Education funding figures announced in the May Federal Budget look great for schools with the Commonwealth committing to spend $30.6 billion in 2027, up from $17.5 billion in 2017.
But look beyond the headline amounts and it’s clear the proposed funding model, Gonski 2.0 – which will see all schools receive what Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham describes as a “fair and consistent Commonwealth share” – will mean a cut to income for many non-government schools.
Under Gonski 2.0, the Commonwealth will provide each non-government school with 80 per cent of its Schooling Resource Standard (SRS), a benchmark of a school’s need that includes a base amount per student plus loadings for disadvantage.
Government schools will receive 20 per cent of the SRS, as the states and territories provide the majority of funds to public schools.
Some schools will receive a funding boost over the coming decade as a result of the new arrangements, but others – particularly those in the non-government sector – will receive less.
The new arrangements will override 27 special deals the former government had previously struck with the states and territories that allowed some private and Catholic schools to receive considerably more than 80 per cent of their SRS amount.
Several non-government schools receive more than 100 per cent of their SRS amount – as much as 196 per cent in some cases, according to media reports. A reduction to 80 per cent will equate to a drop of thousands of dollars per student each year, totalling millions at the school level.
Projections show 24 non-government schools in higher socio-economic areas will receive less Commonwealth funding starting from January 2018. Others will receive only small funding increases, which will translate to less in inflation-adjusted terms over the coming decade.
No public schools are overfunded compared with the SRS, so most are expected to receive additional funds. However, NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes has expressed concerns that the move to the Gonski 2.0 model effectively breaks an existing agreement under which the Commonwealth matches state contributions to education. He fears this will “mean millions and millions less than we were expecting into schools in New South Wales over the next two years”.