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Commonwealth funding for students in Tasmanian public schools with a disability will be slashed by 44 per cent next year, despite the state having higher numbers of children and young people with disabilities than the national average, the AEU said today.

Response to a Senate Estimates question* shows that Federal Government funding for students in Tasmanian public schools with disability loading will be cut from $18 million this year (2017) to $10 million in 2018.

“Tasmania has higher numbers of students with disability than the national average and our public schools can least afford these cuts,” said AEU Tasmania President Helen Richardson.

“Not only do we have high needs now in our public schools but it’s rapidly growing with the proportion of students with disability increasing by 71% in the decade from 2005.”

“Turnbull’s $8 million cut will be a disaster for our schools and mean even less support in class for those students who need it most.”

“Turnbull’s cuts are further evidence of his contempt for funding schools in order to meet need and of the Hodgman Government’s failure to stand-up for the best interest of our kids.

“Tasmanian public schools are yet again to be dudded by Malcolm Turnbull and yet again Will Hodgman is missing in action, choosing to toe the Turnbull party line rather than fight for the best interest of our schools.”

The Senate documents show that the Turnbull cut of $8 million is not even restored after 10 years. In 2027 Federal funding only returns to $13 million, still $5 million short of the 2017 funding levels.

The revelations of Turnbull’s cuts to disability funding are on top of an $85 million cut in Gonski funds, in the next two years alone, that will hit Tasmanian public schools if Turnbull is allowed to rip-up our signed, six year Gonski agreement.

“Will Hodgman failed to deliver on a pledge to stand up and fight for our Gonski agreement at COAG and he failed to use that forum to speak out about these devastating cuts to disability funding?” said Ms Richardson.

“There’s been no transparency, only spin, from Will Hodgman about what Turnbull’s plan to scrap our Gonski agreement means for our public schools and no preparedness to put Tasmanian school kids ahead of Turnbull’s political interests.”

The AEU’s 2017 State of Our Schools survey shows that 87% of principals reported having to shift funding from other parts of their school budget to assist students with disability. It also found that:

·       96% of principals report having students with disability at their school, and 76% say they don’t have the resources to meet their needs.

·       Disadvantaged schools have higher rates of disability: 42% of principals of low-SES schools report at least 16% of students have a disability compared to 11% of high-SES schools.

·       84% of principals say they need more assistance for teachers in the classroom, 60% say they need more specialist support, and 48% say they need more funding for professional development

“Surveys of parents and teachers have repeatedly shown that Tasmanian schools are not resourced to meet the needs of all students with disability yet Will Hodgman will not fight for the continuation of our Gonski agreement, which is the only plan to deliver the resources all kids need to reach their full potential,” she said.

“We urge Tasmanian Senators to vote against Turnbull’s cuts to our schools and vote against legislation in the Senate.”

Further information:

*Senate Committee: Education and Employment, Question on Notice, Budget Estimates 2017-2018, asked by Senator Jacinta Collins, 1 June 2017, pg. 109 Proof Hansard.

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