NT School Funding Agreement is a Landmark, But It’s Not the Full Deal

The new school funding agreement between the Albanese and Northern Territory Government is a landmark. It represents a major funding increase for public schools and disadvantaged students in the Territory. Public schools will go from being the most under-funded in the country to nearly full funding by 2029. However, the agreement is not the full deal because it retains accounting tricks that will continue to swindle public schools of funding.

The Federal Government is taking on responsibility for almost filling the funding gap for NT public schools. It will increase its share of funding the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) from 20% to 40% over the next five years. The Territory Government will increase its funding share from 59% to 60%.

However, despite claims by the Albanese and NT Governments, public schools in the Territory will not be fully funded by 2029. They will be funded at only 96% of their SRS because accounting tricks in the current agreement will be retained in the new agreement. As a result, public schools in the Northern Territory will be swindled of nearly $240 million over the next five years.

The NT Government will continue to be allowed to claim as part of its SRS share expenditures that are specifically excluded from how the SRS is measured. It will be allowed to claim expenditure on depreciation, direct school transport, and early childhood expenditure up to 4% of the total SRS. As a result, public schools will lose over $40 million a year over the life of the agreement.

The NT agreement follows the WA agreement in continuing the swindle. It is apparent that the swindles in the other agreements, apart from the ACT, will also continue. The Federal Education Minister, Jason Clare said that removal of the accounting tricks is not part of the current funding negotiations and will not be considered until the next round of agreements. This means they all remain for at least another five years. As a result, public schools across Australia will lose over $13 billion in funding over the period.

Public schools will be still under-funded 17 years after the Gonski report recommended full funding at 100% of their SRS.  Moreover, there is no guarantee they will be removed then as there will be two federal elections in this time. The Federal Government must be congratulated for this landmark agreement but continuing under-funding of public schools impairs improving school results for disadvantaged students, the large majority of whom are enrolled in public schools. Disadvantaged students can’t wait to be fully funded.

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