Victorian public schools face $20bn funding shortfall, analysis shows

Victoria’s public schools face a dire funding shortfall of almost $20bn, with new analysis revealing funding growth for private schools is five times higher than for the state’s government schools.

Analysis from public schools advocacy group Save Our Schools shows that combined federal and state funding for government schools from 2019 a 2029 would be about $19.5bn below the Gonski review’s recommended funding benchmark – the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS).

Victorian private schools will be over-funded by almost $400m over the same period, according to the analysis.

Trevor Cobbold, an economist and convener of Save Our Schools, said Victoria – already the jurisdiction with the lowest funded public schools – faced an unprecedented funding crisis in the government school sector.

Cobbold said it would see the education inequity gap – that the 2011 Gonski review aimed to end – sustained until at least the end of the decade.

“This translates into not being able to overcome teacher shortages and huge differences in human and material resources between public and private schools," él dijo.

“Public schools don’t have enough teachers, they have a significant proportion of teachers teaching out of field, they have poor quality educational materials and they have poor quality infrastructure and all those factors impact on student learning.”

Victoria’s deputy premier and education minister James Merlino said he had continued to ask the commonwealth to do its “fair share” and lift its contributions for public schools from 20% a 25% to ensure the sector is brought up to its full SRS.

“It has consistently refused to do so. I’ll continue to urge the commonwealth to show the same level of commitment we have to Victorian students,” Merlino said.

But a spokesperson for the acting federal education minister, Stuart Robert, said commonwealth funding for Victorian public schools had grown at a faster rate than the state government’s investments.

The spokesperson said states and territories can boost their minimum funding commitments for government schools.

“We would welcome any proposal from the Victorian government to do so,”Dijo el portavoz.

The Save Our Schools analysis considered government spending over the 10 years to 2020, as well as current funding agreements.

Adjusted for inflation, there was a 5% rise – equal to an additional $667 per student – in combined government funding in public schools between 2009-10 y 2019-20. For independent schools, funding growth of 27% was recorded, an increase of $2,582 per student.

This is despite needs-based funding reform initiated more than a decade ago.

In mid-2019, Victoria became the last state to sign up to the Morrison government’s Gonski 2.0 education reform deal, after a stoush with the commonwealth in which the federal government threatened to withhold its funding to the state’s schools.

The SRS benchmark sets a base amount for each student to estimate how much total public funding a school requires to meet its cohorts needs and includes additional loadings for factors of disadvantage, such as disability and Indigenous heritage.

The new analysis found Victorian public schools are now only funded at 84.6% of their SRS, while the state’s private schools are funded at 101.7% of their SRS.

According to the new analysis, Victorian private schools will be funded at more than 100% of their SRS until 2029, while public schools will be funded at less than 91% of their SRS for the same time period. Some of the state’s most wealthy private schools are overfunded due to commonwealth funding exceeding its target of 80%.

Adicionalmente, it found state government funding for public schools, which enrol about 80% of Victoria’s most disadvantaged students, fell by $1,477 per student, adjusted for inflation, under the then-Coalition government between 2009-10 y 2014-15. It then increased under the Andrews government between 2014-15 y 2019-20 por $1,041 per student, adjusted for inflation.

But the funding has not recovered to its previous high in 2009-10, que era, adjusted for inflation, $11,306 per student. En 2019-2020, the Victorian government spent $10,870 per public school student.

The Save Our Schools analysis is partly based on Australia’s productivity watchdog’s latest report on government services for 2019-20, lanzado el mes pasado.

But it excluded depreciation and school transport, as these items are not included in the funding figures for private schools.

The analysis’ projections, which is also based on data provided to Senate estimates, includes the commonwealth’s $1.2bn choice and accountability fund. This funding is outside the needs-based model and is designed to soften the financial impact for non-government schools during the transition to a new funding model.

En 2017 the Turnbull government passed needs-based education funding legislation – dubbed Gonski 2.0 – based on the SRS.

Under the reform, overfunded independent schools – receiving more than 100% of its SRS – would have funding brought down to their SRS benchmark by 2029 while underfunded public schools would have their funding increased over the same period.

As part of the 2019 bilateral deal – due to expire next year – federal government funding transitions to 20% of the SRS target for public schools by 2023, and the Victorian government to 75% por 2028.

The agreement required Victoria to lift its contribution towards the SRS of each schools from 67.8% – the nation’s lowest per-student share – to 75% over the same time period over the same 10-year period.

En el momento, the Andrews government argued the deal unfairly funded public schools less than private school students.

Bajo el trato, states are also allowed to include items not originally deemed part of the SRS benchmark in the Gonski model – such as depreciation and transport as part of their share of public school funding – for up to 4% of the SRS.

Cobbold said this meant the state’s “true” contribution is closer to 71%, and further contributes to the underfunding of the government school sector.

The opposition education spokesperson David Hodgett said under the Andrews government “more money isn’t equalling better results”.

“The Victorian Liberals and Nationals will get our children’s development back on track by keeping schools open and placing a renewed focus on the fundamentals,” Hodgett said.

The Greens’ education spokesperson Sam Hibbins said the party urged the state and federal governments to “fully fund Victoria’s public schools to 100% of the original Gonski recommended funding levels” in the next bilateral agreement.

“Without extra funding, Victoria’s public schools will miss out on billions, whilst private schools will be hundreds of millions more dollars than what’s required,” Hibbins said.

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