Independent: Does the NT misspend Federal education funds?


2514 Yiŋiya Mark Guyula OkLETTER TO THE EDITOR

Sir – Millions of dollars that are intended for remote indigenous students are not making it to remote schools.
Last month, Yahoo reported Nigel Scullion’s statement that the Federal Government are paying the NT Government on the basis of enrolment, but the NT Government are only paying schools on the basis of attendace.
The Federal Government states it will provide $10,222 per enrolled student on Elcho Island in 2018.
This is over $6m in Federal Government funding alone that should be given to the school and community.
However, I have met with the school council and they have been advised they will recieve less than $4m  in total for 2018.
I have spoken with other schools in the region and they are all facing similar situations.
The NT Department of Education policy of funding schools based on “Effective Enrolment” means that remote indigenous schools are running on minimal funding, and cannot meet the needs of the children who struggle to attend.
In 2018, all government Indigenous schools in my electorate and region, including homeland schools, have projected funding cuts because the NT Government are not providing funding for student’s who do not attend regularly.
These cuts will likely effect many schools across the Territory. Schools have been working hard to engage children who struggle to attend every day.
Some schools run special classrooms to try and prepare these kids for regular attendance.
Historically, some schools have held a mobile classroom that moved around the community, holding lessons at different houses and outdoors in order to engage kids who were struggling to attend.
Now, these efforts are threatened, as the children that these programs cater for are no longer funded by the department – despite Federal funds in their names. These are the children that are slipping through the gaps. The NT Government is turning their back on them.
Schools are operating at a base level, just keeping their heads above water. How can they begin the big job of engaging the community leaders and elders and working to create community-led programs that will inspire children to come to school if they are operating in crisis mode?
Schools need to provide programs that are relevant to Yolŋu children, providing a bi-cultural progam, supported by and endorsed by the community. This requires a lot of work. It also requires a big investment in team teachers: the Yolŋu teachers who provide the bridge from the known to the unknown.
I want to know where is this money going.
Is it being given to the NT Government in the name of Aboriginal children and then spent elsewhere? This money should be given directly to the schools and community as part of the community-led program. And I want to see properly funded homeland schools so that families are not forced off their country.
This is millions of dollars that these communities and children are not seeing.
The Minister has said that schools will be community-led, and I believe she is genuine in her desire to support the community, but the department are failing to deliver on the policy and the funding.
How are they continuing to develop programs and spend money when the community have not spoken?
Office of Yingiya Mark Guyula MLA (pictured)
Independent Member for Nhulunbuy
[The Alice Springs News Online is seeking comment from the Education Minister and Central Australian MLAs.]
UPDATE 2:40 pm
A spokeswoman for Minister Eva Lawler provided this response:–
The NT Government is the most significant funder of all public schools in the Northern Territory. The Federal Government provides a lesser amount of funding for government school students.
The Department of Education allocates funding to Territory public schools using a needs-based formula, with some of the Federal Government funds going directly into school budgets and some of the funds used to pay for centrally managed services that support teachers and schools.
The reason these services are centrally managed is to reduce the burden on schools.
They include expenses such as teacher laptops, remote school staff study leave and air fares out of remote locations, long service leave, centrally based professional development, housing costs for remote school staff, school building works and major maintenance programs, school support services (including speech therapists, occupational therapists and counsellors), salaries and vehicles for principals, and attendance programs to engage students in schooling and many other expenses.
So although schools don’t see all the money in their school bank account, they do benefit from all the money, via these centrally managed costs.
The Territory Labor Government has put an additional $20m in to schools budgets from 2017, and has provided a further $4m in one-off funding for schools this year.
The NT Government is investing more into education while the Federal government has decided to reduce their contribution to public schools in the Territory. This will mean $150m less for our schools from the Federal government over the next 10 years.


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