Secret funding deal leaves Tasmanian students ten percent short

An extended bilateral agreement between the Albanese and Rockliff Governments, signed without publicity on December 4, 2023, leaves Tasmanian public school students starting the year more than $2,000 per student (10 percent) short of the minimum funding standard required.

State and Federal Governments agreed to make almost no progress towards ending the underfunding of public schools in 2024, despite being warned by their own Expert Panel that achieving minimum standards is “urgent and critical”.

The existing funding agreement was extended for the 2024 school year, delaying a response to the underfunding of Tasmanian students to 2025.

Australian Education Union Tasmania President David Genford said it was deeply disappointing that Tasmanian public school students would start the year without the support they need and more than $2,000 behind the minimum Schooling Resource Standard – the funding level governments agreed a decade ago was required.

“At the end of October, all governments were told by the Expert Panel they established that fully funding public schools was urgent and critical to improving student learning and wellbeing,” he said.

“Yet only weeks later, education ministers signed agreements for 2024 that deliver no increase in the Commonwealth share of funding and less than a quarter of a percent increase from the Rockliff Government.

“Schools and colleges are facing critical teacher shortages and students are being denied the professional support they need to thrive – yet our governments continue to fail on funding.

“Teachers and school staff are getting ready to give more than 100 percent as they do every year, yet the Albanese and Rockliff Governments have settled on 90 percent as good enough for struggling students. Families will rightly feel deeply disappointed in both levels of government.

“By contrast, the extended agreements ensure that private school students in Tasmania will be overfunded in 2024, with an additional $481 per student in 2024 from the Albanese Government compared to just $177 for every public school student.

“Students with the greatest need are getting the smallest funding increases in 2024 thanks to this shameful kicking of the can down the road.

“The Prime Minister promised to work with State and Territory governments to deliver full funding of public schools. He must deliver on that commitment this year and ensure all public schools are funded at 100% of the SRS by 2028, at the latest.

“As the Expert Panel found, funding gaps are fuelling unacceptable achievement gaps between students from different backgrounds and locations. Secondary students from disadvantaged backgrounds are six times more likely to be low performers than those from advantaged backgrounds.

“Declining student mental health and wellbeing is a major concern and there are acute teacher shortages across the country caused by unsustainable workloads.

“We don’t have a level playing field in education that ensures every child gets every opportunity to succeed. Fixing that starts with funding.

“Teachers in public schools and colleges are doing an amazing job but there aren’t enough of them and their workloads are unsustainable. 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, and more psychologists, social workers and education support staff.

The extended agreements maintain a funding loophole that hides the real share of funding the Tasmanian Government is contributing to schools by including non-school spending.

“An accounting trick in the current agreement artificially inflates funding for public schools by 4 percent,” said David Genford. “New bilateral agreements this year must deliver full not fake funding for public schools and colleges.”

Public schools and colleges – total share of Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) in 2024

 2024 SRS share – Tasmania
Commonwealth20%
State74.31%
TOTAL94.31%
ACTUAL TOTAL*90.31%
*Actual total excludes 4% of non-school spending included in Tasmanian Government share under current bilateral agreement