The federal government has increased its offer to fund public and private schools in a bid to end a stalemate with the states over education.
Commonwealth funding for schools will increase by 75% over the next decade, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said.
The increase means an additional $18.6 billion in 10 years from 2018.
“The time has come to bring the schools funding wars to an end,” he said, pledging “consistent funding” to all schools.
The government’s funding offer puts $22.1 billion on the table by 2021, an increase from current $17.5 billion, rising to $30.6 billion by 2027.
The prime minister appears to have seized the strategic advantage from the Opposition by enlisting businessman David Gonski, the architect of Labor’s 2012 education policy, which came to be known the Gonski plan, to lead a new education review the PM dubbed “Gonski 2.0”.
“This reform will finally deliver on David Gonski’s vision” with “real needs-based funding”, Turnbull said, with the businessman by his side.
He will be tasked with advising the government on how to improve the performance of schools with the additional funding. The “Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian school” is due by December this year and education expert Dr Ken Boston, who was part of the original review, will be part of Gonski 2.0.
The prime minister said students results had been falling and pledged to halt the decline with the new funding deal.
“We will get Australian students back to the top of the class. That is my goal, that is my commitment,” Turnbull said.
Education ministers are due to meet the week after the budget to discuss the Commonwealth proposal, which has the potential to end four years of bickering after former PM Tony Abbott pledged to honour the Labor policy, only to break his promise and subsequently cut Labor’s six-year Gonski deal.
The funding issue has been a festering sore between the Commonwealth and states ever since.
The PM said the government’s reforms will hold the states and territories to account for account for meeting their share of the Gonski-recommended Schooling Resource Standard (SRS). States will need to maintain real per student funding levels or face a reduction in Commonwealth funding.
The government says that new data shows that in 2014-15, the Commonwealth increased funding for all Australian schools by more than $1 billion while in the same year, four states and territories actually reduced their spending on government schools by as much as $56 million.
From 2021, the SRS will be indexed at a rate that reflects real cost growth into the future.
Education minister senator Simon Birmingham said funding arrangements will be streamlined.
“The Commonwealth will meet a share of the Gonski recommended Schooling Resource Standard of 20% for government schools – up from 17% this year – and 80% for non-government schools – up from 77% this year,” Birmingham said in a joint statement with the PM.
“This will see the Commonwealth continue to increase its share of funding for government schools, which in 2013-14 stood at 13.4%.”
But under the new arrangements, 24 schools in the nation’s highest socio-economic areas will “experience negative growth”, Birmingham said, but he declined to name the schools. The reduction in per-student funding will start in 2018.
Fairfax Media has previously identified at least 10 schools in NSW and Victoria that are over-funded, including Loreto Kirribilli, Monte Sant’ Angelo Mercy College, Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview,
Melbourne Grammar School, Christ Church Grammar School, South Yarra and two schools for children with disabilities, St Paul’s College Kew, and Insight Education Centre for the Blind and Vision Impaired.
Under the Quality Schools program, Commonwealth needs-based support will be the same regardless of where a student lives. And a nationally consistent data set for Commonwealth funding decisions on students with a disability will be introduced to end any discrepancies between state jurisdictions.
Transitioning schools to an equitable Commonwealth share of the SRS will see federal funding increase, on average, over the next decade to government schools by 94.1% or $6.4 billion and to non-government schools by 62.2% or $6.7 billion.
“This bold plan will transform Australian schools,” Turnbull said.
“It will set Australian students on the path to academic excellence and achieve real needs-based funding for students from all backgrounds, in every town and city, in every region and state, in every classroom.”
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