Govt Has a Massive Potential Revenue Pool to Fund Gonski

The Federal Government claims that the Budget deficit precludes fully funding the last two years of the Gonski plan. Labor is dithering on Gonski because it fears being seen as spendthrift when there is a large deficit.

However, full implementation of Gonski could be easily financed. The Federal Government has a potential savings pool of at least $34 billion a year to fund the $7 billion originally planned for the last two years of Gonski.

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Well-off Private Schools Are Over-Funded by $3 Billion a Year

In general, there is no case for governments to fund private schools to a level beyond what they are prepared to fund public schools. However, government funding enables some 1,400 private schools to have more resources than public schools. It costs the taxpayer about $3 billion a year that would be far better spent on supporting disadvantaged public and private schools.

There are two aspects of government over-funding of private schools. The first is that privately-sourced income from fees and donations of wealthy private schools exceeds the total income per student in public schools. Government funding for these schools extends their resource advantage.

The second is that there are many private schools whose income from private sources is less than total income per student in public schools, but whose government funding is more than that which would provide them with the same average total income per student as public schools. The extra government funding also gives these schools a resource advantage over public schools.

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Wealthy Private School Parents Evading Taxes

One of the arguments used by the wealthy to justify government subsidization of their fees at elite private schools is that they pay taxes and there should receive government funding for whatever school their child attends. Apart from being a spurious argument, it appears that many of the wealthy are not paying taxes anyway.

Last month, the Australian Taxation Office announced that it has contacted more than 100 Australian parents with children at 60 elite private schools who paid school fees of $100,000 a year from overseas bank accounts. The ATO obtained information from the schools and matched it against parents’ tax returns. It is part of the ATO’s crackdown on tax evasion by wealthy individuals with hidden income and assets offshore.

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Turnbull Govt Fails on Improving Maths and Science

Given that Australia’s international test results in mathematics and science have fallen in recent years, it is somewhat bewildering that the Turnbull Government’s innovation statement released on Monday virtually ignores school education.

The statement says that ensuring students have the skills to equip them for the workforce of the 21st century is critical to maximising Australia’s productivity, and ensuring economic and social well-being in an increasingly STEM-based and digital economy. However, it proposes spending a miserly extra $100 million on school education over five years from 2016-17, comprising $48 million on prizes and competitions in science and mathematics and $51 million on digital literacy programs.

The proposed increase is farcical. It amounts to only $20 million a year or $54 per student a year. It represents only one per cent of the increase in Gonski funding planned by the Gillard/Rudd governments over the three years from 2016-17 to 2018-19. It will do little to reverse Australia’s declining maths and science results.

Trevor Cobbold

Top Public Service Mandarin Badly Bungled School Funding Figures

In an extraordinary move earlier this month, the head of the Prime Minister’s Department, Michael Thawley, criticised increased funding for education within days of the Prime Minister suggesting that the Government would consider fully funding the Gonski school plan. Only a week after Malcolm Turnbull floated the idea of restoring the last two years of the Gonski plan that was abandoned by Abbott, Thawley used flawed figures to warn against increasing school funding.

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Turnbull Creates New Optimism for Gonski

The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, put the Gonski funding plan back on the agenda recently saying that everyone agrees “we need more resources into education and it needs to be needs-based”. There is now hope for Gonski whereas previously there was despair under Abbott and Pyne.

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Victorian Private Schools Get Funding Windfall from Andrews Government

Victorian private schools will receive a hidden windfall dividend of nearly $200 million following the recent announcement of the Labor Government to increase funding for public schools by $747 million over four years. The windfall would be better spent on public schools which enrol the vast proportion of disadvantaged students in the state.

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New Opportunity for Bi-Partisan Support for Gonski Funding

The election of Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister is an auspicious occasion for education funding. It offers the opportunity to redress the sabotage of the Gonski funding plan by Abbott Government. It offers a last chance for bi-partisan support for Gonski. The opportunity should be seized by the new Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader.

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New Figures Show that Government Funding for Public Schools is Down, but Up for Private Schools

Government funding for public schools is in dire straits. New figures presented to Senate Estimates recently by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority show that, adjusted for inflation, governments have cut funding for public schools across Australia since 2009 while increasing funding for Catholic and Independent schools.

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