Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings is expected to sign up to the schools funding plan on Tuesday afternoon. Photo: Scott GelstonTasmania is signing up to the federal government’s school funding overhaul, making it the first state to do so after the Labor leadership change disrupted negotiations.
Tasmania becomes the fourth jurisdiction to get on board after NSW, the ACT and South Australia signed up to the so-called Gonski reforms championed by then prime minister Julia Gillard.
A statement issued by the Rudd government says the deal is worth an extra $380 million in combined federal and state funding over the next six years.
The government had previously touted its plan as delivering about $400 million for Tasmanian schools over this period.
Of this, government schools were to get a boost of about $230 million, Catholic schools $110 million and independent schools $60 million.
Labor Premier Lara Giddings said she had negotiated the funding deal to ensure Tasmania directed a greater share of extra funds to state schools in the early part of the agreement rather than to Catholic and independent schools.
But Ms Giddings insisted students would not notice the difference.
She said Tasmania had also secured an assurance from the federal government would not jeopardise the share of GST funds flowing to the state.
The federal government has committed to increase its school education funding by 4.7 per cent each year, while Tasmania will grow its base funding by 3 per cent in 2016 and each year afterwards.
The Tasmanian government will also introduce a new school funding model for government schools called the Fairer Funding Model ‘‘to ensure resources are targeted to where they are needed most’’.
Despite criticism by the federal opposition about the lack of a national agreement, the government says Tasmania’s decision means 63 per cent of Australian school students will receive increased funding from next year.
The new funding system applies to non-government schools around Australia, as well as to government schools in jurisdictions that have signed up.
At a media conference in Hobart, new Federal Education Minister Bill Shorten said the commonwealth would provide $250 million and the Tasmanian government $130 million as part of the six-year deal.
Mr Shorten said the agreement should “breathe new life” into negotiations with other states and he was “not prepared to give up”.
“I’m optimistic that there is still progress to be made in other jurisdictions,” he said.
Mr Shorten refused to say whether the new deadline of this Sunday could be extended again, arguing that if he started speculating about it everyone could change their timeframes.
“I think Australians work well with deadlines,” he said.
The rebadged Better Schools reforms would see a base level of funding allocated for each school student, to be topped up with ”loadings” targeting disadvantage, from next year.
The federal government has argued the reforms would see an extra $15 billion in combined state and federal money flow into schools around the nation over the next six years.
But the federal opposition has disputed these figures and described the process as a shambles. It has proposed a year-long extension of the existing funding system and vowed to repeal the reforms if the overwhelming majority of states have not signed up.
While Mr Shorten insisted the Better Schools plan should be above politics, he seized on uncertainty over what would happen if the Coalition won the federal election.
“If you don’t want to risk funding for your child’s education, there’s a single answer, to support the government,” he said
The federal government will now turn its efforts to the Coalition-run state of Victoria ahead of the extended Sunday deadline for further deals.
Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland are also yet to sign up and have voiced strong opposition to elements of the proposed reforms.
While WA is still talking to the federal government, a deal is considered unlikely.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman remains away on leave.
But Mr Shorten and his department are in regular ”positive” talks with Victoria.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Shorten vowed to respect ”the other people in the negotiation and also the desire of parents to see their kids get a good start”.
”The Victorian government has got a view though about how the funding should work and we’ve got to agree on what the numbers actually are,” Mr Shorten told ABC Radio.
”You know, they look at the data and draw one conclusion; we look at the data and draw another. So it is important that in a negotiation that we have the same set of facts.”
Mr Shorten said he was hopeful of striking a deal with Victoria soon.
”It’s school holidays, it would be good to see if we could have something to tell parents and kids when they return back from school holidays,” he said.
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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.