The student resource standard (SRS) is a needs-based funding benchmark created as part of the Gonski school funding reforms. Under the current schools funding agreement between the commonwealth and the states, public schools receive 75% of the SRS from the states and 20% from the commonwealth, leaving a 5% gap.
NSW and Victoria have urged new federal education minister Jason Clare to close the gap, with Clare indicating that revisiting the Gonski reforms will be one of his first priorities:
“I will be seeking a commitment from the federal government that they will lift their funding contribution to NSW public schools by 5%,” [NSW education minister, Sarah Mitchell] told Guardian Australia.
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Last month, Victoria’s education minister, James Merlino, said he would engage with the new federal government to “pursue” the 5% gap.
On Monday he said it was an “unacceptable inequity” that government schools only received 95% of their student resource standard (SRS) – the needs-based funding benchmark created in the Gonski reforms.
“I’ve always said that I would prosecute this matter regardless of who is prime minister – and that’s exactly what I’ll do when the national school reform agreement negotiations commence this November,” he told Guardian Australia.
The current state-federal four-year schools funding agreement is due to expire at the end of next year…
The Victorian teacher’s union urged both the state government and commonwealth to ensure public schools reached at least 100% of their SRS as soon as possible.
It should also be recognised that public schools enroll a disproportionate share of students with learning difficulties, disadvantaged family backgrounds, special needs physically or emotionally and in remote areas. Those students cost significantly more to educate.
Indeed, the Times Higher Education today reports that disadvantaged students are six times as expensive to teach:
In the first study of its kind, Australian researchers have quantified the costs of educating students from underprivileged communities. A team analysed 10 years of enrolment and finance data from 37 universities to find that low socio-economic status (SES) undergraduates – those from the least affluent quartile of postcodes – cost six times as much to teach, on average, as their better heeled counterparts.
The original 2011 Gonski report was designed to clean up Australia’s opaque and convoluted system of school funding, as well as establish a new needs-based funding model under the SRS, with extra loadings on top based on a number of equity categories.
However, the previous Labor and Coalition governments butchered the implementation of Gonski, which has left Australia with a system that continues to funnel taxpayer dollars to private schools, while funding for public schools has stagnated.
The fact of the matter is that the Gonski report was aimed at better balancing school funding by giving more to those that need it most and less to those that do not. And the stronger growth in non-government school funding is a clear policy failure that contravenes the intent of Gonski.
Hopefully the Albanese Labor Government will finally remedy the situation.