AUSTRALIA POLITICS: Budget 2017: Turnbull School Funding Takes Center Stage

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By Politicoscope May 2, 2017 15:53

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Turnbull has tempted a backlash with the Coalition’s voter base, particularly Catholic families, as he seeks to “right Labor’s wrongs’’ by implementing needs-based funding and “bring the school-funding wars to an end”.

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AUSTRALIA POLITICS: Budget 2017: Turnbull School Funding Takes Center Stage

Malcolm Turnbull risks a revolt in the Coalition’s base after ditching the political tenet that no school would be worse off under ­education funding changes and embarking on a gamble to introduce “genuine’’ needs-based ­resourcing.

In a move that creates losers and alienates the Catholic schools sector, the government announced the funding for 24 independent Catholic and private schools would go backwards, a further 353 “overfunded’’ independent schools would have a lower share of funding and 9048 schools would receive more resources.

The federal government’s changes will see it almost double its federal school funding to $30 billion in the next decade, including a $2.2bn injection in next week’s budget. The money will be tied to reforms designed to reverse Australia’s 20-year academic slide and return the nation to the top of the global rankings.

The Prime Minister and Education Minister Simon Birmingham yesterday attempted to outflank their critics by appointing David Gonski — whose name has been co-opted by Labor and education unions to push the case for more school funding — to review how to spend money to improve student results, in a review dubbed Gonski 2.0.

Mr Turnbull has tempted a backlash with the Coalition’s voter base, particularly Catholic families, as he seeks to “right Labor’s wrongs’’ by implementing needs-based funding and “bring the school-funding wars to an end”.

John Howard guaranteed non-government schools that their funding would not go backwards, recognising that Catholic schools in outer suburban and regional areas, in particular, catered to average families who wanted choice with low fees. Labor’s Gonski model did not unwind the levels of funding the Catholic system historically had received because Julia Gillard promised no school would be worse off.

Former Labor leader Mark Latham, who was accused of stoking class envy when he created a “hit list” of overfunded schools during the 2004 federal election, said last night the biggest problems in education now were teacher quality and academic standards.

Mr Turnbull said the funding changes would end Labor’s patchwork of 27 inconsistent agreements and “ensure that students with the same needs will be treated exactly the same in terms of commonwealth funding — no matter which state they reside in, or the school system they are being educated in’’.

The government refused to identify the non-government schools that will lose money but the Education Department previously has identified overfunded schools including Sydney’s Loreto Kirribilli, St Ignatius College Riverview and St Aloysius College as well as Daramalan in the ACT and Melbourne Grammar.

The government will fund 20 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard for government schools, up from 17 per cent, and 80 per cent for non-government schools, up from 77 per cent this year.

The changes mean that schools will transition more quickly, over 10 years, to their appropriate SRS, the funding benchmark at the heart of the Gonski needs-based funding principles. The reduction in funding for schools will be about 2 per cent or less a year until they reach the benchmark.

Mr Latham last night criticised the use of Mr Gonski, saying “the worst person to review the school funding system in Australia is a rolled-gold elite with no direct experience with the challenges of disadvantaged public education in low income neighbourhoods’’.

“His only ‘qualification’ appears to be a friendship with Turnbull,’’ Mr Latham said.

National Catholic Education Commission acting executive director Danielle Cronin hit out at the proposed changes, saying the government was unfairly targeting the sector and forcing Catholic schools to “abandon a mechanism that ensures resources are distributed fairly and according to need among schools that belong to a single Catholic schools authority’’.

Known as the System Weighted Average, the mechanism allows Catholic school authorities to spread resources across diverse school communities, she said.

Catholic Education Melbourne executive director Stephen Elder described the changes as a direct attack on Catholic parish primary schools. Under the plans, “parents at these schools will be expected to pay similar fees to those charged by elite independent institutions’’, he said. “This will hurt families of modest means most of all.’’

Senator Birmingham countered last night: “Surely nothing can be fairer than a funding model that treats all non-government schools ­consistently and on equal terms, based on the need of each individual school regardless of their sector or faith? Across Australia, Catholic school systems will receive ­estimated average per student growth of 3.7 per cent per annum, well above current measures of ­inflation or wages growth.’’

The per student base amount in 2018 will be $10,953 for primary students and $13,764 for secondary school students. The government argues more than 99 per cent of schools will see a year-on-year increase in funding, and on average per-student funding will grow 4.1 per cent a year over a decade.

Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said it was “a smoke-and-mirrors, pea-and-thimble” ­effort to hide the fact the government was cutting $22bn from schools over a decade, instead of $30bn.

Independent Schools Council of Australia executive director Colette Colman welcomed the government’s “attempt to make the new model more consistent in application’’ while Business Council chief Jennifer Westacott applauded the government for “abolishing the commitment to maintain all schools’ funding levels — regardless of their level of privilege — (establishing) a fairer, simpler and more transparent approach to funding disadvantaged students and schools into the future’’.

NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes did not rule out the possibility of the state taking court action to enforce the current signed funding agreement with Canberra. “We come from a very strong moral position and we come from a position where we have acted in good faith in every dealing in relation to schools funding,’’ he said.

– Australian


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By Politicoscope May 2, 2017 15:53

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There are more readers worldwide reading the Politicoscope daily news content than ever before. Unlike many other news media organisations that charge their readers subscription fees for the same daily news content and features we offer you for free, we do not charge all our readers to pay any fee. We depend on online advertising to generate the revenues to fund all these great news content and exclusive features provided to you for free. Currently, advertising revenues are quickly falling which is affecting our ability to offer you free online news content.
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