Tasmanian budget estimates committee quizzes Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff

The state’s Education Minister has once again faced questions over his decision to support a new federal funding model for schools. 

On the first day of budget estimates on Monday, Jeremy Rockliff was quizzed early on by Labor MLC Josh Willie over the new deal and what it would mean for the state.

Mr Rockliff was firm the deal would mean $186 million in additional funds over 10 years for schools, but said he would always fight for increased funding. 

“When it comes to applying funding for education in Tasmania … the Gonski 2.0 model is the fairest system,” he told the hearing. 

When Mr Willie further questioned Mr Rockliff over the federal Gonski funding for 2018-19, Mr Rockliff said the state government had always been committed to six years of Gonski. 

“There are no cuts to education as a result of Gonski 2.0,” Mr Rockliff said. 

But he avoided putting an exact number on the difference in dollar terms, saying it was like the difference between “real money and play money”. 

Mr Willie said that would be “hard to swallow” for parents and children with high needs. 

The two MPs continued to go round in circles, before being brought to a stop by chairwoman and Independent MLC Tania Rattray. 

The Minister was soon questioned over the 2017-18 state budget and the $57 million allocated to implement the new Education Act.

Mr Rockliff was asked where some of the funding would go if a lower school starting age did not go ahead. 

“We’d have to have a better look at it and see where that funding is best placed,” he said. 

Mr Willie was also looking for a guarantee that there would be an appropriately qualified teacher in play-based pedagogy in every kindergarten in the state. 

Mr Rockliff went on to confirm this.

When asked about the safety of children and teachers in schools, the government said that in one year, 3063 students were suspended because they were deemed likely to be detrimental to the health, safety, and welfare of the staff or other students. 

On the issue of debt collection for schools fees, which was brought up in Parliament last week, Mr Rockliff said it would never be his intention to exclude a student from participating in education.

“But there are also people who do refuse to pay – they might have the means to pay but refuse to pay,” he said.