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Budget 2003: Our children: Australia's future record funding for Australian schools.

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13 May 2003 MINBUD 36/03

The Howard Government’s eighth Budget has allocated record funding of $6.9 billion to Australian schools and students for 2003-04, an increase of $528 million or 8.3 per cent over last year.

The unprecedented funding for schools and students in 2003-04 continues the trend of the past seven Howard Government budgets. Since 1996, Commonwealth funding for schools and students has grown by more than 93 per cent.

In 2003-04, almost $2.5 billion is being provided for government schools and students - an increase of almost $130 million or 5.5 per cent over the past year and a 60 per cent increase since 1996.

This substantial commitment highlights the national leadership shown by the Commonwealth Government in education.

State and Territory governments provide the vast bulk of public funding for State government schools (about 88% nationally). The Howard Government believes it is vital that State and Territory governments properly fund their schools.

Quality education is vital to Australia’s future. I am committed to continuing to provide substantial levels of funding to produce real results for all students.

There has been good progress in literacy and numeracy, with only one country performing better than Australia in reading and maths literacy, and only two in scientific literacy (OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)).

The Howard Government remains committed to schools reporting to parents the results of national benchmark tests in literacy and numeracy.

Last year Victoria agreed to join Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and

the Northern Territory in reporting these results to parents. I urge Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania to do likewise.

This Budget commits a further $210 million over the next four years to improve literacy and numeracy for Australian students. Some $172.3 million over four years to 2006-07 is provided to continue literacy and numeracy funding at existing levels. More than $37.6 million is also provided to continue the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies and Projects Programme over the same period.

A total of $5.3 million in 2003-04 has been allocated to continue the National School Drug Education Strategy, building upon the progress achieved to date, and to foster the capacity of school communities to provide safe and supportive school environments for all Australian students.

The Howard Government supports the right of parents to choose the school which best suits the needs of their children.

Those parents who choose a Catholic or Independent school, having paid their taxes to assist the education of all children, are entitled to support. The SES system of general recurrent funding for non-government schools, which funds schools on the basis of the socioeconomic profile of the areas from which schools draw their students, will continue. Schools which draw students from areas of predominantly low SES receive Commonwealth funding of up to 70% of total public expenditure provided to a student in a State government school whereas schools drawing students from the wealthiest areas receive just 13.7% of total public expenditure provided to a student in a State government school.

State government schools, which educate 68 per cent of students, attract 76 per cent of the combined Commonwealth, State and Territory funding.

This Budget also maintains the Howard Government’s Capital Grants Programme in real terms, providing $249.0 million for government schools and $97.9 million for non-government schools.

The Howard Government is determined to continue to close the gap between the learning outcomes of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. Once again this Budget commits significant funding. The Government will provide $467.7 million in 2003-04 to enhance the outcomes of Indigenous students in schooling, training and higher education.

Whatever we achieve in education we cannot consider we have succeeded while education outcomes for Indigenous students lag so far behind that of non-Indigenous Australians.

I welcome this Budget for schools, which strengthens the Commonwealth’s leadership role in demanding the best for all of our students.

For further information:

Dr Nelson’s Office: Ross Hampton 0419 484 095

Dept of Education, Science & Training: Jane Smith 0412 973 411