The Education Funding Debate

Funding for schools has been a hot topic this week, after the Australian Minister for Education Minister Simon Birmingham said that some 'wealthier private schools' were 'overfunded'. Read the view from Independent Schools Victoria, and summaries of what the editorialists are saying.

Independent Schools Call for Funding Certainty

Media Release 27 September 2016

Independent Schools Victoria (ISV) has called for predictable long-term funding for all schools so that they can plan for the education and welfare of students.

ISV Chief Executive, Ms Michelle Green, said that it was not surprising if renewed public debate about school funding lead to misunderstandings because of the complexity of the issues involved.

She said Australian Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, had highlighted some of this complexity in recent statements. This includes apparent funding anomalies and differences between states, between government schools, and between some government and some non-government schools.

‘It’s a pity if his statements lead to simplistic and misleading commentary that targets the principle of government funding to Independent and other non-government schools,’ Ms Green said.

The fact that some Independent schools are likely to have their funding reduced is not news.

Some schools are over funded in every school sector – government, Independent and Catholic.

‘The fact is that students at Independent schools receive significantly less government funding than students at government schools,’ Ms Green said.

‘Any time you move from one funding model to another, such as occurred with the introduction of the Gonski model in 2013, some schools will be deemed to be ‘over funded’ or ‘ under funded’, simply because of the change in models. Schools in every sector meet these criteria.

‘In dealing with the wide range of funding outcomes, a decision was taken in 2013 to implement transition arrangements. The aim was that schools would move towards their new entitlement over time, so that their budgeting and planning did not suffer from immediate disruption.

‘All schools in all sectors need predictable long term funding arrangements so they can plan for the education and welfare of their students.’

School Funding: The Education Debate We Should Have Had

The Age Editorial, 28 September 2016

The Age notes that Australia is embarking on an intensive chapter of the education debate, as negotiations open on a new four-year funding model. The pre-eminent notion, one underpinned by fairness, is that funding should be based on need, it argues.

The editorial notes that the financing and role of non-government schools is a complex topic, and a threshold question is whether there should be a purely government education system.

The Age believes private schools have proved beneficial, offering choice to families and, through robust competition, helping raise education standards.’ it says. The editorial goes on to argue that communities should have the right to choose between government and non-government schools, and notes that a mixed system means the overall cost to taxpayers is less.

No, Minister, Fees do not add up to ‘Overfunding’

The Australian Editorial, 29 September 2016

‘If Education Minister Simon Birmingham watched the ABC series Howard on Menzies he missed the point of what the Coalition’s base has understood for decades: that is, the principle of choice for parents selecting their children’s schools and the right of all students, including those in independent and religious schools, to a fair share of state aid,’ begins the editorial.

The Australian challenges the Minister’s comment that some ‘wealthier private schools’ were ‘overfunded’. ‘Overfunded? By whom, minister? Not by taxpayers.’ The editorial notes that parents’ fees save taxpayers $4.3 billion a year. Funding should not be the main focus of reform, it concludes, rather improving teacher education, classroom teaching and curriculum.