Advocating for Affordable Catholic Education Amidst Funding Changes
School funding is probably not at the top of mind for most parents, until there is a change in government policy and the impact is felt by some families if school fees increase.
Recently we witnessed just this scenario occur when the federal government introduced new legislation during 2017 for needs based funding for schools across Australia. This may now result in Catholic education in particular being impacted, with the methods used to calculate needs based funding are currently being implemented or reviewed.
Catholic School Parents Victoria believe that all parents should have the opportunity to choose a Catholic education for their children at an affordable cost for families.
The Australian Government first began providing recurrent per-student funding to non-government schools in 1970. This funding varied on the basis of whether students were primary or secondary, and was fixed from 1973 at 20 per cent of the cost of educating a child in a government school. In 1974, a needs-based funding approach was implemented with schools classified into eight categories; this was reduced to six categories in 1976, and then three categories in 1982. The Australian Government method of funding non-government schools changed again in 1985 with the introduction of the Education Resources Index (ERI). Individual schools were allocated to one of 12 funding categories on the basis of school financial resources. Between 1985 and 1993 the funding rates within these categories were based on an estimated community standard resource level. From 1993, the Average Government School Recurrent Costs (AGSRC) was used to develop funding rates (The Allen Consulting Group, 2011).
In 1999 the SES (socio-economic status of families) method was legislated and the objective of the SES method remained unchanged for 20 years.
During 2017 an independent body, called the National Schools Resourcing Board (NSRB), was established to oversee and monitor how funding is distributed to government and non-government schools across Australia. Each State now must be accountable for their funding and the Government has set funding benchmarks for each state to meet.
A panel has also been established to determine how funding should be spent to improve student learning outcomes. This panel is chaired by Mr David Gonski.
At the conclusion of 2017, an interim agreement was signed between the Federal Government and the State Governments for 12 months to allow for $4.66 billion in Commonwealth funding to flow to Victorian schools in 2018, a $324 million increase from 2017 figures. However, this will be distributed to independent and Catholic systemic schools based on need.
Under the new formula, the federal government must provide 80 per cent of the resourcing standard to non-government schools and state governments are expected to fund 15 per cent. When it comes to state (government) schools, the federal government must provide 20 per cent of the resourcing standard and state governments must fund 75 per cent.