Private school funding could be tied to family income – report

Private school funding could be tied to family income – report
Federal Government funding of private schools could be directly tied to family income in a new means test for parents, a new report has suggested.

The report – titled: ‘The Socio-Economic Status (SES) score methodology used in recurrent school funding arrangements’ – was prepared for the Federal Department of Education in November last year.

It said there is a need for the Federal Government “to use a measure of the capacity to contribute when allocating funds among schools”.

“The overarching intent of the suggested analysis is to identify whether the SES score, as currently calculated, provides an accurate measure of the relative capacity to contribute of individual schools,” the report’s authors stated.

The report also said the Federal Government could use financial data of Australian families to create a more accurate measure.

This could include income data from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), including parents’ Tax File Numbers (TFNs), although the report’s authors admitted that this would be “a more challenging approach”.

“There may be potential to improve the accuracy of the SES score using administrative data collected by the Australian Government. For example, it may be feasible to request the ATO to provide data on household income,” the report stated.

“A more complex and challenging approach could be to request non-government schools to collect the TFNs of parents/guardians. These TFNs could then be provided to the ATO to generate school level summary information on family income composition.”

The Grattan Institute's educational program director, Peter Goss, told ABC News that some form of means test was inevitable.

“A means test is something that takes into account the specific capabilities of the individual family. So the current [SES model] is not a means test, but has some of the same aspiration and thinking,” Goss said.

“If we could do it perfectly, then a family means test including income and wealth is ideally right, but in practice I don't think we're ready to move there yet.”

Goss said the aim should be to measure “the capacity to pay as well as is reasonably possible”.
“I think we should keep improving the current formula, but accept that we can't let perfect be the enemy of the good,” he said.

The report is currently before the Schools Resourcing Board, which will deliver its recommendations in June.

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