25/10/2020 - 08:00

Funding gap could widen

25/10/2020 - 08:00

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Recent changes to how the federal government supports non-government schools could lead to major funding disparities, according to new research from Save Our Schools.

Perth College could lose millions under the new funding model. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Recent changes to how the federal government supports non-government schools could lead to major funding disparities, according to new research from Save Our Schools.

Those findings, published as part of the advocacy group’s latest policy brief, raise concerns with the federal government’s newly implemented ‘direct measure of income’ model of assessing funding for non-government schools.

Under that model, which will be phased in from this year through to the end of 2022, private schools will receive federal funding based on each family’s income.

That measurement will replace the current ‘socio-economic status’ model, which assesses the economic characteristics of each school’s surrounding suburbs in setting funding.

While non-government schools will receive approximately $3.4 billion in additional funding over the next two years as a result of this new model, many independent and private schools in Western Australia, including St Mary's Anglican Girls' School, Perth College, and Christ Church Grammar School are likely to lose millions of dollars.

Despite the disparities likely in the non-government sector, Save Our Schools national convener and former Productivity Commission economist Trevor Cobbold suggests the largest funding disparity may be between non-government and public schools.

This is because the means-tested model may not account for other sources of income parents may have access to, including non-taxed income from capital gains, non-disclosed income from overseas bank accounts, and funds inherited from grandparents. In addition, the new model will not account for how schools can access private funding sources.

That includes through not for-profit entities that collect contributions from parents and are established explicitly to support schools.

Business News revealed in June that the 10 largest of these entities in WA held a cumulative $241 million, per Data & Insights.

Mr Cobbold suggested a more equitable model should abandon the idea of working out each family’s capacity to contribute as a basis for funding of private schools.

“Instead, the basic principle behind government funding of private schools should be that no school operates with less total resources than a community standard necessary to provide an adequate education for all students,” he said.

“Governments have the responsibility to ensure that children should not be deprived of an adequate education because their parents enrol them in under-resourced schools.”

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