Private School Funding Model is Increasingly Incoherent, Irrational and Wasteful

The private school funding model introduced by the Morrison Government is becoming more and more incoherent and irrational. It purports to assess the financial need of private schools by the income of families with children in private schools. However, it ignores a growing source of income and assets of better-off families – the Bank of Mum and Dad. As a result, the Commonwealth Government is increasingly over-estimating the financial need of schools and, consequently, increasing their over-funding.

The Bank of Mum and Dad provides a steady stream of income to more advantaged families. It includes full or partial payment of school fees by grandparents. It also includes money for home deposits or purchases and other expenditures such as cars, household assets, childcare, etc. that frees up income so it can be spent on school fees. None of this income is included in the assessment of the capacity of parents to pay school fees.

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SOS Submission to Inquiry Into the State Education System in Victoria

Save OUr Schools has made a substantial submission to an inquiry on the Victorian education system being held by the Legal and Social Issues Committee, Legislative Council, Parliament of Victoria. The submission can be downloaded below.

The Victorian Labor Government claims that Victorian is the education state. This is a complete misnomer. Victoria is a failed education state. It has failed disadvantaged students and public schools.

  • Many disadvantaged students do not achieve minimum literacy and numeracy standards;
  • There was virtually no learning improvement by disadvantaged students between 2010 and 2022 and several declines.
  • There are large achievement gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students.

There were a few successes, most notably in some Indigenous outcomes, but they are few and far between. In addition, there have been a significant increase in the proportion of students completing Year 12, although too many still do not achieve this.

School funding failures by the Commonwealth and Victorian governments are a major factor behind these education failures. Public schools in Victoria face a funding crisis. They are massively under-funded while private schools are over-funded. Funding increases over the past decade have heavily favoured private schools. Public schools are defrauded by the current Commonwealth-Victoria bilateral funding agreement. The result is that public schools have far fewer resources than private schools and large learning gaps persist between advantage and disadvantaged students.

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Expert Panel on School Reform Must Support Closing the Gap Between Rich and Poor

Save Our Schools (SOS) today called on the Expert Panel reviewing the National Schools Reform Agreement (NSRA) to address the shocking gaps in school outcomes between rich and poor. Trevor Cobbold, National Convenor of SOS, said that there are massive achievement gaps between highly advantaged and highly disadvantaged students that must be closed.

“Closing the achievement gaps is the fundamental challenge facing Australian education. The Expert Panel must ensure that its policy recommendations for the next NSRA are focussed on closing the gaps. It must set clear targets to achieve greater equity in school outcomes.

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The Facts About School Funding in Victoria – An Update

Public schools in Victoria as elsewhere in Australia face a funding crisis. The key aspects of this crisis are:

  • Government funding increases have heavily favoured private schools over public schools since 2009;
  • Independent and Catholic school in Victoria have a large resource advantage over public schools;
  • Public schools are massively under-funded despite enrolling 80% or more of disadvantaged students and will remain so into the next decade unless the current funding arrangements are over-hauled;
  • By contrast, private schools are over-funded;
  • If Victoria is to truly become an education state, it must fully fund public schools to increase equity in school outcomes.
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Our Better Angels: Should We Include or Segregate Students?

A disputed recommendation from the Disability Commission’s Report is whether or not segregated education should be phased out from 2025. Those Commissioners advocating such a change are on the side of our better angels. It is proper to have an inclusive society and we should condemn any section of our community that segregates sections of the population. Any form of segregation evokes the injustice experienced when societies were divided by the colour of one’s skin. This segregation is motivated by a child’s ability, on the face of it equally offensive. So, why is there some support for segregation in education and why is this only a problem for students with disabilities?

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The Next Schools Agreement Must Embrace Key Principles for School Funding

Save Our Schools (SOS) has called on the Expert Panel reviewing the National Schools Reform Agreement to recommend some key principles to guide the future funding of schools. These principles should include fully funding public schools by 2028, no special deals for private schools, a greater role for the Commonwealths in funding public schools and an end to the defrauding of public schools by state governments.  SOS has also recommended the Panel adopt a target of halving class sizes in disadvantaged schools.

These recommendations are outlined in the SOS submission to the Expert Panel. It says that the Panel must consider the funding principles to guide the next NSRA. There is no justification for the claim that school funding is outside the terms of reference of the Panel. Future funding principles are well within its terms of reference because the terms require the Panel to consider how funding can better linked to student outcomes. In part, the terms of reference ask the Panel to ensure public funding delvers on national agreements. This necessitates some basic principles to guide future funding. Developing such principles would not transgress the Minister’s edict that the Panel should not review how the SRS is calculated.

The key principles recommended by SOS are:

  1. Funding for public and private schools should be based strictly on a needs-basis in order to deliver increased outcomes for students in the priority equity cohorts;
  2. The Commonwealth Government should play a greater role in funding for increased equity in education;
  3. The Commonwealth-State funding agreements must ensure that both parties live up to their commitments and responsibilities to deliver equity in education;
  4. Public schools should be fully funded at 100% of their SRS within the life of the next NSRA;
  5. The integrity of the SRS must be maintained and not diluted;
  6. There must be increased reporting on target outcomes and the use of taxpayer funding.

The submission also calls for the next NSRA to support halving class sizes in disadvantaged schools.

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Fully Funding Private Schools is No Solution to Inequity in Education

This article is a summary of a new Education Policy Brief. The full Brief can be downloaded below.

The proposal of Tom Greenwell and Chris Bonnor to fully fund private schools. subject to them not charging fees and not enrolling students on the basis of ability, abrogates key long standing principles of public education, namely, that public schools are secular and do not discriminate on the basis of student background. The proposal explicitly permits private schools to promulgate their religious beliefs and values and to discriminate against students and teachers who do not share these beliefs. This is anathema to the founding principles of public education. Public schools must remain secular and take all comers, whatever their background, to provide access to education for all and to promote understanding and tolerance between different social groups.

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The Fallacy of the Genetic Determination of Inherent Cognitive Abilities

Inequity in education is the key challenge facing Australian education policy. One of the fundamental premises of the approach by Save Our Schools is that the mean and range of intrinsic abilities, however they are defined and measured, should be the same across different social groups, whether defined in terms of social class, ethnicity, or any other broad characteristic. As the Gonski Report stated as justification for its definition of social equity in education:

Central to the panel’s definition of equity is the belief that the underlying talents and abilities of students that enable them to succeed in schooling are not distributed differently among children from different socioeconomic status, ethnic or language backgrounds, or according to where they live or go to school. (1)

This has been a controversial area over many years, with a consistent pattern of assertions that genetics determines class and ethnic/racial differences, through differences in intrinsic cognitive ability, and that, as a result, interventions cannot change differences in educational outcomes by social group. (2) These claims have consistently been contested, often hotly given their social importance, on both direct scientific and practical grounds (3-5). In addition, there has always been evidence that there are major environmental impacts on IQ (6) and that social change and intervention programs can change outcomes, (7) particularly for equity target groups.

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The Next National Schools Agreement Must Clearly Define Equity Goal

The Expert Panel reviewing the National Schools Reform Agreement (NSRA) has failed to adequately define   equity goals for the next Agreement. Its Consultation Paper released last month Panel adopted a flawed definition proposed by the Productivity Commission in its report on the Agreement. The Panel must revise its definition of equity in its final report to the Government in October. Failure to do so will mean continued failure to address the massive achievement gaps between rich and poor.

The current NSRA conspicuously fails to provide a clearly defined equity goal. It has perpetrated different meanings and interpretations of what constitutes equity in education This in turn leads to policy confusion and even contradictory approaches to improving equity. As a result many students continue to be denied an adequate education and achievement gaps between privileged and less privileged students continue. it also allows governments to avoid accountability for these failures and to misdirect funding increases to school sectors least in need.

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The Lost Decade of School Autonomy in NSW

It is just over ten years since the school autonomy program called Local Schools, Local Decisions commenced in NSW. It has been a lost decade. It was supposed to increased student results but high inequity in education continues with more bureaucracy, less central support for schools and bigger workloads for principals and teachers.

The stated goal of Local Schools, Local Decisions was to improve student outcomes.  There is scant evidence of this in NSW NAPLAN results. They show shocking inequalities in school outcomes between highly advantaged and disadvantaged students with few improvements since 2010. 

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