5 facts on school funding

Blaise Joseph

10 August 2018 | Ideas@TheCentre

“Facts complicate things. All the press, the people, and their leaders want to know is: who are the goodies and who are the baddies.”

That’s how Sir Humphrey Appleby explained foreign policy, but he could have just as easily been talking about Australia’s school funding World War 3.

There have been numerous misleading and factually incorrect statements recently reported in the media about the government’s ‘Gonski 2.0’ school funding plan. Here are five key facts often ignored.

  1. Funding is increasing for all school sectors above inflation and enrolments.

Federal per-student funding is going up on average for government (5.1%), Catholic (3.7%), and independent (4.3%) schools. Only a small number of individual independent schools will receive less money.

  1. Government schools are receiving a larger increase than non-government schools.

Contrary to what education unions claim, the current disagreement between the Catholic and independent school sectors is not at the expense of government schools, who are receiving an even larger percentage increase in federal funding.

  1. The Catholic school system retains the right to distribute funding however it likes.

The ongoing argument over the ‘system-weighted average method’ — essentially, whether to treat the Catholic system like one school or a group of schools for the purposes of the funding formula — affects the total amount of funding received by the Catholic system, but not its freedom to distribute the pool of money to its schools as it sees fit.

  1. There are no ‘cuts’ to school funding.

The government’s Gonski 2.0 increases are not as large as in the original Labor Gonski 1.0 plan. But most of the extra money promised by Labor was fantasy funding — it was allocated beyond the forward estimates of the 2013-14 budget (the last budget before the Coalition was elected) and so was never funded.

  1. There is no clear link between school spending and student outcomes.

Total government funding per-student has increased in real terms by more than 15% over the past 10 years, while Australia’s results on international literacy and numeracy tests declined. There is no evidence more money will help if spent in the same ways, or in the ways the latest Gonski review suggest. The Turnbull government and the Labor opposition should cease their futile bidding war on who can lavish even more taxpayer money on schools.

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