of just 1.1 per cent per year, while over the same period funding per student to private schools rose by 3.5 per cent a year.

“This is why we needed Gonski funding, to turn around a system which gave the biggest increases in government funds to schools that needed them least,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The Gonski agreements require both state and federal governments to increase their funding to schools and direct the bulk of the increases to schools with high numbers of disadvantaged students.”

“If Malcolm Turnbull proceeds with his plan to scrap Gonski after 2017, schools will miss out on $3.8 billion in extra resources they need to support their students.

The PC report also confirmed the chronic underfunding of disability in schools, with more than half of students with disability who need funded support at school not receiving it.

Just 5.4% of students with disability received funded support in 2015, a tiny increase on the previous year’s 5.3%.

This is despite figures from the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on Disability for 2015, released by the Federal Government last year, which found that 12.5% of students needed “supplementary, substantial or extensive support” at school.

“We have a situation in Australia where more than half the students who need funded help with a disability at school can’t get it,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“That is 268,000 students whose education and future are at risk because they cannot get the funded support they need.

“Yet the Federal Government is doing nothing to keep its 2013 election promise that all students with a disability will be funded according to their need, and ensure that these students have the resources they need to reach their potential.

“Our educators put in a huge effort for students with disability and they need to be backed with resources. Students with disability can require in-class support, specialised programs and equipment or extra individual attention to benefit fully from school.

Public schools educate higher proportions of disadvantaged students than private schools, with over 80 per cent of students from low-income families attending public schools, compared to 65 per cent of total students.

The PC report found that:

  • Indigenous students make up 6.9 per cent of public school students, compared to just 2.4 per cent in private schools.
  • Students with a recognised disability make up 6.1 per cent of public schools and 4.0 per cent of private schools.
  • Students in remote areas make up 1.6 per cent of public schools and 0.8 per cent of private schools.

“All schools must be funded on the basis of need, but we must also recognise that the public system educates the majority of disadvantaged students,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Media Contact: Ben Ruse 0437 971 291