Turnbull’s disability cuts

sidepony.jpgThe Turnbull school funding plan is bad news for children with a disability with cuts in funding for public schools in five states and territories next year.

The cuts will make it harder for schools and students already affected by the chronic lack of resourcing in this area.

Tasmanian public schools will be hit hardest with a 44% cut in funding next year followed by a 37% decrease in the Northern Territory.

The cuts will also hit public schools in South Australia, the ACT and Western Australia along with Catholic schools in five states.

They come despite new evidence of the crisis in the education of students with a disability.

The latest annual census (Nationally Consistent Collection of Data) shows that in 2016 there were almost 470,000 students with disability who schools required additional funding to support (12.4% of all students).

But Productivity Commission figures show schools in 2015 were only funded to support just over 200,000 (5.4% of students).

This is leading to a resourcing crisis with three quarters of the principals who responded to the AEU’s annual State of our Schools 2017 survey saying they did not have the resources to appropriately meet the needs of all students with disability.

Almost 90% of principals said they had to shift funding from other areas of their budget to provide resources for the support of students with disability.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham has pledged to address the problem and said last week that the new Turnbull school funding plan would, for the first time, fund all students identified by the NCCD.

But an Education department response to a Question on Notice shows that, overall, only an additional $95 million has been allocated in 2018 to cover 260,000 additional students.

Public schools in only three states will benefit from that additional funding (QLD, VIC and NSW) with cuts for public schools in the other five states and territories and cuts for Catholic schools in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.

Why are there cuts?

The reason for the cuts is, in part, due to a change in the way funding is allocated to students with disability as part of the Turnbull Government’s new school funding plan which passed through Parliament last week.

Instead of schools attracting a single rate of funding (called a loading) for all students with disability, the new model involves different rates of funding for each of the three levels of assistance students are categorised as requiring in the NCCD census: supplementary, substantial and extensive.

The three levels of funding for primary students are $4,600 (supplementary), $15,991 (substantial) and $34,173 (extensive). The secondary school rates are almost identical.

The bottom two levels of funding are substantially lower than the previous single rate payment which would be just over $20,000 per student in 2018.

The Federal Government has, so far, been unable to explain how it arrived at the three funding levels.

It has, however, agreed to have a new independent authority it is creating, the National School Resourcing Board, look at the three levels.

That will be little comfort to teachers and parents struggling with the consequences of the under-resourcing of schools to educate students with disability but it does provide us with another way to continue our campaign to address this unacceptable problem.

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