Gonski 2.0 Is The Best Special Deal Private Schools Have Ever Had

This is a summary of a new Education Research Paper published by Save Our Schools. The full version can be downloaded below.

The Prime Minister says that Gonski 2.0 is “fair, it’s needs-based and it’s consistent”. However, confidential data released by the Commonwealth Department of Education under FOI contradicts his claim. It shows a massive increase in over-funding of private schools by 2027 and continuing under-funding of public schools.

Gonski 2.0 will increase the number of over-funded Independent schools and systems from 143 this year to 257 next year. The proportion over-funded will almost double from 17% to 32%. By 2027, a total of 531, or 66% of all Independent schools and systems, will be over-funded and some by very large amounts.

Of the increase of 531 over-funded Independent schools and systems in 2027, 289 will be newly over-funded as a result of increased Commonwealth Government funding, 134 schools and systems that are already over-funded will have their over-funding increased and 107 will have their over-funding reduced but remain over-funded.

This massive increase will occur because the Turnbull Government is increasing funding for private schools to 80% of their public funding entitlement as measured by their Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) while many are already funded at over 20% of their SRS by state and territory governments.

Under full implementation of Gonski 2.0, Independent schools in NSW will be funded at 107% of their SRS, in Western Australia at 109% of their SRS and in the ACT at 113% of their SRS. In Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory they will funded at their SRS or slightly above.

Gonski 2.0 is the best special deal that Independent schools have ever had. It far surpasses the special deals provided by the Howard Government. The over-funding will cost taxpayers millions over the next decade, and will divert funds from where they are most needed in disadvantaged schools.

Catholic education authorities have presented a totally misleading picture of their funding under Gonski 2.0. The new deal ensures that Catholic systemic schools in five states and territories will be funded at or above 100% of their SRS in 2018 and in six by 2027. Schools in the other two will be only slightly below 100%.

There is absolutely no case that Catholic school funding will be inadequate under Gonksi 2.0. Catholic schools will be much better off than public schools. Their real complaint is that they didn’t get the lavish special deal given to Independent schools.

In stark contrast, public schools will be significantly under-funded. Gonski 2.0 caps Commonwealth funding of public schools at 20% of their SRS, but state/territory government funding is well below 80% of the SRS everywhere except Western Australia and the ACT. If there is no increase in the state/territory funding share, public schools in NSW will be funded at 91% of their SRS in 2027, only 86% in Victoria, 93% in Queensland, 92% in South Australia, 96% in Tasmania and only 87% in the Northern Territory.

Gonski 2.0 requires state/territory governments to contribute at least 75% of the SRS for public schools by 2023 as a condition of Commonwealth funding. However, there is no certainty that the they will be held to this requirement. It is subject to negotiations with the states next year. The Minister for Education, Simon Birmingham, equivocated about the enforcing the requirement in Senate Estimates in October. Even if the states agree and deliver on the requirement, public schools will be operating at only 95% (75% + 20%) of their SRS.

It is revealing that the Turnbull Government will not require the states and territories to reduce their share of funding of private schools to 20% of their SRS. It is prepared, at least rhetorically, to require the states and territories to increase their share of public school funding to 75% or their SRS (but not 80%) as a condition for Commonwealth funding, but it is not prepared to require them to reduce their funding of private schools to 20% of their SRS. This contrasting approach exposes the Turnbull Government’s partisan support of private schools.

ACT Catholic and Independent schools are massively over-funded. In 2018, Catholic schools will be funded at 139% of their SRS which is planned to fall to 102% by 2027. Independent schools will be funded at 136% of their SRS in 2018 and which will be reduced to 113% by 2027.

However, the Turnbull Government has gifted them $58 million in special adjustment funding over the next four years. According to information provided to Senate Estimates in October, about $36 million of this will be allocated to Catholic schools and $22 million to Independent schools. This special deal will delay the reduction in their funding and likely postpone it to the never-never.

Gonski 2.0 preserves the structural incoherence of school funding so heavily criticised by the original Gonski report. It has locked in a system of different funding roles for public and private schools by the Commonwealth and state/territory governments instead of developing an integrated national school funding system as recommended by the Gonksi report. It limits the Commonwealth role in supporting disadvantaged students instead of increasing it as Gonski recommended.

Gonski 2.0 is neither an equitable nor fair funding model. No funding model that increases over-funding for private schools while failing to adequately support public schools, which enrol over 80% of all disadvantaged students, can be considered fair or equitable. Gonski 2.0 entrenches inequity in school funding between public and private schools.

The Turnbull Government is doing what all Coalition governments have done in the past 40 years – deliver special funding deals for private schools, especially for Independent schools in this case, to ensure their resource advantage and privileged position in the schools market place. As Tony Abbott said of the Liberal Party’s long history of supporting Catholic and Independent schools: “it’s in our DNA”.

Trevor Cobbold

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