January 23, 2014

The Abbott Government looks set to walk away from their election promise to deliver Labor’s funding loading for school students with disability.

Additional funding loadings to meet the specific and individual needs of students with disability are at the heart of the Gonski recommendations and Labor’s school funding reforms; on top of extra funding for every school.

“At the core of Labor’s Gonski reforms is needs-based funding distribution to ensure that each child gets the support they need, which means extra funding for students with disability and learning difficulties,” Shadow Minister for Education Kate Ellis said.

Before the election, Christopher Pyne went to great lengths to reassure the families of children with disability that the Coalition would deliver these loadings in line with Labor’s 2015 timeline:

“We have long argued that the current funding arrangements for students with disability and learning difficulty are unfair and inequitable. 

If elected to Government the Coalition will continue the data collection work that has commenced, which will be used to deliver more funding for people with disability through the ‘disability loading’ in 2015.” 

Coalition Campaign Head Quarters Media Release, 23 August 2013

Tony Abbott answered a question in Parliament about his commitment to the disability loading on 3 December last year by promising

“On schools, those loadings will be fully delivered over the coming four years”.

Yet there are reports today of weasel words from a spokesperson for Education Minister Christopher Pyne.

“The Government has relegated this important issue to a nameless spokesperson – the first step on the slippery slope to a broken promise,” Shadow Minister for Disability Reform Jenny Macklin said.

The Labor Government had been in the process of working with states and territories to finalise a nationally consistent disability reporting methodology, ahead of the new loading’s commencement nationally in 2015. With a $100 million interim fund for 2014.

A letter sent from Christopher Pyne to stakeholders this week says that information about a nationally consistent methodology will be “available for consideration” by January 2015. Making implementation in the 2015 school year impossible.

“It looks like the Government has every intention of breaking their commitment to the Gonski disability reforms,” Kate Ellis said.

“Tony Abbott promised to match Labor’s school funding ‘dollar-for-dollar’ – and the full disability loading is part of that.”

“The Prime Minister needs to put beyond doubt that he will honour the Government’s election promise and fund extra resources for students with disability from 2015.”

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