The review panel responsible for the recently-released Gonski report has put itself under the gun - by mid-2012 it will set government funding amounts for primary and secondary students.
The new schooling resource standard (SRS) will give schools the same base amount per child, around $10,500 for secondary and $8,000 for primary students. On top of the SRS, extra money will be provided for children with disadvantages (disabilities, English language learners, etc.).
The new SRS model is simpler than the current funding model. All schools - government, independent and Catholic - will be funded using the same base model.
Under the new model, government schools will get 100% of the SRS via a combination of state and federal funds. In the wealthiest private schools, about 80% of the SRS will be funded by parents. As a school’s estimated parent contribution decreases, the government contribution increases. A small Catholic school in the Outback could receive over 90% of its funding from the government.
The government has simplified a funding formula—less paperwork with a similar bottom-line—so why the kafuffle? First, some people in state governments are wary of federal intrusion. Traditionally the states fund government schools while the federal government provides support for private schools. The new SRS rolls federal, state and parent contributions into one amount.
But before worrying about the details of funding formulas, let's step back and ask a bigger question. SHOULD the government—federal, state or otherwise—be funding private schools?
While balancing on the federal-state tightrope, the Gonski review has sidestepped this question. But the influx of press around Gonski has re-kindled the “public-funding-of-private-schools" debate. Public school supporters fear increased government funding of private schools will lead to middle-class flight, while non-government schools, particularly Catholic schools, think federal funding is crucial for effective schooling.
Using the 2011 figures in the Gonski report, parent contributions are 54 per cent for independent, 24 per cent for Catholic and four per cent for government schools.
These pie charts show how much is spent on an average student. You can look up the funding percentages of schools in your neighbourhood on the MySchool website.
Below are some of the arguments for and against government funding of non-government schools.
|Against government funding of non-government schools... |
To make matters complicated, school funding is not a black-and-white, government-or-private issue. Shades of gray—like tax benefits and school vouchers—exist.
One things is clear: the current system is confusing and inefficient. In its response to the Gonski report, the Government said this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform school funding. Educators and parents are invited to help develop the new system.
The time for input is now. The review panel is finalising its SRS model this winter to be ready for the 2014 school year. The Government has opened a rare window of opportunity—what will your view be?
Funding model in the Gonski report
Dr. Squirrel Main is a research fellow at the University of Melbourne's Graduate School of Education. Her PhD was in education reform.
This article was written for the YourView website.