School Funding, Choice and Equity

Jennifer Buckingham
26 October 2011 | IA126
School Funding, Choice and Equity
  • School funding is plagued by inconsistencies and divisiveness. Its complexity has led to widespread misinformation and perceptions of inequity.
  • Existing models of government school funding tend to have historical and political foundations rather than clear objectives or rationales.
  • School funding ought to have three main objectives: equity, efficiency and excellence. These goals are not being achieved in the current system.
  • A new school funding model should be based on the needs of individual students, not on the type of school they attend.
  • A Universal Weighted Student Funding (UWSF) system is a model that is best aligned with the key features of effective funding systems—and maintains school choice.
  • UWSF has three main components: a National Resource Standard, a Guaranteed Student Entitlement, and Equity Weights. It can also be adjusted to take into account private inputs to schools.
  • The issue of private inputs is the most difficult to resolve. The challenge is to design a public funding model that does not exacerbate socio-economic inequities but which also does not create disincentives to private investment in schools.
  • One way to moderate public funding is to vary all students’ public funding entitlements according to their household income or socio-economic status (SES), irrespective of the type of school they attend. This would require some government schools to charge fees and would create an additional means test for families.
  • Another approach (described in detail in this monograph) is to vary public funding entitlements according to the level of tuition fees paid. A student attending any school, government or non-government, which does not charge compulsory fees (or which charges fees up to a certain threshold) would be eligible for the full public funding entitlement. Schools charging fees beyond the threshold would have their public funding discounted gradually until a minimum public funding level is reached..

Jennifer Buckingham is a Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies.

Latest Publications

Eight Housing Affordability Myths
Stephen Kirchner
10 July 2014 | IA146

Australians are conflicted in their attitude to this long-run change in real house prices because they are both investors in housing as an asset class and consumers of housing services. This conflicted attitude on the part of the public is reflected in confused public policies followed by Australian governments. Unfortunately, many of the policies pursued by Australian governments in the…

Still Damaging and Disturbing: Australian Child Protection Data and the Need for National Adoption Targets
Jeremy Sammut
16 April 2014 | IA145

In December 2013, the Abbott government announced plans to make it easier for Australian parents to adopt children both locally and from overseas. Acknowledging the official ‘taboo’ on adoption in Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott ordered an inter-departmental committee to recommend ways to take adoption out of the ‘too-hard’ basket. The chief barrier to raising the number of local adoptions…

Why Jaydon Can’t Read: A Forum on Fixing Literacy
Jennifer Buckingham, Justine Ferrari, Tom Alegounarias
18 February 2014 | IA144

Many thousands of Australian students have very low levels of literacy after spending four or more years at school. The Spring 2014 issue of the CIS journal Policy contained an article called ‘Why Jaydon Can’t Read: How Ideology Triumphed Over Evidence in Teaching Reading’, which concluded that students were not being provided with the most effective evidence-based reading instruction in…

Independent Charities, Independent Regulators: The Future of Not-for-Profit Regulation
Helen Andrews
06 February 2014 | IA143

The Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission was established by the Gillard government in 2012 with the intended purpose of cutting the red tape faced by Australia’s charities. So far, the regulator has failed to make any significant progress on this goal or on its two other main goals: increasing public trust in charities and improving the quality of regulatory oversight…

The New Silence: Family Breakdown and Child Sexual Abuse
Jeremy Sammut
30 January 2014 | IA142

Despite family breakdown exposing children to greater risk of sexual abuse, the issue receives scant attention in this country. Child sexual abuse is not fully and frankly discussed because the public discourse is self-censored by politicians, academics, social service organisations, and the media in compliance with politically correct attitudes towards ‘family diversity’—the socially ‘progressive’ and ‘non-judgmental’ fiction that says the…