School funding benchmark ‘unreasonably high’

School funding benchmark ‘unreasonably high’

Changes to the schooling resource standard (SRS) recommended by the Gonski panel in 2012 have set the benchmark level of per-student funding too high, according to a new analysis.

The analysis – titled: The fantasy of Gonski funding: the ongoing battle over school spending – was released last week by the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), a libertarian think tank.

Blaise Joseph, an education policy analyst at the CIS, said the reason for school systems not currently receiving their SRS funding levels is due to the “unreasonably high” benchmark based on the expanded loadings, rather than some independent schools being ‘overfunded’.

“In reality, a significant proportion of independent schools in each state and territory are being funded below their SRS funding levels, as well as the Catholic system schools in several states and territories,” he said.

“The government school systems in each state and territory are receiving substantial amounts of government funding above the SRS base per student amount, but are still mostly not reaching their overall SRS funding levels.”

The report said that while the Gillard and Rudd Governments attempted to implement the Gonski Report’s recommended school funding model through the National Plan for School Improvement (NPSI), the majority of States and Territories did not participate in the NPSI funding agreements.

“In addition, the NPSI was substantially different to what was originally proposed in the Gonski Report, due in part to the subsequent extensive negotiations with state governments and non-government schools,” Joseph said.

The Federal Government is due to negotiate a new school funding model with the States and Territories at next month’s Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting.

The report pointed to “viable alternatives” to school funding arrangements for governments to consider. The options include transferring school policy and funding responsibility to the States, opening charter schools and offering school vouchers.

“Ultimately, school funding reforms are only one part of the package needed to arrest the decline in Australia’s international school rankings,” Joseph said.

“Attempts to improve student outcomes in Australia by focussing entirely on school funding will inevitably fall short.”