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Who wins in new funding model?

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It’s now settled, parents’ incomes will be the basis of funding provided to schools, the approach is fairer but some sectors will be better off than others. There is time for work to be done on the arrangement though as a generous two years has been given for implementation.

The AEU for one is not happy and has asserted that the nation’s 2.5 million public school students had been abandoned by the Morrison government.

“Yesterday we saw Prime Minister Scott Morrison announce a $4.6 billion special funding deal for private schools, to go with his government’s previous $1.9 billion funding cuts for public schools in 2018 and 2019,” the AEU’s Federal President Correna Haythorpe said.

Haythorpe said that funding negotiations are currently taking place between the Morrison government and the states and territories that will leave 87% of public schools below the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) bench mark by 2023. The Commonwealth caps its share of the SRS for public schools at 20% of the total.

“This $4.6 billion funding deal does not provide one single dollar for our children in our public schools,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“While private schools also get a $1.9 billion capital works special deal, there is not one single dollar in capital funding to build and maintain essential public school infrastructure.”

“We need every education minister in every state and territory to reject school funding agreements which mean that 87% of public schools do not meet the minimum SRS benchmark.”

However the National Chair of the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA), Dr Mark Merry, welcomed the news of significant progress towards finalising funding arrangements for non-government schools, but says there is still much work to be done.

Merry, who is Principal of Yarra Valley Grammar in Victoria, said schools would welcome the news that introduction of the new model would be delayed until 2020.

“The delay in introducing the model at least allows schools to finalise their planning for 2019," said Dr Merry, "but independent schools have a planning cycle that can stretch well beyond five years if they are contemplating expansion and capital development. We would hope to see the model fleshed out with more detail as soon as possible.”

He said that news of the new funding model had come with a promise from the Prime Minister of significant additional funding for the non-government sector, to ensure swifter gains for ‘winners’ and an extended transition period for ‘losers’.

“Reasonable transition arrangements are essential for the stability of school communities” said Dr Merry. “The Prime Minister’s announcement of a new fund of $1.2 billion to address specific challenges faced by non-government schools, such as provision for drought-affected families, will also be welcomed as further support for stability in Australia’s schooling system and certainty for families.”

But the Catholic school system seems to be gaining the most in the deal with the shift to an income test meaning they will be able to keep fees low across their system even at schools in wealthier suburbs.

Increases in funding to Catholic and low-fee independent schools make up the bulk of the extra $3.2 billion promised, but Catholic schools nationwide might be getting more as wealthy independent schools stand to lose under the personal tax model, with their socio-economic status (SES) score predicted to rise.

Overfunded Catholic schools will now have 10 years to transition to new funding arrangements.

Catholic Schools NSW (CSNSW) said the changes meant families would continue to have the choice of an affordable non-government school for their children.

"Faced with such a massive fee hike from kindergarten to Year 6, most parents would have withdrawn their children and enrolled them in the free government school nearby. This has now been averted," CSNSW chief executive officer Dallas McInerney said in a statement.

"It would have put more pressure on government schools and increased the cost to taxpayers who must fully fund government school students and only partly fund non-government school students."

The Independent Schools Council of Australia also welcomed the announcement, saying in a statement the new model created "the foundation for a fair and reasonable resolution of the current funding issues".

The National School Resourcing Board completed a review earlier this year into the current SES system and recommended a shift to a parental means test.

The SES method had been criticised as outdated, and the Catholic system argued its students tended to be from families of lesser means, even in wealthy suburbs.

Many wealthy schools in the independent sector will be worse off under the changes, especially those in regional areas and those who take in country boarders, but as the funding levels have already been capped for many of the elite schools impact on them will be minimal.

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