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Tasmanian schools shortchanged by $51 million

THE TASMANIAN Government diverted $51 million in education-specific GST funding away from schools in a single year, according to a new report.

That amounted to $908 for every student in a government primary or secondary school in 2015-16, the most recent year for which full Australian Bureau of Statistics data are available.

Independent policy analyst Martyn Goddard said Tasmanian education is treated generously, compared with other states, in Commonwealth funding and in extra GST allocations meant for schools.

“This extra money is given in recognition of this state’s higher-than-average needs for government school education,” Goddard said.

“Fewer Tasmanians than other Australians can afford private schools, so we have a much higher proportion in government schools. We have a lower-income population and our people are spread out thinly across the state, so we need more schools. That’s all recognised in Commonwealth and, particularly, GST funding.

“In 2015-16, $106 million was taken from other states and given to us in extra GST money, in recognition of our particular needs. But much of that money – about half in that year – was diverted away from schools and spent on other government priorities, such as chasing a fiscal surplus.

“The result was that every student in a government school got $908 less money than is needed to give them a national-standard education.

“The government is allowed to use GST money however it wants, so short-changing schools in this way is not illegal. But that does not mean it’s good policy.

“This appears to have been going on for many years under successive governments. Over the years, the money withheld from schools in this way is likely to add up to hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Although we have full nationally comparative data only up to 2015-16, there is no reason that the situation has suddenly changed. Although the state government is spending more money on schools than it did in 2015-16, so have other states. So it is unlikely that we have greatly changed our position when compared with the rest of Australia.

“This diversion of GST money is also seen in health, where hundreds of millions of dollars in health-specific GST money go nowhere near our hospitals,” Goddard said.

Click here to see the original Tasmanian Times article and the tables and guide to calculations

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