School Funding – Lies, Dammed Lies, and Statistics

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Recent media coverage of selected school funding statistics has once again sought to undermine the student-focused, needs-based, sector-blind school funding model established on the work of David Gonski and his panel of experts.

That’s the opinion of Christian Schools Australia, the largest association of Christian schools in the country, shared in their latest media release this week.

To help politicians, media, and the public understand how school funding works, Christian Schools Australia released an infographic outlining the processes the government uses to calculate the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) for every school in Australia.  The SRS is an estimate of how much total public funding a school needs to meet its students’ educational needs.

Download: Christian Schools Australia “Government funding explained” fact sheet

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Unlike students in government schools, Mr Spencer said, the base funding for students in non-government schools is discounted based on parental income.

“And these parents are also paying the same in taxes as parents who choose government schools,” said Mark Spencer, Director of Public Policy, Christian Schools Australia.

Recent Education Department data indicated that the Commonwealth Government was contributing their agreed share of SRS funding to schools, with funding from states and territories lagging.  The data indicated that:

  • only ACT, SA and WA will be funding their government schools at or above 75 per cent of the SRS by 2023
  • NSW and Tasmania have committed to reach 75 per cent by 2027
  • Victoria has committed to reach 75 per cent by 2028
  • Queensland is projected to reach 75 per cent by 2032
  • Northern Territory has no commitment to reach 75 per cent and is currently estimated to fund their schools at just 59 per cent of the SRS.

“The model ensures that student needs are front and centre,” Mr Spencer said, “and the Commonwealth government is clearly pulling its weight.”

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EducationDailymreached out to Mr Spencer for deeper insights into his ideal vision for the future of school funding in Australia.

“Our desire is to see ever student in every school funded to at least the level of the SRS, the amount determined as being required for a quality education,” Mr Spencer told EducationDaily.  “This simply isn’t happening at the moment, particularly in public schools, as states and territories are not properly funding their schools.  We are seeing the ramifications of this in educational outcomes.  While funding isn’t everything, it does provide an important base.”

Comparisons of average funding between school sectors, or even the rates of increase in funding, can be, Mr Spencer said, “very misleading”.

“A non-government school right next to government school may have a higher SRS, a higher need for public funding, depending on the particular students enrolled in each school – and those students deserve that funding.”

When asked if he believes that problem is getting worse, Mr Spencer told EducationDaily:

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“We are seeing more students with higher level needs in non-government schools as the funding is becoming available to support them. The growth is slow as there are many hurdles to overcome, but we certainly don’t want to see students not receiving the funding they deserve simply because of the school they attend.”

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]