Charles Clarke told heads last week that funding for secondaries had risen, from pound;3,170 per pupil in 199899 to pound;3,750 in 200304.
Asked by The TES what he planned to do to help schools facing shortfalls, he said: "We will look into the situation but the settlement is final."
Nearly two months ago Mr Clarke threatened to use new powers to force Westminster and Croydon local education authorities to raise school funding to minimum levels. But the Department for Education and Skills has acknowledged that the failure of a minority of LEAs to pass money on to schools does not lie at the heart of the current difficulties.
At the Association of Chief Education Officers conference last week Mr Clarke seemed to deny a funding problem existed. Responding to requests for more cash, he said: "It's a game process we go through and everybody makes the same pitch. I don't feel positive about people who complain about money because normally it is an excuse for people not doing what they should."
His speech at the Secondary Heads Association conference the following day was far more conciliatory, acknowledging "major pressures" on school and LEA budgets because of rising staff costs and turbulence caused by the transfer of some money from standards funds into mainstream funding.
But he was incredulous when told that schools faced their worst funding problems in 12 years. His department believes that it is the job of heads to manage their budgets properly.
The Government may be able to help by resolving problems resulting from standards funds changes.
The DfES says that the failure of certain LEAs to adjust funding formulae to allow for the switch of standards funds into general budgets has made a difficult situation worse.