Schools to take disability funding hit – new figures

Schools to take disability funding hit – new figures
Funding for public school students with disability in five states and territories will be cut by the Federal Government next year, new figures reveal.

The figures – obtained by the Australian Education Union (AEU) under the Freedom of Information Act – show that the biggest cuts will be in Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

However, public schools in the ACT, South Australia and Western Australia will also have their funding cut as part of major changes to school funding which passed Parliament on 23 June.

In Tasmania the cut will be over 45%, with funding being slashed from $18m this year to $9.7m next year. Tasmanian funding for students with disability will still be far less than it is now in 2027.

In the Northern Territory the cut will be just over 35% with public school funding going from $26.7m this year to $17.2m next year.

Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, said the number of students eligible for funding would increase next year from 212,000 to 470,000 in line with the results from the annual school census, the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data (NCCD).

However, the AEU says that while that represents an increase of over 120% in student numbers, changes to the way the funding is calculated mean the overall funding level will only increase by 6.2% and public schools in five states and territories will go backwards.

The Australian Education Union’s (AEU) most recent State of Our Schools report shows that an increasing number of principals are having to use funds from other budgeted areas to assist students with a disability.

According to half of principals surveyed in the report, their schools lacked “appropriate learning spaces” for disabled children. Eighty-four per cent of principals said they wanted more assistance for teachers in class while 60% said they required specialist support.

An education brief released by public school advocates Save Our Schools (SOS) yesterday highlighted new research showing a direct link between increased funding for disadvantaged schools and improved student outcomes.  

Trevor Cobbold, SOS national convenor said the report – by the US National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) – was the sixth major study in the last 18 months to show this.

Cobbold pointed out that funding per-student adjusted for inflation for private schools has increased since 2009, but funding per-student in public schools, which enrol over 80% of disadvantaged students, has been cut.

“The fallacy in the argument that increased funding in Australia has not delivered better results is that those funding increases have gone to more advantaged schools rather than disadvantaged schools,” Cobbold said.

“No wonder we are not seeing the benefits of the increased funding – it has been misdirected to those least in need.”

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