Labor pledges $14bn for public schools over 10 years if it wins election

Bill Shorten promises every public school in Australia will get a funding boost

Bill Shorten has pledged to invest an additional $14bn in public education over 10 years if Labor wins the next federal election. Shorten said, under his plan, every public school in Australia would receive more funding.

After the Morrison government sought to end the Catholic and non-government school funding stoush – by announcing a $4.6bn funding package over 10 years, including a $1.2bn fund to be used at the sector’s discretion – Labor argued public schools were being left behind.

Having previously promised to reinstate the forward funding the Coalition removed from federal education spending in the 2014 budget, as well as committing $250m to disadvantaged Catholic schools in the first two years of a Labor government, Shorten has now put a number on Labor’s additional public education spend promise - $14.1bn.

About $3.3bn would be spent in the first three school years of a Labor government: 2020-22.

“Improving our school results will require more support, more resources and ultimately – more funding,” Shorten said in a statement.

“What matters to me and Labor is handing on a better deal to the next generation – that’s why I’m passionate about building an education system that gives every child in every school the best chance at life.”

Labor’s education spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek, said the plan would mean parents who invested in their school community saw some of that investment returned.

“Parents work so hard fundraising for their school – sausage sizzles, cake stalls, fetes – because they know the difference extra money makes,” she said in a statement.

“Australians are sick of hearing the Liberals say they can’t afford to help public schools while big business and millionaires get more and more.”

Under the proposal, New South Wales would gain an extra $917m over the first three school years for public schooling, while Victoria would receive $804m. Queensland would be allocated an additional $647m, Western Australia $501m, South Australia $256m and Tasmania $52m. The Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory would receive an extra $57m and $41m respectively.

In return for Labor’s extra funding, the states would be required to sign up to a national plan “to improve schools with clear and ambitious goals and targets”, with the funds intended for “more help with the basics, such as reading, writing, maths and science”, as well as support for teachers to continue their own skill growth.

School funding has been one of the most fraught issues for both Labor and the Coalition in recent years, after the Gonski plan ordered by the Gillard government was torn up under the Coalition, leading to tense negotiations with the states.

An attempt last year to put then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s “Gonski 2.0” plan into motion was met with complaints from the states that the package would force them to find additional funding to meet the new, $23.5bn plan.

The package eventually passed by the Senate required the states to give public schools 75% of the set resource standard by 2023, to top up the 20% cap the federal government set its own funding at.

Labor has vowed to abolish that arbitrary funding cap and says its plan would provide 22.2% of funding by 2022 for all states and territories except the NT, which would receive 25%.

The Parliamentary Budget Office has costed the plan, with the bulk of the three year funding to be spent in 2020-21 and 2021-22, where $924m and 1.2bn has been budgeted.

A Labor spokeswoman said the policy had been funded through “improvements to the budget bottom line, including … keeping the budget repair levy on high income earners and dividend imputation” but did not provide further detail. The policy will be officially launched on Wednesday.

The schools funding package follows Labor’s promise of $1.7bn to provide universal preschool access to three and four year olds.

The next federal poll must be held by mid-May next year.


Amy Remeikis

The GuardianTramp

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