The recent Senate Estimates hearings revealed that the Federal Department of Education and Training could not justify Christopher Pyne’s often repeated claim that school funding has increased by 40 per cent in the last 10 years.
Under questioning about the claim by the Green’s Senator, Penny Wright, Associate Secretary of the Department, Tony Cook, said that the source was Table 4A.7 in the Report on Government Services 2015, published by the Productivity Commission. However, this table shows an increase of real funding (that is, adjusted for inflation) of 21.7 per cent between 2003-4 and 2012-13, about half the figure claimed by Pyne.
The table referred to by Mr. Cook is for aggregate government funding for all schools and makes no allowance for increasing student enrolments. A later table in the report (Table 4A.17) shows figures for real funding per student. In this case, the increase from 2003-04 to 2012-13 was only 12.7 per cent, about one-third of the figure claimed by Pyne.
These figures also include book entry items for public schools, such as the user cost of capital and depreciation, as well as payroll tax, all of which have no impact in the classroom. When the user cost of capital and depreciation is excluded, the increase in real funding per student was only 5.6 per cent which is seven times less than what Pyne claims.
It looks like Pinocchio Pyne has been caught out again! Even his own departmental officials can’t save him.
But, what is more significant is that school funding adjusted for inflation hardly increased over nine years. The compound growth rate was only 0.6 per cent per year over the nine years. It is little wonder then that no progress has been made in improving school outcomes for disadvantaged students and that the large achievement gaps between rich and poor continue.