Friday, May 10, 2013

Questions Remain on School Funding Source

Fund Our Future : Stop the Cuts - National Dem...
Fund Our Future : Stop the Cuts - National Demonstration (Photo credit: Matt Dinnery)
by Katina Curtis, 21st Century News:

Federal education spending will be like the eager kid at the front of the classroom - jumping up and down for attention in the May budget.

For more than a year, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her Schools Minister Peter Garrett have been talking about big increases in spending on schools associated with the Gonski funding reforms.

Finally, this is the budget where it will all be laid out. Ms Gillard revealed in April that the Commonwealth would pay two-thirds of the extra costs for the new funding system.

That’s $9.4 billion on top of current spending over the next six years, plus 4.7 per cent indexation. The forward estimates in the May budget will only cover four years.

There will also be a $100 million extension of the support for students with disabilities program, while negotiations continue around a national definition of disability. But the biggest answer the budget will reveal is how Labor will pay for its reforms.

Ms Gillard has warned hard decisions must be made to give priority to the education of the kids who are Australia’s future.

Labor has already said some of the money - about $2.3 billion - will come from cuts to universities, primarily through a two-year efficiency dividend and changing some student scholarships to loans.

The decision sparked outrage across the tertiary education sector, which described it as incoherent and warned it would unfairly pit higher learning institutions against schools in the funding stakes. Ms Gillard has said the planned cuts mean university funding will still increase, just at a lower rate.

But the National Tertiary Education Union says core funding per student and support for basic research continues to decline while the massive expansion in student numbers from uncapping government-supported places has not been properly funded.

Universities Australia had been publicly campaigning for an increase to tertiary funding.

However, the $2.3 billion of savings identified only cover about a third of the cost of the Gonski plan.
Rolling National Partnership money for education programs into the new funding system will make up some more of the shortfall.

But the government still has to find billions of dollars from somewhere.
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