New report confirms need for full Gonski funds

Sally Edsall
Media and Communications Officer

No matter how many reviews, the Federal government cannot abrogate its obligation to adequately fund public schools

A new report by Chris Bonnor and Bernie Shepherd entitled Private school, public cost highlights the importance of fully funding the NSW Gonski agreement.

By comparing funding for schools in the average ICSEA (socio-economic) bands, the report shows that private schools will receive more government funding than public schools by 2020, if the Gonski model is not fully funded and implemented.

The fact that this data is available for Bonnor and Shepherd to utilise in their research is in itself a victory for public education lobbyists, led by Federation, and the findings are why this campaign must be perpetual.

In 2001, the State Government established a review of non-government schools in NSW. A former education bureaucrat, Warren Grimshaw, was appointed to head the review, which became known as “the Grimshaw Review”.

Federation’s submission demonstrated, using the data that was available, that the vast majority of private schools, especially Catholic systemic schools and other low-fee, high-funded schools, were already receiving more funding on average than public schools.

Per capita grants from state and federal governments combined provided these schools with 98 per cent of the amount of funding per student provided on average to a public school student. When subsidies on interest paid on loans for building programs, and textbook grants were added, these schools received more on average than public schools.

When Federation representatives discussed the union’s submission with Mr Grimshaw, he had a computer printout of every private school and its combined funding from all sources. Federation’s representatives observed that the data revealed that such schools were receiving more money from the public purse than public schools.

Time passed, and the ongoing lobbying by Federation, parents’ groups, and other friends of public education of successive state and federal governments saw the most comprehensive review of the ways schools are funded in decades, the Gonski review, established.

There had been a previous attempt at a federal funding review, called the MacKinnon review, in 1996, which fell into abeyance when the Keating government was defeated, and John Howard became Prime Minister, with David Kemp as the Minister responsible for schools. Federation was represented on the Reference Group for that review, and clearly demonstrated that the wealthiest private schools were receiving more federal government funding than the poorest 25 per cent of public schools receiving additional funding under the Disadvantaged Schools Program, which was a program designed to reduce the inequity between the most and least advantaged school communities.

The Gonski campaign has strong foundations on which to stand, and this latest research continues to demonstrate the unfairness of previous school funding policies that have failed to address student need.

It again highlights why parties must go to the next federal election with a commitment to fully fund the six years of the Gonski agreement.