Public Schools in Victoria Face a Funding Crisis

Public schools in Victoria face a funding crisis. Combined Commonwealth and Victorian Government funding for private schools has increased by four times that for public schools since 2009-10. Projected funding estimates show that private schools will be over-funded by about $730 million for the rest of the decade while public schools will be under-funded by nearly $20 billion.

New figures show that government funding increases have massively favoured private schools over public schools in Victoria since 2009-10. Between 2009-10 and 2019-20 government funding for private schools increased by $2,582 per student, adjusted for inflation, compared to $667 per student for public schools [Chart 1]. In percentage terms, private school funding increased by 27.9% compared to only 5% for public schools.

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Money Works in Education

Evidence that money works in education continues to accumulate. A new study published in the latest issue of the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy shows that increased expenditure on schools improves student outcomes. It found substantial positive effects of increased spending on test scores, dropout rates, and post-secondary enrolment.

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We Need to Get Gonski Back on Track

The Gonski Report on School Funding was published 10 years ago this month. It promised much to increase equity in education. However, its promise was undermined by fundamental flaws in Labor’s new model and trashed by Coalition governments.

The Gonski Report was a watershed in the history of school funding in Australia. It dramatically changed the terms of the debate about school funding in Australia by putting equity in education at the centre of education policy.

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NSW Public Education Deals With Student Behaviour – Déjà vu All Over Again

The release of the new Student Behaviour Strategy again demonstrates the disconnect between public schools, where teaching takes place and the accepted authorities the education bureaucracy and academia.  This current ‘policy’ is one of successive attempts to deal with severely disruptive student behaviour in schools.  Historically all have failed and, despite the best intentions nothing in this proposal is new and there is no reason to believe the outcome of this attempt will be any different. 

This new strategy is contained in another glossy document complete with the usual motherhood statements asserting the Department’s commitment to providing support for these damaged children and promises of increased resources.  It even has the obligatory illustration of the complex interactions of the promises as shown below.  Hanging a collection of these diagrams from all previous policies would have as much impact on changing the plight of these students as constructing a ‘dream-catcher’ of these to hang over their beds.  In this latest model, shown below the ten strategies at the core of the policy are not in dispute, they are motherhood statements but any experienced teacher who deals with the problems dysfunctional behaviour creates finds these pretty pictures quite hurtful, they are denied the resources to implement them.  Of course, no one can deny the importance of the ten strategies, they are stating the obvious but these promises are never kept.

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Get Gonski Back on Track

The following is a slightly revised versions of a speech by Trevor Cobbold to the Schools Funding Conference, Why Money Matters in Education, held in Sydney on 18 February 20122. It can also be downloaded below. Please note that the figures on the over-funding of private schools were updated on 27 February.

Good morning, it is a privilege to be able to contribute to the 10th anniversary of the pathbreaking Gonski report. It was a watershed in the history of school funding in Australia because it made equity in education the centrepiece of education policy. Its legacy is enduring as its guiding principles provide the foundation to build an education system to improve equity in education.

As a point of departure, you will all remember that last year the currently suspended Minister for Education, Alan Tudge, announced that “the school funding wars are now over”. A few months later, the Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, who played a central role in the war, said that Catholic schools “has never had it so good” in terms of funding. As I will show, the same is also true for Independent schools, but they are more careful to keep quiet about it.

This is the outcome of the war that was declared on the Gonski report at the outset by the Liberal and National parties. Tudge has long opposed the model. He told the House of Representatives in February 2013 that the Gonski plan “will penalise schools, particularly Catholic and Independent ones.”. As the journalist, Paul Kelly, observed: “Abbott and Pyne refused to endorse Gonski…They tried to suffocate the policy at birth”.

Once in office, their priority was to trash the model and deliver to private schools, especially Catholic schools, and they succeeded. In this, they were aided by own goals by Labor. But the war is not over for public schools as the current state of school funding clearly demonstrates.

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Labor’s Gonski Model: The National Plan for School Improvement

The following is the Conclusion of a new working paper published by Save Our Schools. It provides a comprehensive review of the of the implementation of the Gonski funding model by the Labor Government in 2013. The full paper can be downloaded below. Comments on the paper are invited. Notification of issues not covered and mistakes of fact, analysis and interpretation will be appreciated. Please excuse any remaining typos and repetitions. Comments can be sent to the Save Our Schools email address: saveourschools690@gmail.com

The implementation of the Gonski funding model represented a watershed in school funding in Australia. It changed the whole focus of school funding from increasing choice under the Howard Government’s SES model to improving equity in education. It also broke with the past by providing an objective and consistent approach to funding schools and to establish an integrated national approach to school funding across jurisdictions and school sectors.

The major achievement of Labor’s National Plan for School Improvement (NPSI) was to legislate the principles and framework for a funding system based on need. It established a minimum resource standard for every school in the country and provided additional funding loadings for various forms of disadvantaged students: low SES, Indigenous, remote area, language background other than English and students with disabilities.

The model was supported by the commitment of a massive increase in funding of nearly $16 billion over six years, the large part of which was to go to public schools. It offered the best chance in living memory to make a real difference in improving the education outcomes for disadvantaged students, most of who are enrolled in public schools. It promised a huge boost to public education.

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JobKeeper Gravy Train for Wealthy Perth Private Schools

Thirty-two WA private schools raked in $109 million in JobKeeper payments in 2020 contributing to profits of $121 million. Every school except one made a profit with JobKeeper and increased their profits over the previous year. The top 10 schools exploiting JobKeeper got $62 million and made $74 million in profits. Most of them are highly privileged, high fee schools.

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New School Funding Figures Pressure Labor to Step Up for Public Schools


New school funding figures show that government funding for private schools increased by nearly five times that for public schools over the last 10 years. They put pressure on Labor in the lead-up to the Federal election to end the chronic under-funding of public schools. Public schools face a funding crisis because they will continue to be massively under-funded over the rest of the decade under existing arrangements.

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JobKeeper Gravy Train for Queensland Private Schools

JobKeeper was a gravy train for many Queensland private schools. New financial statements published by the Charities Commission before Christmas show that 27 schools raked in $90 million in JobKeeper payments in 2020 contributing to profits of $100 million. Every school made a profit with JobKeeper and all except two increased their profits over the previous year. The top 10 schools exploiting JobKeeper got $53 million and made $63 million in profits.

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