Schools funding furphy

Levels of investment are lagging behind other countries

Commonwealth spending on schools has not kept pace with real per capita economic growth.

Over the period 2000–2013 real per capita economic growth was 1.48 per cent, yet the real funding increase per student was just 0.97 per cent.

The analysis was conducted by the NSW Department of Education, using Commonwealth data.

Federation President Maurie Mulheron said: “The data exposes the myth spread by some federal politicians that governments have poured funds into education with no results.”

On the ABC’s Q&A program on November 2 new Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said: “over the last decade or two we’ve spent a lot more in school education over that time and we have seen many of our international ratings and comparisons go backwards in that time”.

On October 30, Department of Education Secretary Michele Bruniges speaking at the World Teachers’ Day lunch in Sydney said: “To those who say Australia has poured money into education with little to show for it, let me say the evidence is clear that levels of investment in this country have lagged behind other countries…despite data showing that education produces tangible benefits for students and the economy.

“Since 2001, according to the World Bank, the estimated economic return to an additional year of education in Australia has been consistently higher than the OECD average, and shows a strong increasing trend. Using the most recent estimates, Australia has the highest return in the OECD for an additional year of secondary education (30.8 per cent). But actual Australian expenditure on education as a proportion of GDP has been substantially lower than the OECD average.

“More was spent on schooling in 2013 than 2000 because the inputs involved in education cost more and there were more students to educate. In real terms over this period, the tangible resources available to students grew by less than the overall economy.”

Dr Bruniges said that over time, the Commonwealth plans to reduce spending on education from 1.7 per cent of GDP to 1 per cent of GDP.

Mr Mulheron said: “We’ve had 20 to 30 years of politically driven experiments in education, which have led to greater inequity and segregated schooling in Australia.

“The only experiment in education we haven’t tried is funding schools properly.

“In fairness, now we demand 20 to 30 years of growth funding to see what impact that has on lifting student outcomes.”

He urged all teachers to continue to campaign for the Federal Government to fund years 5 and 6, which would bring an additional $7.2 billion into the nation’s schools, enabling all schools to reach a minimum resource standard.

“We will only win this with courage and commitment,” he said.