The death toll in Australia has reached 93, increases in confirmed cases continues to slow as states and territories gradually ease restrictions. The federal government remains firm in its position that students should return to classrooms as soon as possible and has offered an early payment of the annual $3.3 billion government funding to private schools if the target is reached by June.
A Melbourne Anglican school principal described feeling “bribed” to put aside health concerns but the federal government has insisted that incentivising a return is the right way to go about it.
“We’re using that leverage unapologetically,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. “Because we know what the medical advice is, we know what’s good for the kids, we know what’s good for their education, we know what’s good for the economy.”
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said, “why we’re doing this is because Catholic and independent schools approached the Federal Government and said that some schools were experiencing cashflow issues and were asking us to bring forward the July payment we would normally make to them.”
The payments will be broken into two instalments according to the Minister. “They’ll get the first if they commit to have a plan in place to have teachers back in the classroom teaching all year levels by the end of May,” Mr Tehan said.
“And then if they achieve 50 per cent of students at a minimum attending schools at the end of May they’ll get the second instalment.”
The reopening of schools remains a contested issue, with differing policies across the states and territories. This is set to be a key item on the agenda at this Friday’s national cabinet meeting.