Federal ALP promises $115m for NT schools

Northern Territory schools will get an extra $115 million over two years, under a Labor federal government, the shadow education minister says.

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Kate Ellis was in Darwin on Wednesday to announce the pledge for 2018 and 2019, as part of a nationwide education policy promise of $37 billion over the next decade.

“This is the only state or territory in the entire country where funding for government schools is going backwards,” she told reporters.

The federal government’s budget papers show an extra $100 million dedicated to NT schooling while the NT’s papers indicate there is $40 million less being spent on education, she said, at a total cut of $140 million.

“This is absolutely shameful for the Territory government but it’s also absolutely shameful because the Turnbull government have turned a blind eye,” she said.

The NT has some of the poorest educational outcomes in Australia, with a large proportion of remote and regional students, and indigenous students who have often fallen years behind before they even start school.

Under Labor’s funding model, money from Canberra would be paid on the condition that the NT stops its cuts and makes its own co-contributions.

“We know early intervention programs, increased literacy and numeracy support improve educational outcomes … and they require resources,” Ms Ellis said.

NT Treasurer David Tollner said that although the government reduced spending, the NT has the highest student-to-teacher ratio in Australia and outcomes are improving, with a record number of indigenous students finishing year 12.

“We are getting better results not because we’re spending more money, but because we’re focusing on things that deliver better outcomes,” Mr Tollner said.

“The Territory government can stand there and say that the thing that improves our schools is ripping $140 million out of it if they like, but I don’t think local families are going to buy that,” Ms Ellis said.

When asked how Labor proposed to pay for the schools funding given the budget crisis, she said it has already announced more than $100 billion in proposed savings measures, such as increasing the tobacco excise, making changes to superannuation co-contributions and closing multinational corporation tax loopholes.

“We’re confident this is fully funded and fully costed,” she said.