Simon said: the school funding shambles 12 months on

Home > News and Events > Media Releases > Simon said: the school funding shambles 12 months on

2 May 2018

One year after the unveiling of the Gonski 2.0 package, it’s a good time to take a step back and reflect on the shambolic and tortuous process the Turnbull Government is bumbling through as it tries to devise a new school funding policy, Catholic Education Commission of Victoria Ltd (CECV) Executive Director Stephen Elder says.

‘The warning bells started ringing when Senator Birmingham decided he knew how to develop what he called a fair, consistent and equitable funding model without consulting anyone other than the independent school sector,’ Mr Elder said.

‘In taking that approach he ignored detailed research from Catholic education that showed the key parameter in his model – school SES scores – was deeply flawed and biased in favour of elite independent schools.

‘Unsurprisingly, the Minister went on to announce a new funding approach that has been rightly labelled the best special deal independent schools have ever had.

‘But that approach was riddled with policy mistakes, and the Minister has been playing catch-up ever since, much to the concern of his marginal seat colleagues in the Reps who don’t share the luxury of his six-year Senate term.

‘We’re now in the bizarre situation whereby the Minister promised he would deliver schools “absolute certainty” over their funding, but most Catholic and independent schools don’t know what they will receive in a matter of months when school SES scores are replaced for the 2019 school year.

‘In fact, looking back at all the claims made by the Minister when he announced his new funding policy, one wonders whether he actually knew what he was talking about.

‘Most of these claims are deeply misleading, and bear no resemblance to what has actually transpired – or to the funding model that the Turnbull Government legislated in June 2017, as the attached CECV Research Brief outlines.

‘The one-year anniversary is also a good time to reflect on the worst policy development process in recent times. Senator Birmingham:

  • Increased the importance of SES scores in school funding by removing the option of system-average SES scores for non-government school systems thereby:
    • Ignoring recommendations from the original Gonski review to replace SES scores
    • Ignoring detailed research from Catholic education that demonstrated school SES scores were flawed and biased against Catholic schools.
  • Announced a new school funding policy that would fundamentally reshape Catholic education in Australia by making Catholic primary schools in many parts of Australia fundamentally unviable – without consulting with Catholic education.
  • Legislated new funding requirements for state and territory governments which have the potential to dictate how much funding these governments provide to schooling – again without actually consulting with states and territories.
  • Decided to use dodgy new data to fund students with disability in schools, even though he had said himself it failed a basic credibility test – leading to a situation in Victoria where independent schools now claim more than 25 per cent of their students have disabilities.
  • Published figures on the funding that Catholic schools would receive under his policy proposal that were deliberately based on an incorrect starting point to disguise funding cuts for over 600 Catholic schools.
  • Informed all principals and school communities in schools that are part of systems of the funding they would receive from the Australian Government, while simultaneously insisting that system authorities – not the Government – would determine the funding that these actually received.
  • Claimed to be implementing the ‘full vision’ of the Gonski Review panel, even though some of the changes he announced contradicted aspects of the Gonski Review final report.

‘It is entirely predictable that this appalling process has delivered a flawed funding model. Ignorance and arrogance have never led to good policy.

‘One can only hope that Senator Birmingham learns from this experience as he now scrambles to fix his school funding shambles.’

Further information: Christian Kerr, 0402 977 352

Download PDF