School funding deal fails to deliver
Despite the effusive welcoming by employer organisations, the school funding announcement made by the federal government in late September still fails to deliver. What’s the offer?
The deal for non-government schools includes $3.2 billion over 10 years to ease the transition to a new funding model. It also includes a $1.2 billion dollar “choice and affordability” fund for non-government schools – aimed at helping keep fees low, especially for regional and remote schools as well we those affected by drought.
This fund will require serious accountability measures to ensure taxpayers’ money is being spent on this very purpose. However, ultimately, the federal government’s announcement largely only adjusts the transition process and timeframe – a transition to an unfair, inadequate and dishonest school funding outcome.
What was promised? The model still does not deliver the promise that the federal coalition government made when it sought election in 2013. The original Gonski report (2012) recommended 100% of the School Resourcing Standard (SRS) be funded.
The SRS is an estimate of how much total government funding a school needs to meet the educational needs of its students.
Prior to the 2013 election, both political parties committed to the principle of meeting 100% of the SRS.
The fundamental truth, for both government and non-government schools, remains clear:
1. Governments (both state and federal) must fund the full cost of education, as determined by the SRS for every government school student and a commitment from all levels of government to meet their fair share.
2. Non-government schools should be funded relative to that standard based on the socio economic status score (SES) and capacity to contribute – as calculated using the recommendations of the Chaney review (2018).
The Chaney review suggested moving to a direct measure of parental income to determine school SES scores in order to replace the current area-based measure.
Yet the federal government has not committed to achieving a funding level of 100% of the SRS – neither in the public sector nor have they committed to make any consequent adjustments for the non-government sector.
Instead, the federal coalition government has ignored the principles, commitments and necessary measures that were established, and committed to, arising from the initial Gonski panel funding review.
Model continues to fall short Along with failure to commit to immediate funding of the full cost of education, as relevant to both government and non-government schools, the current funding proposal also falls short in on many fronts, including:
• No commitment to immediate funding of the actual full cost of meeting the learning adjustment costs of every student with disability, irrespective of sector.
• No commitment by all governments to increase the current substantially inadequate funding for capital works for new schools, new school facilities and urgent maintenance programs.
• No indexation of funding that properly reflects the actual historic cost increases in education to ensure that schools attract and retain the highest quality teaching and learning support workforce that a wealthy country like Australia can afford.
• No renewed commitment to Indigenous education to close the gap, in particular through better and more inclusive collaboration with Indigenous peoples and their communities.
• No action to put the teaching profession at the centre of the school education community and afford teachers the respect for their professional capacity and judgement that has been consistently undermined by successive governments in most jurisdictions.
The announcement locks in unreasonable and irresponsible limits on teacher and staff salaries and conditions for at least the next five years and, likely for the next 10 years – all at the very time the federal government should be doing everything it can to attract and retain quality staff.
Until all of these elements are addressed, and previous commitments and promises by the federal government are realised and resourced, school funding will continue to fall short.