New Private Schools Use Loophole to Get More Funding

Save Our Schools has accused two Canberra private schools of using a loophole to get extra Federal funding. SOS National Convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said that the two schools will gain $2.4 million in additional funding by establishing new campuses of existing schools rather than for new stand alone schools.

“Brindabella Christian College will receive $2 million more a year in Federal funding by setting up a new campus of its existing school rather than as a new stand-alone school. The proposed new campus of Canberra Christian School in Molonglo will receive $400,000 a year more than the funding it would be entitled to as a new school.

“This has all the hallmarks of a rort. The schools are taking advantage of a loophole in Federal funding arrangements to gain additional funding. It is an unethical and cynical exercise in maximising their taxpayer funding.”

Mr. Cobbold explained that the funding advantage from establishing a campus of an existing school rather than a new school springs from a loophole in the current SES funding model for private schools.

“This advantage accrues to so-called “funding maintained” (FM) schools. FM schools are schools whose actual per student funding exceeds the rate they are entitled to according to their assessed socio-economic status (SES). Under the Howard Government’s notorious “no losers” guarantee, schools which were receiving higher levels of funding than warranted by their SES score before the SES funding model was introduced in 2001 got to keep that extra funding and have it indexed each year.

“New (stand-alone) schools are funded at the rate applying to their SES score. So, there is an incentive for FM schools to open new campuses of an existing school rather than open a new stand-alone school so as to maintain their over-funding for the new campus as well. As a campus of an existing FM school they are funded at the higher FM funding rate rather than at the actual SES rate.

“Brindabella Christian College and Canberra Christian School are both FM schools. They are already funded over their SES rate – Brindabella College by $1.4 million in 2011 and Canberra Christian School by a small amount because it is a very small school at present. By exploiting this loophole they will be even more over-funded.”

Mr. Cobbold called for an end to the loophole.

“It is time to shut off this loophole. It is yet another reason to ditch the SES funding model. It is widely used by other private schools to rort the taxpayer. For example, one NSW Christian school has 18 campuses, only one of which is within 50 kilometres of the parent school and one is 600 kilometres away.

“Brindabella Christian College and Canberra Christian School are also clearly trying to abuse the existing arrangements. The new Brindabella Charnwood campus is planned to be even larger than its Lyneham school. The Canberra Christian campus at Molonglo will be 20 times larger than its Mawson school. These campuses will not be simple adjuncts to existing schools – they will be new schools. The two schools should do the ethical thing and amend their applications to be considered as new stand-alone schools.

“The ACT Government should consider removing the option to set up new campuses of existing schools from the Education Act if the Federal Government fails to take up the recommendation of the Gonski review to terminate the SES funding model and its associated ‘funding maintained’ provision.”

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