When the original Gonski review team analysed schools funding in Australia, it found the system was highly inequitable.
In order to achieve the goal “that differences in educational outcomes should not be the result of differences in wealth, income, power or possessions”, the panel stated that “Australia needs to make a serious and systematic effort to reduce the disparities that exist at present between the educational performance of students from high and low socioeconomic backgrounds”. (Review of Funding for Schooling. Final Report, p150)
The Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) was a core element of the Gonski model’s approach to funding Australian schools more equitably. The SRS consisted of “a per student dollar amount for primary and secondary students”, modified by “a series of loadings for student- and school-based sources of disadvantage”.
Under this model, a significant majority of additional public funding was to flow to public schools, on the grounds that they teach students who face the greatest concentration of educational disadvantage.
In essence, the SRS is the Gonski funding model, and the vehicle through which the needs-based, sector-blind funding was to be distributed. The purpose of the six-year transition period from 2014 to 2019 was to increase all state and federal education funding to the point where the education of every student in Australia was being funded at or near the SRS.
Whether or not education funding is meeting the SRS is a critical benchmark against which to evaluate education funding policy.
Under Turnbull’s new funding plan that was passed into legislation in June 2017, the Federal Government has effectively abandoned the concept of a needs-based, sector-blind funding model.
Turnbull’s plan guarantees that 80 per cent of the SRS will be provided to private schools by the Commonwealth, while just 20 per cent of the SRS will be provided to public schools. These amounts are arbitrary, and are not related to any of the recommendations of the original Gonski review. This plan also leaves state governments to pick up the difference in funding, without the negotiated agreements of the original Gonski funding plan.
This means that under Turnbull’s plan, when combined with existing levels of state government funding, the overwhelming majority of public schools will not be funded according to the SRS by 2019. In fact, current funding projections suggest that by 2023, 87 per cent of public schools will not receive the SRS. At that same time, 65 per cent of private schools will be funded in excess of the SRS, and that’s from public funding alone, before factoring in school fees, donations, bequests, etc.
In failing to meet the SRS in their new funding model, the Turnbull Government has effectively cut $1.5 billion from NSW public school funding over the next four years, and $17 billion from Australian schools funding over the next 10 years. The Government has also refused to implement the full Students with Disabilities loading that was part of the SRS. According to government data, the number of “funded” students is set to rise from 212,000 to 470,000, or 122 per cent, yet the funding to support these students will increase by only 6.2 per cent.
The loss of this funding will have a significant and negative effect on NSW public schools, many of which had already implemented student support programs based on the legislated funding of the original Gonski model.
Securing funding to meet the Schooling Resource Standard is essential to ensuring that Australia has an equitably funded education system capable of improving the outcomes of all students, regardless of their personal circumstances.
Federation will continue to fight for governments to fund the SRS, and resources are being developed to be sent to Fed Reps and Workplace Committees to further the campaign within each school community.
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