Following the release of the Productivity Commission's review of the National Schools Reform Agreement (NSRA), the Australian Council of State School Organisations (ACSSO) is urging the Federal Government to deliver on their election commitment of establishing a pathway to 100% Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) funding for Australia's government schools, as stated in the Chair’s Column.
With the exception of the ACT, ACSSO indicated in its submission to the Productivity Commission that since financing is "based on the SRS," no government schools would be near the full SRS by the end of the current NSRA and its accompanying bilateral agreements in 2023. The modifications to the Commonwealth funding arrangements included in the Australian Education Act, which was changed in 2017, effectively abolished the needs-based approach to school financing. In most states, the state or territory government contributes just 75% of the SRS, with several governments deducting 4% for depreciation. Other oddities, such as student transportation, are included in 75% of agreements. The modifications and irregularities have simply exacerbated the financial disparity.
The ACSSO's review submission may be found at: https://www.acsso.org.au/index.php/ourwork/submissions
The Morrison Government established the Productivity Commission to address the NSRA's flaws. The assessment, however, did not consider inequitable financing arrangements for government schools.
It's a tragedy that the terms of reference did not include taking into account the underlying source of imbalance in student performance - the lack of full and equitable financing for Australia's government schools. They actually stated that this was not a discussion point.
Improving educational achievements for all kids is inextricably linked to school finance. Equitable school financing is a critical aspect of the equation that the assessment has completely neglected.
The existing NSRA has significant inadequacies that fail to address inequalities in school results, personnel shortages, growing workloads and student and teacher wellness. And it has been used as a mechanism to produce substantial disparity in school finance via subsequent bilateral agreements between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments.
The first Gonski Review established a defined structure for needs-based school financing, including greater money for disadvantaged kids. Over a decade later, the Productivity Commission's evaluation emphasised the same critical conclusions about the need to improve the achievements of students from "priority equity cohorts," but failed to address these students' financing requirements.
For over a decade, we've been travelling in circles. When are governments going to address the problem of government school funding?
Let's not forget that every government school kid in Australia is presently losing out on an average of $1,800 in funding per year, a dismal legacy left behind by the Coalition Government.
The sad fact is that successive administrations have failed a generation of government school pupils, depriving their schools of vitally needed funding for more teachers, support workers and supplementary learning initiatives, particularly for students with exceptional needs.
2023 must be the year when Australia provides full and equitable financing for government schools.
ACSSO is focused on Minister Clare's recently announced review of financing arrangements after the renewal of the present NSRA for another year.
We are highly worried about the present NSRA's 12-month extension. Delayed resources are denied resources, and government school children cannot afford to wait much longer.
As part of this review, the Albanese Government must achieve its election pledge to develop a road to 100% Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) funding for government schools throughout Australia.
Parents at government schools throughout the country will expect nothing less.
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