Australia/April 30, 2022/By: Paul Karp/Source: https://www.theguardian.com/
Exclusive: Public schools underfunded by at least $6.5bn a year while non-government schools received transitional funding after Gonski 2.0 reforms
The Morrison government has directed an extra $10bn to private schools since 2018 while public schools are underfunded by at least $6.5bn every year, according to a new report.
The study by education economist Adam Rorris, commissioned by the Australian Education Union, details the legacy of special treatment of private schools including $4.6bn of transitional funding after the Gonski 2.0 reforms and $750m of jobkeeper wage subsidies.
The teacher’s union is concerned that the Coalition has not promised additional schools funding ahead of the May election while Labor has committed only to a “pathway” to full funding of public schools.
In 2017 the Turnbull government legislated schools funding reforms which promise 80% of the schools resourcing standard to non-government schools, and 20% to public schools, to be topped up by a further 75% from states.
Despite Scott Morrison arguing against “special deals” while treasurer, after he succeeded Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister he agreed to a $4.6bn deal to ease non-government schools’ transition to the new funding model including a $1.2bn “choice and affordability” fund not accessible to public schools.
Transition arrangements will see non-government schools continue to receive more than 80% of the resourcing standard until 2028.
These include Haileybury in Victoria, which will get a total of $25m above that level from 2022 to 2028; Trinity grammar school in NSW with an extra $16.8m; Monte Sant’ Angelo in NSW with $15.3m; and Brisbane grammar school with $13.9m.
According to the report, public schools will receive $4.7bn less than full funding in 2022 including a gap of $1.4bn in New South Wales, $1.3bn in Victoria, $1.3bn in Queensland, $288m in Western Australia and $188m in both the Northern Territory and South Australia.
This amounts to a funding gap of $1,633 a student in NSW, $2,155 in Queensland and a whopping $6,125 in the NT.
States and territories are also responsible for this gap, with many slowly ramping up to their 75% share in agreements negotiated with the commonwealth. In 2022 those funding less than 75% include: NSW (71.8%), Victoria (69.7%), Queensland (69.3%), Tasmania (73.9%) and NT (58.5%).
The report accuses the Coalition of using further “accounting trickery” by allowing states to count non-recurrent costs, such as capital depreciation; the cost of education standards bodies; and in some cases transport costs towards their share.
When these measures, worth a maximum of 4% of the resourcing standard, are stripped out the “true” public school funding shortfall is $6.7bn in 2022 or at least $6.5bn a year, it said.
Other instances of special treatment cited in the report include $1.9bn in capital funding grants available to private schools and $750m in jobkeeper wage subsidies for private schools during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The report also cites an extra $2bn for private schools in the 2021 mid-year economic update.
The government says this reflects “increased student enrolments and support of needs-based disability loading”, although the report questions why public school funding was not similarly projected to increase given the “vast majority of students with disability attend public schools”.
The AEU federal president, Correna Haythorpe, said the Morrison government had “shamelessly established and consolidated a deep inequity in Australian education, to the detriment of the overwhelming majority of students who attend public schools”.
“Every child, irrespective of their circumstances, should have a high quality education,” she said. “But this government has made a series of very deliberate choices to undermine this principle.”
In February the acting education minister, Stuart Robert, said that since 2013 when the Coalition was elected, federal funding “per student for all schools increased significantly in real terms”.
“Government schools have been the biggest beneficiary of this growth, with commonwealth-per-student funding growing by 64.1% in real terms over the past 10 years compared with 49.8% in non-government schools,” he said.
Despite increases in absolute terms, the AEU-commissioned report notes the Coalition reneged on its commitment at the 2013 election to match Labor’s schools funding, cutting $30bn of projected funding growth in the 2014 budget.
Before the 2019 election Labor promised $14bn over 10 years for public education, but has not recommitted to the policy, citing the fact current agreements run to the end to 2023 and need to be renegotiated with the states.
The shadow education minister, Tanya Plibersek, has said Labor will “work with every state and territory to get every school on a pathway to reaching its fair funding level”.
The AEU will be spending $3.5m on its election campaign, which calls for “every school, every child” to receive fair education funding and says that “Morrison must go” to achieve this.
Haythorpe said “public schools cannot afford another three years of the Coalition government”.