The report by the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee on moving to a direct income measure of assessing the capacity to contribute of families in private schools contains a bombshell. It unequivocally shows that the financial cost of the move to a direct income measure has never been properly calculated by the Government. The additional funding for private schools of $3.2 billion (now $3.4 billion) promised by the Government is just another special deal plucked out of thin air.
Save Our Schools has long questioned this figure because the Prime Minister announced the increase before the actual measure of the direct income of families was determined. The Prime Minister announced the increase in September 2018 on the same day as a Technical Working Group was appointed to work out how the direct income of families was to be measured. How did the Prime Minister know what the new direct income measure would cost before it had been determined?
It is now clear from evidence presented to the Committee that there is no rational basis for the $3.4 billion increase. It unequivocally shows that the financial cost of the move to a direct income measure has never been properly calculated by the Government.
The report states that the Commonwealth Department of Education “acknowledged that the Working Group was only provided with papers covering the theoretical aspects of the new methodology…” [p, 13]
The report also cites the submission by the Independent Schools Council of Australia (ISCA), which was represented on the Technical Working Group, that no data or modelling was available to the Group to assess the financial impact:
As a member of the Direct Income Measure of Capacity to Contribute Technical Working Group (the Working Group), ISCA explained that due to the unavailability of data, the Working Group could only consider issues on a theoretical basis. ISCA noted that it did not see any modelling of the CTC scores using different variables or settings, or any potential funding impacts on schools. Accordingly, this meant that ‘proper consideration of the possible elements of the new model [was] impossible’ and that ‘no input or advice was able to be provided on possible issues or areas for concern with the CTC methodology’. [pp. 12-13]
The report also states that other submissions “implied that insufficient testing has been conducted on the new methodology and its impact on schools” [p. 13].
Thus, the report makes it clear that the $3.4 billion increase is a special deal to placate private school organisations. It is yet another special deal for private schools worth billions while public schools will remain significantly under-funded indefinitely.
The majority report (Coalition and Labor) states that the new measure will provide a more accurate method of determining a school community’s capacity to contribute and recommends that the amendments to the Education Act to effect the change should be passed. A dissenting report by the Greens states the $3.4 billion increase “is yet another instance of the Liberal and Labor parties working to please the private school lobby at the expense of public schools”.
It should be no surprise that Labor has fallen in line behind the Government in supporting the new measure of capacity to contribute. Labor is a specialist in special deals for private schools, especially Catholic schools, as shown in its over-funding of private schools under Gonski 1.0 and Bill Shorten committing Labor to standing “shoulder to shoulder” with the Catholic school system before the last election. If Labor were serious about public transparency on school funding it would hold the Prime Minister to account in Parliament this week. Where did the original $3.2 billion figure come from?
Morrison has delivered yet another special deal to private schools while ignoring the needs of public schools. When he announced the funding increase in September 2018, he said that “the new method for calculating school funding will make the education system fairer and more equitable”. It is incomprehensible how a $3.4 billion increase for private schools not based on any rational calculation and another $1.2 billion in the slush fund called the Choice and Accountability Fund while public schools remain under-funded will make the education system fairer. It is so ludicrous that it could be Orwellian dialogue taken directly from Animal Farm!