Budget fails on disability and Gonski

GonskiHands.jpgNo extra funding for Gonski. No extra funding for disability.

This year's Federal Budget has failed to deliver anything which will improve results in schools.

This follows on from last year’s budget which abandoned the last two years of the Gonski agreements (which contained about two-thirds of the extra funding going to schools) and failed to raise funding for students with disability.

The Abbott Government still does not intend to implement the Gonski agreements in full and, by indexing schools funding to inflation from 2018, will deliver a real cut in funding to ALL schools.

The decision to abandon the last two years of the Gonski agreements will cost schools $3.8 billion ($2.7 billion of that from public schools). That is the equivalent of 20,000 educators in public schools alone.

On top of that, despite the Abbott Government’s election promise to implement a disability loading from 2015, we have seen another budget which fails to include any extra funding for students with disability.

The needs of students with disability are urgent – the I Give a Gonski campaign has been lobbying on this issue already this year through our Disability Action Day and online petition.

All we have is another year of the interim loading (indexed for inflation), which was only meant to be a temporary measure -  a  flat  amount per student based on  the existing inadequate support provided by governments

We know that there are at least 100,000 children with disability who are not getting funded support in our schools. That means schools are being forced to shift resources from other parts of their budgets to cover this shortfall. 

Other research by Children with Disability Australia found that one-quarter of students with disability have been denied entry to a school due to their disability.

We are not a poor country and it is a national shame that students with disability may miss out on an education that lets them reach their potential due to a lack of resources.  Things like in-class aides, equipment, personalised lesson plans or support staff make a huge difference but we need funding to make sure they are available to every child who needs them.

This funding is an investment because it means students with disability are more likely to be equipped for work when they leave school, and to make a financial contribution to society.

Why is it taking so long to bring in the full disability loading, covering every students, which Gonski recommended?

Part of the reason is that State and Territory Governments are waiting for a National Data Collection project to determine the number of students with disability who need support, and establish national definitions of disability.

This project is due to be completed by October so politicians should have no excuse to delay extra funding beyond the end of this year.

Preliminary data from the National Data Collection project in 2011 estimated there were 290,000 students with disability in Australian schools, this is far in excess of the 190,000 who are currently receiving funding support, according to figures released by the Productivity Commission in February.

Christopher Pyne said through a spokesman on April 4th this year that: more targeted funding would flow as a result of the first nationally consistent data collection for students with a disability, expected to be finalised at the end of the year.

We need to make sure he keeps that promise. We also need the States and Territories to contribute and make sure a real increase in funding is delivered from 2016.

At the heart of Gonski is the idea that students get support based on their need, not where they go to school.

It is not acceptable that thousands of students are being denied an education which lets them reach their potential because we are unwilling to properly invest in our schools so they are ready to teach students with disability.

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