Private School Funding is Corrupted by Special Deals

This is a summary of an open submission to the National Education Ministers’ Council by Save Our Schools on the future funding arrangements to apply from 2018 that are currently being negotiated behind closed doors between the Federal and state/territory governments and between the Federal Government and private school organisations. The submission can be downloaded below.

The Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, says that he wants to fix the “corruption’’ at the heart of the Gonski funding model. He should start on the special deals and arrangements that provide several billion dollars in over-funding to private schools that corrupt the principle of needs-based funding for schools.

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End the Corruption of Private School Funding

Governments should end special funding deals for private schools according to a submission to the national education minister’s council by Save Our Schools. SOS convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said that special deals have corrupted private school funding and provide more than $3 billion a year in over-funding. Continue reading “End the Corruption of Private School Funding”

Private Schools Do Not Have an Entitlement to Taxpayer Funding

There is a good case for government funding of private schools whose resources are below what is needed to ensure an adequate education for all children. Governments have a responsibility to ensure that children educated in the private sector are not disadvantaged in their access to quality education by their parents’ choices. Their education should not be allowed to suffer because their parents choose to send them to an under-resourced school.

Similarly, disadvantaged students such as low SES, Indigenous, remote area and disability students should be entitled to the same funding loadings whether they attend public or private schools. As part of ensuring access to quality education, governments also have an obligation to regulate private schools to ensure students receive a high quality, fully rounded education and to ensure their personal safety and welfare.

However, private schools whose private-sourced income exceeds a community standard, such as the base Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) used for the Gonski funding model, should not be entitled to baseline funding by governments. The argument that all children, including those attending high fee, exclusive schools, are entitled to government assistance for their education is a spurious argument. Government funding compounds their large resource advantage over public schools.

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Funding Increases for Victorian Elite Private Schools Far Exceed that for Disadvantaged Public Schools

Government funding increases for Victorian schools have dramatically favoured elite private schools over the most disadvantaged public schools in recent years. Total government funding per student in high fee, exclusive private schools increased by nearly three times more than for the most highly disadvantaged public schools between 2009 and 2014. The average funding increase per student for the 35 most advantaged private schools was 27% compared with only 10% for the 37 most disadvantaged public schools [see Chart 1 below].

The large disparity in funding increases was due to the failure of the Victorian Government to increase funding for disadvantaged public schools while boosting its funding of private schools. The funding increase from the Australian Government was similar for the elite private schools and the disadvantaged public schools – 30% and 34% respectively. However, the Victorian Government, which accounts for about 80% of public school funding, increased funding for the most disadvantaged schools by only 6%. In contrast, it increased funding for the elite private schools by three times as much – 18%.

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Productivity Commission Fails to Lift the Bonnet on its Own Funding Figures

In its report on the National Education Evidence Base, the Productivity Commission claims that it is “lifting the bonnet on Australia’s schools”. Unfortunately, it failed to lift the bonnet on its own funding figures and see that the funding engine is badly misfiring.

The Commission has greatly exaggerated the actual increase in funding and it has missed the key point that past funding increases have not been directed at reducing under-performance. Past funding increases have favoured more advantaged schools over disadvantaged schools. As a result, school performance has largely stagnated over the past 10 years.

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Victorian Government Schools Short Changed on Funds

The Age newspaper is on the money, with its recent reporting on the financial plight facing an increasing number of Victorian government schools. With banner headlines such as “Schools battling to balance books” (11/06), “Broke schools forced to hire out teachers” (17/06), and most recently, “Schools cutting classes, breaking rules for money” (21/6), The Age is confirming what everyone in our government system knows – our school funding model is bankrupt! Disturbingly, that’s only the half of it.

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Ken Boston Lambasts Political Failure on Gonski

A key member of the Gonski School Funding Review, Ken Boston, has savaged the political failure to implement the Gonski plan as originally recommended. In a speech last week to the NSW branch of the Australian Council of Educational Leaders commemorating the eminent educator, Dr. Paul Brock, Boston said that Gonksi has been “torn apart at the seams”.

While welcoming the increase in funding that has flowed from the review, Boston listed several fundamental weaknesses of the funding system implemented post-Gonski. Most importantly, the system that has emerged from the political process is not sector-blind, needs-based funding as recommended by the review panel, but continues to discriminate between public and private schools.

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Apple and Other Multinationals are Fleecing the Disadvantaged

A ground breaking decision by the European Commission has highlighted massive tax evasion by large multinational firms that depletes government revenue to invest in essential services such as health and education. The loss falls most heavily on disadvantaged families who get reduced access to quality health services and education opportunities for their children.

The Federal Government claims that funding the $7 billion for the last two years of the Gonski school funding plan is not sustainable given the state of the federal budget. However, tax evasion by large multinational companies is a major drain on government revenue and it needs to be stopped to provide decent health and education for disadvantaged families and children.

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Birmingham’s Unscrupulous Duplicities on School Funding

There was much wringing of hands at the stagnation in Australia’s literacy and numeracy results revealed by the latest NAPLAN data. A critical factor behind the stagnation is the continuing failure of governments to spend money where it is most needed and will do most good. Since 2009, funding increases have been misdirected to the school sectors least in need while funding has been cut to public schools which serve the overwhelming proportion of disadvantaged students.

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Ending Federal Funding of Public Education is Still on the Agenda

At the end of last month, the Prime Minister floated the idea that the Federal Government withdraw from funding public education as part of a proposal to allow the states to levy income taxes. The idea had a short life because at a meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) on the following day, the states rejected levying their own income taxes. A few days later, the Prime Minister said that he is “totally committed” to funding public schools while the Minister for Education, Simon Birmingham, said that the “Turnbull Government is not abandoning schools or public education and has never proposed doing so”.

These statements are highly misleading. COAG has decided to consider an alternative proposal that will have the same effect of ending targeted federal government funding of public education. The Prime Minister and his Education Minister are flagrantly misleading the public in the lead up to the election. It is a sleight of hand that ranks with Tony Abbott’s and Christopher Pyne’s 2013 pre-election big lie that the Coalition was on a “unity ticket” with Labor on school funding. Continue reading “Ending Federal Funding of Public Education is Still on the Agenda”