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Forget News Ltd - even their ABC says Labor & Shorten are liars with form

Courtesy their ABC.

Labor's claim is misleading — again.

Under the Coalition, public school funding has grown each year and is projected to continue that way over the forward estimates.

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The claim

Four weeks into the 2019 federal election campaign and it's been hard to miss Labor's dire assessments of Coalition spending on health and education.

Hammering its message of cuts, Labor claims funding for public schools was axed under the Liberal-National Government — an accusation it has pushed through a campaign website.

"As treasurer, Scott Morrison cut public school funding by $14 billion," it said.

That charge has been repeated by Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek, Labor's education spokesperson, who on May 7 claimed the election was a choice between Labor's investment in public schools "or the LNP's $14 billion of cuts."

So, has the Coalition cut $14 billion from public schools?

RMIT ABC Fact Check investigates.

The verdict

Labor's claim is misleading — again.

Under the Coalition, public school funding has grown each year and is projected to continue that way over the forward estimates.

The sum cited by Labor refers to the difference between what the two major parties plan to spend over the decade to 2027, with funding growth projected to be smaller under Coalition.

But as Fact Check has argued before — both in 2014, when Labor claimed $30 billion was being cut from all school sectors, and in 2017, when that figure became $22 billion — smaller increases are not the same as decreases.

In these cases where long-term funding projections are involved, the numbers are unreliable because they do not account for changes to the political or economic landscape.

Justifying Labor's $14 billion claim, Ms Plibersek accused the Government of breaking its promises to match Labor's commitments.

However, the incoming Abbott government only promised to match the portion of Labor's schools funding set out in the budget papers, for the four years from 2014 to 2017.

And when the Coalition came to office in 2013, not all states and territories had signed agreements with Labor.

The source of the claim

Asked for the source of the claim, Ms Plibersek's office directed Fact Check to an education union website that provides a timeline of what it calls cuts to public schools.

The timeline starts with a 2014 budget proposal by then prime minister Tony Abbott to reduce funding growth to all school sectors by $30 billion between 2018 and 2025.

That sum was revised in 2017 when Mr Morrison was treasurer in the Turnbull government — first to $22 billion and then, after negotiations with the Senate, to $17 billion over the ten years to 2027.

Costings by the Parliamentary Budget Office, released by Labor in 2018, suggested 85 per cent of the total, or roughly $14 billion, would come from public schools.

In September 2018, the Government signed off on an extra $3.2 billion for non-government schools, to be delivered in the decade to 2029.

Dr Peter Goss, school education program director with the Grattan Institute, told Fact Check the union's numbers broadly checked out, but said that "whether it's a cut or not is a separate question".

This claim has form

Labor's $14 billion figure has its genesis in past claims of school cuts worth $30 billion and $22 billion — both of which Fact Check has already assessed.

In 2014, the $30 billion cut to public and private schools was found to rely on rubbery figures. That's because the claim referred to future spending that was still projected to increase.

Fact Check wrote at the time:

"If nothing else changes in policy or economic terms over the next 10 years, the Government will end up spending $30 billion less on schools over 10 years than Labor says it would have spent. However, in reality there is just too much uncertainty for this long-term estimate to be used as a reliable measure for cuts or savings."

The $22 billion in cuts to public and private schools, claimed by Ms Plibersek in 2017, was also found to be misleading.