Education Minister Simon Birmingham has released figures to prepare the way for a major overhaul of federal funding for schools, arguing that the Gillard government’s version of the Gonski model has produced distorted and inequitable differences between states.
On the government’s numbers, in 2017 government schools in Tasmania will attract 40% more Commonwealth funding than comparable schools in Western Australia with the same need.
Among other inequities, the government says that in 2014 a Victorian Catholic systemic school attracted more than double the Commonwealth funding per student than a similar school in NSW. An ACT independent school in 2014 received 64% more federal funding per student than a comparable WA school.
If present arrangements continued, between 2017 and 2019 Commonwealth funding to government schools in WA would have increased by only 0.6% percentage points relative to their funding standard, while government schools in Victoria would have increased by 6.7 percentage points.
A new post-2017 model will be discussed on Friday in Adelaide by federal, state and territory education ministers.
The government says the distortions to the Gonski model have been caused by special deals the federal Labor government put in place, as well as the different historical contexts across the country.
Next year is the last year of the funded agreements that were struck in the wake of Gonski by Labor and the Coalition government. The ALP struck six year deals with some states but the final two years were not in the forward estimates.
Birmingham has said he intends to replace the special deals spread across 27 different funding models with a “simpler and fairer” model for all states.
To make its case the government has produced a cameo of a hypothetical school and compared the funding it would receive in different jurisdictions.
The cameo is a combined government school with 700 students, 85% of them in the bottom quartile of socioeconomic status, and 10% in the second quartile. A metropolitan school, it has 25 indigenous students and 20 with a disability.
In NSW such a school in 2017 will get $3236 in Commonwealth funding (17.6% of the total funding standard). The figures for the other states and territories are: Victoria, $3130 (17.1%); Queensland, $3294 (17.9%); South Australia, $2897 (15.8%); Western Australia $2649 (13%); Tasmania $3366 (18.3%); ACT, $2942 (16%); and the Northern Territory, $4224 (23%).
Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra