Policy expert warns against changes to school funding

Policy expert warns against changes to school funding

Ken Wiltshire, a professor of Public Administration at the University of Queensland’s Business School, said that such changes would create confusion as to the way independent schools would be funded.

Wiltshire’s remarks were made in a report entitled Reform of the Federation: Implications for Independent Schools‘, which comes amid the Australian Government's discussions of possible reforms of federation arrangements.

"With state and territory governments controlling all school education funding, would they continue with the formulas currently used by the Commonwealth for independent schools, or would they use their own current formulas to distribute the new augmented pool of funding?," Wiltshire asked in a column in The Australian.

"Would state and territory funding automatically follow school enrolments if these continued to shift to independent schools, reflecting the emphasis being placed on parental choice in many Western nations?"

With the Federal Government currently providing the majority of funding for non-government schools, a shift to state and territory control of school education and funding would be a major change from the current structure.

Citing the “formidable component” that Queensland’s independent schools occupy in the state’s education system, the report explained how any shift in government powers would affect non-government schools in the state.

“With 190 schools and 15% of the State’s school enrolments, Queensland’s independent schools are a formidable component of the Queensland education system”, the report stated.

“Therefore any shift of government powers in schooling from the national to the State Government would have significant implications for independent schools particularly in funding and regulation, and future State public policy initiatives.”
Nation-wide, the independent school sector has over 1,015 independent schools and 520,000 students which receive some 50% of their funding from the government - the majority of which comes from Canberra.

The report said that independent schools would be ‘materially affected’ by any change in funding arrangements between Federal and state/territory governments.