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News | Published November 01 2018

Varied Responses to School Funding Package

The $4.6 billion school funding package proffered by the Morrison government has caused considerable controversy, with many claiming that its method of distribution is unequitable. The primary beneficiaries of the fund will be Catholic and independent schools. The $1.2 billion ‘choice and affordability fund’ – deemed “sector-blind” by Dan Tehan – will have no effect on the funding for public schools.

The $3.2 billion part of the funding package will be distributed according to the recommendations outlined in the Chaney review – that is, using parents’ income as the metric by which to determine fund allocation, rather than – what was formerly the case – using more proxy measures of socioeconomic status. By using data collated from parents’ tax returns, the federal government can decide which schools are and aren’t in need of extra federal funding. Part of this $3.2 billion plan will also allow “overfunded” schools an additional two years to transition to the 80 per cent of the school resource standard.

The choice and affordability fund, while nominally sector-blind, only allows for applications from independent and Catholic schools. Broadly speaking, this was celebrated by the National Catholic Education Commission and the Independent Schools Council of Australia, but harshly criticised by Labor and the Australian Education Union. As far as the latter two bodies are concerned, this new initiative does nothing for public schools. Particularly vocal criticism came from the former education minister of South Wales, Adrian Piccoli: “This is pathetic. There is nothing fair about it. There is nothing Christian about it. It’s throwing money at the powerful and well connected.”

Key Notes
  • $4.6 billion school funding package
  • Primary beneficiaries Catholic and independent schools

a vibrant, fairly funded non-government school sector ensures parents retain the choice of where to send their kids to school

The government is defending this move on the basis that “a vibrant, fairly funded non-government school sector ensures parents retain the choice of where to send their kids to school. The non-government system provides an alternative which improves standards and competition across the board, while also alleviating pressure on the state system.” It is also thought that many non-government schools, despite their ostensibly superior status, can suffer from issues relating to geography and performance, for which the remedy is government funding.