The Senate inquiry report released today on the Australian Education Amendment Bill 2017 is a missed opportunity to address the key issues with the bill, Centre for Independent Studies education policy analyst Blaise Joseph said.
“The report’s recommendation by government senators to pass the bill as currently drafted doesn’t deal with the legislation’s core problem, namely that it locks in a fundamentally flawed school funding formula which is unreasonably high and not based on evidence.” Mr Joseph said.
“Under the federal government’s formula, the majority of Australian school students are considered ‘disadvantaged’ and receive extra funding. This is an absurd situation and not financially viable in the long-term, but was completely unaddressed by the report.”
“If the government goes ahead with the bill as currently drafted, Australia will remain stuck with a flawed funding model.”
“The right way forward for the government is to reduce the unreasonably high cost of Gonski 2.0 by tightening the criteria for disadvantage, and then commission a review of the funding model, especially the loadings for disadvantage.”
Mr Joseph also criticised the recommendation in the Greens senators’ dissenting report to force states and territories to not only maintain but also increase their real per student funding levels as a condition of receiving increased commonwealth funding.
“State and territory governments should remain free to adjust their own school budgets in accordance with local needs and financial circumstances – they are accountable to their own populations for how much they spend on schools. The commonwealth should fund schools on a nationally consistent basis.”
In addition, Mr Joseph expressed concern over the recommendation by the Labor and Greens senators to shorten the timeframe for the Gonski 2.0 plan and pack all the funding into less than 10 years.
“Only $1.7 billion of the additional $18.6 billion in Gonski 2.0 funding has been allocated for the next 4 years within the budget forward estimates – under $450 million per year. That leaves an unfunded $16.9 billion to be allocated across the subsequent 6 years – over $2.8 billion per year. It would be fantasy funding to shorten this timeframe further and would place an unfair fiscal burden on future governments.”
Mr Joseph welcomed some of the report’s points which were in line with the Centre for Independent Studies’ submission to the inquiry, including conducting a review of the current defective socioeconomic status (SES) score calculation for non-government schools.
Blaise Joseph is an Education Policy Analyst at The Centre for Independent Studies and author of The Fantasy of Gonski Funding: The ongoing battle over school spending.
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