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‘A landmark day’: WA to become first State to fully fund all public schools


‘A landmark day’: WA to become first State to fully fund all public schools

Western Australia will be the first State in Australia to fully fund its public schools to the School Resourcing Standard, following an announcement by the Federal and State Governments today.

The Statement of Intent vows to increase funding for every public school in the State from 95% of the SRS to 100% by 2026.

Under the agreement, the most disadvantaged public schools in WA will be fully funded first, representing an extra $777.4m investment by the Federal Government in Western Australian public schools from 2025 to 2029. The deal will also see the State Government commits to investing at least an equivalent amount over this period, bringing total additional investment in public schools to $1.6bn.

Currently, the Federal Government provides 20% of the funding for public schools. This will now increase to 21.25% in 2025 and to 22.5% in 2026 in Western Australia. The Western Australian Government, as the primary funders of WA public schools, will contribute 77.5% of the funding.

“Every Western Australian school student deserves access to a quality education,” WA Premier Roger Cook said in a statement.

“WA schools have received high levels of State funding under my Government and, thanks to our sound financial management, we have been able to invest in new and improved school infrastructure across the State.”

Cook said the new agreement takes support for the state’s schools “to the next level”.

“It ensures no child in a West Australian public school is left behind.”

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare said called it “a landmark day for public education in Western Australia.”

“Western Australia’s decision to work with the Australian Government to fully fund public schools will deliver a better and fairer education system for the West,” Minister Clare said.

“The Statement of Intent underlines our shared commitment to put all WA schools on a pathway to full and fair funding and invest in the reforms that will help children catch up, keep up and finish school.”

WA Minister for Education Dr Tony Buti said the agreement will create a stronger public education system in WA and “drive real improvements in outcomes for all students – especially for students from low socio−economic backgrounds.”

“Any reforms will focus on improving equity and excellence in schools, supporting the wellbeing of students and teachers, and providing a strong and sustainable workforce of teachers and non-teaching school staff.”

A meaningful step forward

In December 2023, a major review by an independent expert panel urged Australia’s education ministers to fully fund public schools at the earliest opportunity.

Chaired by Dr Lisa O’Brien, the expert panel highlighted urgent action to address glaring funding gaps in Australia’s schools, noting that 98% of public schools remain underfunded.

“The panel was clear in the report that full funding to 100 per cent of the SRS is a critical prerequisite for successful education reform and student learning and wellbeing improvement across the country,” the report stated.

“All jurisdictions should fully fund schools within a comparable timeframe” and the issue is all the more urgent “because of the full funding arrangements that already exist in the non-government sector”.

The latest announcement has prompted The Greens and the Opposition to call on the Federal Government to address the issue of underfunding in Australia’s schools now – not in 2026.

‘A stitch-up for public school kids’

Greens spokesperson on Education (Primary & Secondary), Senator Penny Allman-Payne said the deal “looks more like a stitch-up for public school kids than an end to the inequality crisis in our schools”.

“There is no new deal for full funding of public schools in WA, or anywhere else in the country for that matter,” Allman-Payne said in a statement.

“What’s been announced today is an agreement to make an agreement to keep public schools underfunded into the future.”

Allman-Payne noted that the States and territories are able to claim 4% in non-school costs as part of their contribution to public school funding.

“This means that even if this deal-to-make-a-deal produces actual funding reforms, the WA school system will only receive 96% of its bare minimum funding,” she said.

“If this is the model that the federal education minister is looking to roll out to the rest of the country then Labor is leaving 2.5 million public school kids short changed. Again.”

Allman-Payne said that in order to fix the teacher shortage crisis, ensure all schools have the resources they need, and end schooling inequality, Labor must deliver 100% full SRS funding to all public schools by the start of the next National School Reform Agreement, in January 2025.

‘More smoke and mirrors’

Shadow Minister for Education Sarah Henderson said today’s agreement is “more smoke and mirrors from a government failing to take the urgent action required to fix our education system.”

“Mr Clare has reached an agreement in principle with Western Australia only. Apart from the Northern Territory, Victoria is the worst performer, delivering only 70 per cent of funding to public schools, rather than 80 per cent as required under the ‘Gonski’ funding model,” she said.

“With one in three students failing NAPLAN, the decline in our school standards is untenable. So why has Jason Clare failed to make the case for reforms such as mandating evidence-based teaching methods in every classroom?”

Henderson said Minister Clare “hasn’t done the work to get the states and territories on board” with reforms such as explicit instruction, a back to basics focus on numeracy and literacy, the rollout of the Grade 1 phonics test and an end to open classrooms.

“Only the Tasmanian Liberal government has mandated evidence-based teaching methods. There is much that can be done right now but Jason Clare has been all talk and very little action.”

‘Business as usual’

Curtin University School of Education lecturer Dr Matthew Sinclair says that in his view, the primary driver of the majority of Australian schools continuing to be funded at less than 100% of the SRS is the imbalance of the federal and state and territory government funding of the three school sectors.

“For example, the federal government currently funds 20% of the SRS for all public schools, leaving the remaining 80% up to the states and territories, under the current National School Reform Agreement,” Dr Sinclair told The Educator.

“In contrast, the federal government provides 80% of all SRS funding to non-government schools [the Catholic and Independent school sectors] and 20% to public schools.”

Dr Sinclair noted that outside of the ACT, no state or territory is currently providing their full 80% of the SRS for public schools, and there is no legislative body and or law holding the states and territories accountable for their 80% contributions.

“Currently, as long as they show they are on a path to 75%, they will continue to meet the requirements of their current bilateral funding agreements with the federal government and, therefore, it is business as usual.”

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