The Turnbull Government’s rhetoric claims it has not cut funding to schools. But as The Australian newspaper reports this week, trouble is brewing in all sectors – public, Catholic and independent – in reaction to the changes.
What The Australian reports:
Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s $24.5 billion schools package is facing a backlash from all three key education sectors, as independent schools embark on a last-ditch effort to head off changes to the way funding is allocated, and Catholic educators warn of impending primary school closures.
The Catholic sector’s main eastern seaboard offices have united publicly for the first time to savage Senator Birmingham’s funding agenda, warning that the existing model is so dysfunctional that many primary schools will not be viable without reform.
The archdiocese of Brisbane has joined the southern states in writing collectively to Senator Birmingham and declaring that quality education is under “significant threat” for Catholic children.
The move comes as the independent sector has lobbied Malcolm Turnbull’s ministers and sent an explosive letter to NSW principals, declaring that any major reforms by the government that help Catholics will be interpreted as a reward for “bullying, misrepresentation and personal attacks’’.
The independents also are railing against a proposal to overhaul the current measure for assessing parents’ capacity to contribute to school funding by using income tax returns with residential addresses. And the Australian Education Union, which has been running a separate campaign to restore the original Labor-introduced Gonski funding agreement, also criticised Senator Birmingham’s leadership yesterday, claiming that the government’s stakeholder relationship skills had been non-existent.
School socio-economic scores are used as a quasi means test of parents in Catholic and independent schools, but experts say the current system is biased towards wealthy independent schools because it is an estimate based on where people live rather than income data.
What Education minister Simon Birmingham says:
“There are no cuts in Commonwealth school funding – just year-on-year increases.
The Turnbull Government’s needs based school funding reforms increases school funding each year by more than $1 billion, delivering a record $249.8 billion over 2018-2027 – nearly doubling the Commonwealth’s investment in Australia’s schools.
Funding growth to government schools over these ten years will be higher than for the non-government sector – 5.1 per cent average annual growth per student compared to 3.9 per cent.
Total Commonwealth recurrent funding for government schools across Australia over 2018-2027 will be $104.5 billion – a 95.6 per cent increase (from 2017), with year-on-year increases from $6.8 billion last year, to $7.4 billion this year, $8 billion next year and $13.3 billion in 2027.
Commonwealth recurrent funding for all government schools goes to each state and territory government who decide the allocation to each school based on their own funding models. State and territory governments continue to be the majority funder to government schools.
Meanwhile The Australian Education Union has ramped up its Fair Funding Now campaign by undertaking polling in federal seats in which by-elections are being held.
What the Australian Education Union says:
NEW polling has shown that state school funding will be a crucial issue in Longman and Bradden, with state school funding levels a key consideration in determining people’s vote.
Earlier this year the Turnbull government slashed $1.9 billion from public education funding over the next two years, while pushing for billions of dollars in tax cuts for big business.
However according to a new ReachTEL poll, the vast majority of respondents said state school funding was personally important to them as an electoral issue.
The poll also revealed that increased funding for local state schools was considered better for Australia’s future than cutting taxes for the nation’s big banks.
Australian Education Union (AEU) Queensland Acting President Sam Pidgeon said that the poll results clearly show that voters consider properly-funded state schools as a priority over tax cuts for big business.