Money trail reveals
overspending on 'haves'

Kerri Carr

The $3.3 billion of funds given to privileged non-government schools without improving student results would be far better invested in schools in disadvantaged communities, Chris Bonnor and Bernie Shepherd write in their latest report.

The researchers analysed MySchool data to conclude that this amount, which is one-third of the total government funding to private schools, is “arguably in excess of what is needed to bring student achievement to the average level for similar students across the
sectors”.

The pair suggests that if the Gonski schools funding model remains not fully funded, achieving greater equity will mean redistributing existing education dollars to where it is most effective.

“We have to seriously ask why we are pouring substantial resources into schools where it is making little difference while there are schools that need it more,” say Bonnor and
Shepherd.

“If no more money can be found it is a policy choice: we either make the investment needed to lift the strugglers or continue to top up the advantaged; we can’t do both.”

The two authors state that 626 schools have a 600–900 Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA) rank, with the total spend on these schools $2.4 billion — almost all of this money provided by governments.

They point out this is less than the $3.3 billion which is spent by higher ICSEA non-government schools in excess of spending by similarly achieving government schools.

“The current funding regime, quite unique to Australia, makes governments active and willing partners in arrangements which create, sustain and actually worsen a well-researched and documented inequity,” the report also states.

Bonnor and Shepherd have written several reports about schools funding and equity using MySchool data as their base. These are available at www.edmediawatch.com.

The $3.3 billion of funds given to privileged non-government schools without improving student results would be far better invested in schools in disadvantaged communities, Chris Bonnor and Bernie Shepherd write in their latest report.

The researchers analysed MySchool data to conclude that this amount, which is one-third of the total government funding to private schools, is “arguably in excess of what is needed to bring student achievement to the average level for similar students across the
sectors”.

The pair suggests that if the Gonski schools funding model remains not fully funded, achieving greater equity will mean redistributing existing education dollars to where it is most effective.

“We have to seriously ask why we are pouring substantial resources into schools where it is making little difference while there are schools that need it more,” say Bonnor and
Shepherd.

“If no more money can be found it is a policy choice: we either make the investment needed to lift the strugglers or continue to top up the advantaged; we can’t do both.”

The two authors state that 626 schools have a 600–900 Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA) rank, with the total spend on these schools $2.4 billion — almost all of this money provided by governments.

They point out this is less than the $3.3 billion which is spent by higher ICSEA non-government schools in excess of spending by similarly achieving government schools.

“The current funding regime, quite unique to Australia, makes governments active and willing partners in arrangements which create, sustain and actually worsen a well-researched and documented inequity,” the report also states.

Bonnor and Shepherd have written several reports about schools funding and equity using MySchool data as their base. These are available at www.edmediawatch.com.

Chris Bonnor and Bernie Shepherd are former principals and advocates for public education.

Money does matter

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne misses the point when he argues that while school funding has increased by 44 per cent in real terms since 2000, student outcomes have not kept pace.

A US National Bureau of Economic Research report, The Effects of School Spending on Educational and Economic Outcomes: Evidence from School Finance Reforms has found that a properly directed increase of 10 per cent in funds each year for the term of a student’s schooling can reap positive educational benefits and increase an individual’s long term earning capacity.

The report states: “Our findings provide compelling evidence that money does matter and that better school resources can meaningfully improve the long-run outcomes of recently educated students.” It went on to say: “improved access to school resources can profoundly shape the life outcomes of economically disadvantaged children, and thereby significantly reduce intergenerational transmission of poverty.”

A Senate Select Committee on School Funding report on equity and excellence in Australian schools dated July 9, 2014 found: “the committee believes that the Abbott Government’s changes to school funding arrangements will be detrimental to Australian schools, students, and to the broader Australian community. In particular, the changes will put at risk adequate funding for those students most at need, for example, students with disability.”

Federation and the Australian Education Union will continue to campaign to have the full six years of Gonski funding implemented in public schools.

Julie Moon, Editor