Education Department Slammed for Failure to Monitor How School Systems Distribute Taxpayer Funding

The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit of the Parliament has slammed the Commonwealth Department of Education for failing to ensure that government funding of public and private school systems is distributed according to needs-based principles. In a bi-partisan report tabled in the Parliament last week, the Joint Committee criticised a lack of transparency and accountability about school funding caused by inadequate administrative arrangements.

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Public Schools are Defrauded by Billions Under New Funding Agreements

This article is a summary of a new Education Research Brief published by Save Our Schools. The Brief can be downloaded below.

Public schools are being defrauded by billions under school funding agreements finalised at the end of last year between the Commonwealth and state/territory governments (“the states”). Public schools in all states except the ACT will be under-funded indefinitely while private schools in all states except the Northern Territory will be fully funded or more by 2023. Private schools also get more favourable phase-in arrangements than public schools.

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Money Matters for Student Outcomes

A new comprehensive review of academic studies in the United States has found overwhelming evidence of a strong causal relationship between increased school spending and student outcomes. It concludes that “the question of whether money matters is essentially settled” and that “….any claim that there is little evidence of a statistical link between school spending and student outcomes is demonstrably false”.

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WA Public Schools Lose Billions Under New Education Agreement

Public schools will lose about $6.1 billion in funding over ten years from 2018 under the new Bilateral Agreement between the Commonwealth and Western Australian Governments published last week. It means that public schools will be under-funded by about $4.6 billion to 2027. In contrast, a special provision in the Agreement will allow private schools to continue to be over-funded. What a legacy by a Labor Government!

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Public Schools Are Swindled by Billions Under New Education Agreements

This article is a summary of a new Education Research Brief published by Save Our Schools. The Brief can be downloaded below.

Public schools in NSW and South Australia will be swindled by about $7.5 billion over the next decade under new special deals incorporated in education agreements recently negotiated with the Commonwealth Government. The loss to NSW public schools is about $6.1 billion over the ten years and about $1.4 billion for South Australian public schools. Public schools around the country will lose about $16.5 billion over ten years if the swindle is extended to other states, as is likely.

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Another Study Shows That Funding Matters in Education

Yet another study shows that money matters in education. A new study published in the latest issue of the Economics of Education Review found that increased funding for New York State school districts led to increased student test scores. It concluded:

The findings in this study show clear and compelling evidence that educational resources improve student learning…[and] builds onto a growing body of evidence that educational resources contribute to improved student outcomes. [pp. 176, 177]

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Morrison Puts More Nails in the Coffin of Gonski

The following is a new Education Policy Brief published by Save Our Schools. It can be downloaded below

Introduction

The Gonski funding model was systematically dismantled by the Abbott and Turnbull Governments and it was almost dead and buried by the end of Turnbull’s reign. The Morrison Government immediately put more nails in the Gonski coffin with a new special $4.6 billion funding deal for private schools that is not fully based on need.

The new special deal has two main components –an additional $3.2 billion over 10 years from 2020 to 2029 to implement a new method of assessing capacity to pay in private schools and an additional $1.2 billion over the same period to support parent choice. The large bulk of the increase will go to Catholic schools.

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State Govts Evade Commitments to Public Schools

Public schools have suffered a double blow in the last fortnight. The Morrison Government announced a $4.6 billion appeasement deal for private schools with no increase for public schools. Last week The Guardian exposed how Labor and Coalition state governments are trying to evade commitments to increase their funding of public schools through a subterfuge. If successful, public schools, which enrol over 80% of disadvantaged students, could lose up to $2.6 billion a year. Public schools need and deserve better than this. Continue reading “State Govts Evade Commitments to Public Schools”

New Figures Reveal that the ACT Government Has Cut Funding to Public Schools

Thursday May 31, 2018 

New figures show that government funding increases have massively favoured private schools over public schools in the ACT. Despite much rhetoric about its support for public schools, the ACT Government has cut funding for public schools since 2009. It even cut its funding during the Gonski funding period, after agreeing to increase it.

The new figures published last month by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (adjusted here for rising costs) reveal that the ACT Government has taken the opportunity of increased Commonwealth Government funding to cut its own funding of public schools.

Total government (Commonwealth and ACT) funding for public schools, adjusted for inflation, was cut by $154 per student between 2009 and 2016. In contrast, funding for Catholic schools increased by $1,335 per student and for Independent schools by $480 per student.

The funding cut to public schools was due to a large cut by the ACT Government of $410 per student which more than offset an increase in Commonwealth funding of $255 per student. Yet, the ACT Government increased funding for Catholic schools by $220 per student.

The cuts to public schools were even greater during the Gonski funding period of 2013-2016 despite the ACT Government signing up to the Gonski plan. Total government funding for public schools, adjusted for inflation, was cut by $606 per student compared to an increase of $879 per student in Catholic schools and a small cut of $76 per student in Independent schools.

Again, the cut to public schools was due to a large cut in funding by the ACT Government of $660 per student. It was the biggest cut made by any government during the Gonski period except for the Northern Territory. At the same time, it increased its funding of Catholic schools by $221 per student, which was the biggest increase provided by any government in this period.

The ACT Government has clearly reneged on its Gonski agreement. Under the agreement that the then Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher, signed with the Commonwealth Government in 2013, the ACT Government committed to increasing its current funding effort by 3 per cent a year and to put in another $22 million beyond this over six years.

The expectation was for a small increase in the real resources for public schools. This has not happened. ACT Government funding of public schools has not even kept pace with rising costs; instead of increasing real resources in public schools they have been cut.

Catholic schools in the ACT are vociferous in their complaints about inadequate government funding. Yet, they have had a great deal – better than any other sector. Their total government funding per student, adjusted for inflation, has increased by 20 per cent since 2009 compared to 8.4 per cent for Independent schools and a cut of 1.3 per cent to public schools.

Catholic schools are massively over-funded at 139 per cent of their Schooling Resource Standard. The Commonwealth Government has also given them another special deal of an additional $36.1 million to 2027 beyond the planned increase under the new Commonwealth funding arrangements. Catholic schools have nothing to complain about, especially compared to public schools.

In cutting funding to public schools, the ACT Government has failed disadvantaged students, over 80% of whom attend public schools. High inequality in school results between students from rich and poor families is a constant feature in the ACT.

The latest NAPLAN results show that Year 9 students from low SES families are 2-3 years behind their high SES peers. Indigenous students are 3-4 years behind. The OECD’s PISA 2015 results show that the achievement gap between rich and poor in the ACT is only exceeded by that in Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

We have to do better. Low education achievement by a significant proportion of young people has far reaching individual, social and economic costs. It stunts individual lives and it brings higher health, social welfare and crime costs. It also stunts economic growth and prosperity.

The ACT is essentially a knowledge-based economy dependent on education improvement for its continuing prosperity. An underperforming education system means an underperforming economy.

Next week’s Budget is an opportunity to redress the Government’s long neglect of public schools. The Minister for Education has been going through a long consultation process on the future of education in the ACT, but it will come to nothing without a major funding boost for disadvantaged students and schools.

Trevor Cobbold

This article was originally published in the Canberra Times on 29 May.

New Figures Show States Have Cut Funding to Public Schools

Tuesday May 29, 2018

The following is a summary of a new research paper published by Save Our Schools on the state of school funding in Australia. It can be downloaded below.

New figures show that government funding increases have massively favoured private schools over public schools across Australia since 2009. Total government funding per student in public schools was cut between 2009 and 2016 while large funding increases were provided to Catholic and Independent schools. Even during the Gonski funding period of 2013-2016 funding increases for private schools far outstripped the increase for public schools.

While the Commonwealth Government increased funding for public and private schools, all state and territory governments (hereafter referred to as “states”) cut funding for public schools by more than the Commonwealth increase and nearly all increased funding for Catholic and Independent schools.

The introduction of the Gonski funding arrangements made little difference to this trend in the first three years of its operation from 2013 to 2016. While the Commonwealth increased funding for public schools (and private schools), all states except Victoria and Tasmania cut funding for public schools. The Commonwealth increase was sufficient to offset the state cuts in some jurisdictions but not in others.

The new figures were published last month by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority but have been adjusted here for rising costs by a composite index of the Wage Price Index for public and private education and training and the Consumer Price Index.

School income 2009-2016
The total recurrent income per student of Catholic and Independent schools in Australia and in nearly all states and territories was significantly higher than in public schools in 2016. The average total income per student in public schools in Australia was $13,747 compared to $21,092 per student in Independent schools and $15,026 in Catholic schools.

The total income (adjusted for inflation – hereafter called “real” income/funding) of public schools fell by $174 per student between 2009 and 2016 but increased massively for private schools. The total real income of Catholic schools increased by $1,582 per student and by $1,866 in Independent schools.

The disparity in real income per student between public and private schools has widened considerably since 2009 – from 36% to 55% higher for Independent schools and from 6% lower to 10% higher for Catholic schools.

Government funding changes accounted for the large part of the increased income disparity between public and private schools. Fees and donations in private schools also increased in real terms.

Government funding 2009-2016
Australia
Average real total government (Commonwealth and state) funding per student in public schools across Australia was cut by $110 per student (-1%) between 2009 and 2016 while funding for Catholic schools increased by $1,171 per student (15.2%) and for Independent schools by $1,026 (16.3%).

The cut in real government funding for public schools was due to significant cuts by state governments which more than offset increased Commonwealth funding. Real Commonwealth funding for public schools increased by $370 per student (23.1%), but state government funding was cut by $481 (-5.4%).

Both the Commonwealth and state governments increased real funding for private schools. Commonwealth funding for Catholic schools increased by $1,091 per student (18.9%) and by $950 per student in Independent schools (20.8%). State government funding for Catholic schools increased by $80 per student (4.1%) and by $76 per student (4.4%) in Independent schools.

States and territories
Real total government funding for public schools was cut in all states except Queensland and Tasmania while private schools received large funding increases in all states. The funding increases for Catholic schools were larger than for Independent schools in all states.

The largest cuts in real government funding for public schools occurred in Victoria (-$267 per student), Western Australia (-$806), and the Northern Territory (-$1,282). The largest increases for Catholic and Independent schools were in Victoria ($1,360 & $1,166 respectively), Tasmania ($1,917 & $1,738) and the Northern Territory ($3,666 & $1,609).

The Commonwealth increased funding for public schools in every state, but every state government cut funding to public schools. The state cuts to public schools were very large in most cases: -$523 per student; Victoria -$458; Queensland -$144; Western Australia -$961; South Australia -$370, Tasmania -$264; -$410 and the Northern Territory -$3,026.

Increases in Commonwealth funding for Catholic and Independents schools were over double that for public schools in all states.

Most state governments increased funding for private schools while cutting funding for public schools. For example, the Victorian Government increased funding for Catholic schools by $254 per student and by $131 for Independent schools while cutting funding for public schools by $458. Where cuts to funding for private schools occurred, they were much smaller than the cuts to public schools. For example, the Government cut funding to public schools by $523 per student compared to only $77 per Catholic student and $10 per Independent student.

School income in the Gonski period: 2013-2016
The total real income per student in Catholic schools increased by $699 between 2013 and 2016 and by $827 in Independent schools compared to only $86 in public schools. The disparity in real income per student between public and private schools widened from 48% to 55% for Independent schools and from 4% to 10% higher for Catholic schools.

Government funding changes accounted for the large part of the increased income disparity between public and private schools. Fees and donations in private schools also increased in real terms.

Government funding in the Gonski period: 2013-2016
Australia
In the first three years of the Gonski funding plan from 2013 to 2016, average real total government funding per student in Catholic and Independent schools across Australia increased by over four times that in public schools. Real total government funding for public schools increased by $123 per student (1.2%) compared to $524 per Catholic student (6.3%) and $507 per Independent student (7.4%).

The smaller increase for public schools was due to a smaller increase in Commonwealth funding and a cut in state funding. Commonwealth funding for public schools increased by $260 per student (15.2%) compared to $532 per student (8.4%) in Catholic schools and $482 per student (9.6%) in Independent schools.

State governments cut funding for public schools by $137 per student (-1.6%) compared to a cut in funding for Catholic schools of $8 per student (-0.4%) and an increase of $25 per student (1.4%) for Independent schools.

States and territories
Catholic and Independent schools received much larger increases in government funding than public schools between 2013 and 2016 in all states. Total government funding for public schools increased in , Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania but by far less than for Catholic and Independent schools. For example, funding for public schools increased by $3 per student compared to $427 in Catholic schools and $363 for Independent schools.

Funding for public schools was cut in Western Australia (-$76 per student), South Australia (-$151), the (-$606) and the Northern Territory (-$431) but increased for Catholic and Independent schools in Western Australia ($251 & $336 respectively), South Australia ($344 & $408) and the Northern Territory ($1,516 & $1,641) and for Catholic schools in the ($879).

The larger increases for Catholic and Independent schools were due to higher increases by the Commonwealth and significant cuts to public school funding all states except Victoria and Tasmania.

Commonwealth funding increases for Catholic and Independent schools were generally much larger than for public schools – in nearly all cases they were double or more those for public schools. In Western Australia, the increase for Catholic and Independent schools was 9-10 times that for public schools and the increase for Catholic schools in the was over 10 times that for public schools.

Six state governments cut funding of public schools during the Gonski funding period. Large cuts to public schools occurred in Queensland (-$273 per student), South Australian (-$296), ($-660) and Northern Territory ($-1,391).

Several states also cut funding to Catholic and Independent schools, but generally by small amounts, while others increased funding. The cuts were generally much smaller than for public schools in the same jurisdiction.

Conclusions
Government funding increases since 2009 have strongly favoured private schools. Since the introduction of the Gonski model in 2014, government funding increases for public schools have continued to lag far behind those for Catholic and Independent schools.

State governments have spectacularly failed in their responsibility to adequately support public schools. Every state has cut real funding for public schools since 2009. Even during the Gonski plan years, six of the eight state governments continued to cut real funding for public schools.

The Turnbull Government has abandoned the concept of a national school funding model and reverted to separate funding roles for the Commonwealth and the states. Its new funding arrangements guarantee future funding increases for private schools but not for public schools because this is left to state governments which are responsible for about 80% of the funding of public schools.

Public schools are likely to remain significantly under-funded under the new Commonwealth arrangements unless state governments provide a major funding boost for public schools. Private schools will be over-funded unless state governments cut their funding.

The immediate priority is to ensure a funding boost for public schools by the states. The longer-term goal remains to implement a nationally integrated funding model directed at reducing disadvantage in education and which ends special deals and over-funding of private schools.

Trevor Cobbold

The State of School Funding in Australia.pdf

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