A year after Gonski 2.0, the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria has voiced its opinions about Senator Simon Birmingham’s funding package and it's not happy, to put it mildly.
Catholic Education Commission of Victoria Executive Director Stephen Elder says, “The warning bells started ringing when Senator Birmingham decided he knew how to develop what he called a fair, consistent and equitable funding model without consulting anyone other than the independent school sector.
“In taking that approach he ignored detailed research from Catholic education that showed the key parameter in his model – school SES scores – was deeply flawed and biased in favour of elite independent schools.
“Unsurprisingly, the Minister went on to announce a new funding approach that has been rightly labelled the best special deal independent schools have ever had.
“But that approach was riddled with policy mistakes, and the Minister has been playing catch-up ever since, much to the concern of his marginal seat colleagues in the Reps who don’t share the luxury of his six-year Senate term.
“We’re now in the bizarre situation whereby the Minister promised he would deliver schools ‘absolute certainty’ over their funding, but most Catholic and independent schools don’t know what they will receive in a matter of months when school SES scores are replaced for the 2019 school year.
“In fact, looking back at all the claims made by the Minister when he announced his new funding policy, one wonders whether he actually knew what he was talking about.
“Most of these claims are deeply misleading, and bear no resemblance to what has actually transpired – or to the funding model that the Turnbull Government legislated in June 2017.”
According to the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria, Senator Birmingham has fallen down on a number of issues.
The government has increased the importance of SES scores in school funding by removing the option of system-average SES scores for non-government school systems and has ignored recommendations from the original Gonski review to replace SES scores.
The Commission has accused the government of ignoring detailed research from Catholic education that demonstrated school SES scores were flawed and biased against Catholic schools.
The Commission alleges that the new school funding policy would fundamentally reshape Catholic education in Australia by making Catholic primary schools in many parts of Australia fundamentally unviable.
The government’s new funding requirements for state and territory governments have the potential to dictate how much funding these governments provide to schooling without actually consulting with states and territories.
Data used to allocate funding for students with disability in schools failed a basic credibility test, leading to a situation in Victoria where independent schools now claim more than 25% of their students have disabilities, the Commission alleges.
Published figures on the funding that Catholic schools would receive under his policy proposal that were deliberately based on an incorrect starting point to disguise funding cuts for over 600 Catholic schools.
According to the commission the government informed all principals and school communities in schools that are part of systems of the funding they would receive from the Australian Government, while insisting that system authorities – not the Government – would determine the funding that these actually received.
In a further criticism, the government claimed to be implementing the ‘full vision’ of the Gonski Review panel, even though some of the changes he announced contradicted aspects of the Gonski Review final report.
“It is entirely predictable that this appalling process has delivered a flawed funding model. Ignorance and arrogance have never led to good policy. One can only hope that Senator Birmingham learns from this experience as he now scrambles to fix his school funding shambles,” Stephen Elder says.
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