School funding review makes the grade

Blaise Joseph

13 July 2018 | Ideas@TheCentre

After the platitude-heavy and detail-light Gonski 2 report, it was refreshing to read the concisely-written methodical analysis of government school funding policy released last Friday by the National Schooling Resource Board, chaired by businessman (and CIS board member) Michael Chaney.

Federal government funding for non-government schools is dependent on an estimate of the school’s socioeconomic status ­­(SES) — non-government schools receive less money if they have a higher deemed SES score, calculated by an area-based aggregate measure.

The Chaney review recommends moving to a direct measure of parental income to determine school SES scores, to replace the current area-based measure. Until recently, a direct measure of income would have required schools to collect tax file numbers, with attendant privacy issues.

The Chaney review vindicates the Catholic school sector’s claim that the area-based model tends to disadvantage Catholic system schools compared to independent schools.

However, modelling suggests the overall effect of moving to a direct measure method will not be particularly dramatic. The majority of non-government schools would have little or no change in SES score. Catholic schools would see a relatively small increase in funding, while independent schools would see a relatively small decrease in funding, on average — but there would still be many schools in both sectors with the opposite impact. The difference is the Catholic sector could smooth out these impacts within their own systems.

It is important to remember this simple fact: federal funding is going up significantly for all school sectors, at rates well above inflation and enrolments. And the Catholic system retains the right to distribute the money to its schools however it wishes.

Enough is enough. The Turnbull government should finally realise that spending more taxpayer money on schools will never silence demands for even larger funding increases. And there is no evidence more money will inevitably improve school results.

This is an edited excerpt from an opinion piece published by The Australian this week.

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