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Feds look at 'equitable' school funds deal

AAP logoAAP 24/09/2016 Katina Curtis

School students would likely attract the same amount of commonwealth cash no matter where they live under a new funding deal the federal government wants states to sign up to.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham has made the case to his state and territory counterparts that existing arrangements are unfair because states get different per-student funding amounts from the Commonwealth.

Those deals were done in 2013 amid tumultuous leadership changes from Julia Gillard to Kevin Rudd to Tony Abbott.

"I think Australians would expect the federal government, when funding a school student who might be in a highly disadvantaged school, who might be indigenous, to provide the same level of support for that school student ... regardless of where they live in the country," Senator Birmingham told ABC TV on Sunday.

He wants to move away from the situation where the federal government provides about $1500 more for students in the Northern Territory than for those in an identically disadvantaged school in Western Australia.

His arguments only look at the commonwealth contribution, not the total amount from all sources including state budgets and school fees.

Senator Birmingham says that, from the federal government's perspective, what's in place now is not a nationally consistent, equitable, needs-based model.

He wants the new deal to also tie funding to programs to improve student outcomes, including national testing in Year 1 and making students study maths and science right through their final school years.

Questions have been raised as to whether any new deal could be stymied by a potentially hostile Senate, with Labor and the Greens likely to oppose any moves to amend education laws the Gillard government set up.

Senator Birmingham says it could be possible to do some kind of deal with the states without legislation.

"But that's not optimal because that will only entrench the types of inequities that we've been talking about," he said.

"So I don't think that it's acceptable for us not to see some changes to the Education Act."

The federal government has promised to offer a final deal to state and territory leaders at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in early 2017.

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