School funding inequality blamed on ‘sneaky’ Labor

by Robert Ballantyne29 Sep 2016

Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, said the current school funding arrangements are not what were envisaged by the original Gonski review, claiming that current inequities are the result of changes made by Labor.
“Schools and states are receiving Federal funding that exactly matches what Labor promised ahead of the 2013 election,” Birmingham said in a statement yesterday.
“The inequities between different State Government school systems and between different non-government schools are inequities that Bill Shorten built into the 27 different funding models he signed up.”
Birmingham added it was “an outright lie” to suggest that current Federal funding for any State or Territory or non-government school was “worth anything less than what Labor originally proposed.”
“That's why we had to reinstate in the 2014 budget the $1.2bn Mr Shorten sneakily cut from budgeted schools funding ahead of the 2013 election,” he said.
“Labor’s claims about the deals done by the previous education minister are a smokescreen for their inability to explain why they ‘corrupted’ David Gonski’s report and created 27 different funding deals that treat both schools with identical circumstances in different ways.”
Earlier this week, Birmingham courted controversy when he suggested that some overfunded private schools may receive less money after a new school funding agreement takes shape at the beginning of 2017.

This prompted the Labor Leader, Bill Shorten, to call on the Federal Government to provide parents with a list of schools that deserve funding cuts.

“What the Turnbull government is doing is reopening a damaging debate of government school versus non-government schools,” Shorten said.

“The Turnbull government needs to release what lists of schools it thinks deserve to have their funding cut ... [or] at the very least needs to reassure non-government schools they are not about to get hit in the back of the head with a funding cut.

“We all know the real reason why we’re having a debate about the Turnbull government going after non-government schools, it is they don’t want to spend more money on education, they just want to reduce the expenditure, and what they’re doing is now going after non-government schools.”

Meanwhile, the Australian Greens have argued that “ever-increasing hand-outs” to private schools are placing an unnecessary burden on the country’s public schools.

In a statement yesterday, the party called on the Federal Government to reduce the amount of funding going to Australia’s wealthiest private schools.

“The wealthiest private schools in Australia have been lining up for ever-increasing handouts over recent years, but now that has to stop,” the Greens’ education spokesperson, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, said.

“This year alone, the Turnbull Government will give private school students more than triple the funding of their public school counterparts.”

She added that the nation’s “finite resources” should go to the schools that need it most.

“That means some private schools will need to take a haircut. The level of education you receive shouldn’t be dependent on your postcode or your parents’ income,” she said.

“Only a true needs-based funding model will give Australian children the future that they deserve.”



  • by Maureen Hartung 29/09/2016 1:02:32 PM

    It's time, school funding-wise, to consider a new hybrid of fully-funded community schools, that combine the strengths of government/public and non-government/private schools. Why is Australia one of the few countries in the world that does not yet support community groups, e.g. teachers, establishing fully-funded community schools in response to an unmet local community need. This would offer genuine diversity of affordable schooling options, and ensure that students' differing educational needs could be catered for. The current funding model continues to use postcodes of families (SES) to determine need - despite Gonski recommending finding an alternative to the SES as an urgent next step. Most schools are being funded outside the current formula anyway, so that claims about the formula's efficacy are illusory. Inequities continue, e.g. our students receive half the funding subsidy of all our neighbouring schools, despite serving the same community and taking many students with additional needs (47%). If we're serious about cultivating the talents and strengths of every child so that they make a positive contribution to our community, we need targeted schooling diversity. Let's think outside the square (or triangle of government/Catholic/independent schooling), and explore new possibilities, e.g. hybrid community schools that are fully-funded and target an unmet community need. Want innovation? Then let's trial fully-funded community schools!
    Maureen Hartung OAM
    Executive Director
    Blue Gum Community School

  • by Dr Michael Furtado 29/09/2016 10:45:03 PM

    The global machinery for fully-funded community schools already exists within every OECD country with the exception of Australia and the United States. Until Federation all Australian schools were denominational and funded on the basis of parental demand for their schools. As it is Catholic schools universally are set up at parental behest as the Church teaches that parents are the first educators. Indeed, the history of state schooling is a relatively recent product of the last century or so, prior to which the Church and other bodies were the major sponsors of schooling. As a result, all Catholic schools in all other equivalent OECD countries are fully funded alongside secular and other schools auspiced by philanthropic bodies with long histories of educational provision. Indeed, one of the major arguments for community schools is that they counteract remote and centralising impetuses in education instead of drawing parents and local communities into subsidiarist (or localised) school management practice in which they operate as partners with teachers. In NZ, for instance, all schools have parental management boards and, unsurprisingly, all Catholic schools are part of such a public (as opposed to private) provision. Australia should defund all high-fee independent schools, as obtains throughout the OECD, and bring all other schools into a more variegated, fee-free, open-access, community-oriented public sector that is localised and more in touch with a diversity of community values. This would enhance local accountability, improve results, offer parents a choice without having to pay for it and free up funding for disadvantaged kids.