Federal Schools Funding
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [10.20 p.m.]: I wish to read onto the record a letter I received from David Kemp, the Federal Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs, concerning the funding of government and non-government schools. The Minister wrote:
that is the Federal Opposition; I note that the Federal Opposition voted for it—
The Commonwealth Government's primary objective in school funding is to achieve a quality education for all Australians. One of the fundamental principles underlying the Commonwealth's role in school education is to support the right of parents to choose the educational environment which best suits the needs of their child, whether it is in the government or the non-government sector.
Commonwealth spending on government schools is at the highest level ever. All States and Territories have received increased funding every year since 1996 for its government schools. Total funding for government schools in the 2000-01 budget is $2.0 billion, and over the next four years will total $8.6 billion.
Commonwealth spending on government schools will rise by 19 per cent over the next four years. This year the Commonwealth Government is spending $402 million more on government schools than in 1996, an increase of 26 per cent. Over the same period the number of students in government schools has risen by 2.3 per cent. Further, the Commonwealth guarantees and legislates school funding over a four year (quadrennium) funding period. None of the States or Territories offers such a guaranteed four year funding arrangement, nor the legislated funding increases provided by the Commonwealth. As you know, funding levels to individual government schools are decided by the State Government.
Increased funding for government schools is part of a broader commitment to funding for all schools. Since 1973 the Commonwealth has been the primary source of public funding for non-government schools. Non-government school funding is rising more rapidly at present because the Commonwealth has acted to correct serious inequities in school funding. The increase in non-government funding does not mean that funding is taken away from government schools as is mistakenly claimed by the Opposition—
I place that letter on record because it is important for people to understand the reality of what is happening at the moment.
From 2001, the Commonwealth will introduce a new funding system for non-government schools, which will more accurately reflect the need of the communities they serve.
Under the socio-economic status (SES) funding model, schools will now move to a more equitable system where schools serving the most needy communities will receive funding, in 2004, of $ 4,368 for each primary student and $5,721 for each secondary student. By comparison, the wealthiest schools that are funded on their SES score will, in 2004, only receive $855 for each primary student and $ 1,120 for each secondary student.
The Commonwealth's policies recognise the right of parents at all income levels to exercise choice of schooling and rejects the view that this should only be available to high income parents. It is important to remember that per capita recurrent funding of non-government schools by Commonwealth and State Governments together remains less than the average per capita funding of government schools.
On the issue of the Enrolment Benchmark Adjustment…, the EBA has been on the public agenda since August 1996. It has been the subject of extensive public comment and the matter was thoroughly canvassed by the Commonwealth Parliament through a Senate Inquiry. The Senate subsequently passed the related legislation after detailed debate.
The basic principle underlying the EBA approach is that when a student moves to the non-government sector from the government sector, the State makes a saving as the major part of the cost of educating that student is shifted to the Commonwealth and the student's parents. The EBA does not transfer funds from one sector to another, nor increase in any way the entitlements of non-government schools to per capita funding.
Under the EBA mechanism, State Governments are required to return to the Commonwealth some of the savings, which accrue when the proportion of students in non-government schools increases against the 1996 enrolment benchmark. If there is no change in the relative enrolment shares, or there is an increase in the government school share, the EBA will not be triggered. The EBA also includes a buffer arrangement to protect States from minor adjustments to the proportion of non-government student enrolments.
The issue of cost shifting between the levels of governments as proportions of students change was acknowledged by State Education Ministers at the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs… meeting held in March this year. States also agreed to participate on a working party, chaired by New South Wales, to propose an alternative approach to the EBA in order to address this issue. The Minister will consider any recommendations which may arise from the working party.
I trust this information will assist you in putting school funding arrangements into context.