Budget Deceit Covers Up Real Cuts in Govt. School Funding

Save Our Schools today accused the Stanhope Government of cutting funding to government schools in real terms in its latest Budget.

SOS spokesperson, Trevor Cobbold, said that, after adjusting for rising costs, funding for government schools will fall in 2008-09.

“There is no real increase in recurrent funding for government schools in 2008-09 despite the claims of the Minister for Education, Andrew Barr, about record levels of investment in education. At best, the funding increase in the Budget will only cover the costs of inflation and therefore is not a real increase in funding. More likely, funding for government schools will decline in real terms.

“Recurrent funding for government schools in 2008-09 will increase by 4.6 per cent in dollar terms. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Canberra is also increasing at 4.6% per year. This means that there will be no real increase in funding for government schools.

“Yet, education costs always increase by much more than the CPI because there is little capacity for productivity increases in such a labour-intensive service. Increasing education costs will outstrip the proposed funding increase in 2008-09 and, consequently, government school funding will decline in real terms.

“In contrast, government funding of private schools is due to increase by 13per cent in 2008-09. This is nearly three times the CPI increase and represents a very large real increase in funding. This is largely due to increased Commonwealth funding as the ACT Government increase is in line with inflation.”

Mr. Cobbold welcomed the Budget’s new initiatives but said that much more remains to be done to improve student outcomes.

“The Budget’s new initiatives and those announced at the end of last year acknowledge that something has gone wrong in ACT education. Several are well-targeted and should contribute to reducing the long-standing achievement gap between students from high and low income families.

“The Stanhope Government is finally acting in the face of its dismal record on improving student outcomes over the past 7 years. But, it needs to do more to address key challenges facing the ACT school system.

“There is a large achievement gap between students from high and low income families which is the biggest in Australia except for the Northern Territory.

“Since 2000, average reading achievement by 15 year-old students has declined by the equivalent of 6 months of schooling. There has been no improvement in general student outcomes since the Stanhope Government was elected:

  • There has been no reduction in the achievement gap between high and low income students;
  • There has been no reduction in the proportion of 15 year-old students achieving at the bottom levels in reading and mathematics;
  • There has been no general improvement in the proportion of students achieving the national benchmarks in reading, writing and numeracy since 2001;
  • There has been no improvement in retention and completion rates to Year 12.”

Mr. Cobbold said that much remains to be done to overcome the neglect of the last seven years.

“SOS estimates that over $20 million a year will be needed to make a substantive improvement in student outcomes. This is manageable with a projected Budget surplus of $85 million in 2008-09 and further large surpluses in future years.

“Such an investment in education would significantly increase workforce skills and reduce future government expenditure on health, crime and social welfare while improving social equity in student outcomes.”

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