I have recently been involved in discussions regarding proposed changes to the manner in which our funding from the Federal Government is calculated. As a member of the Victorian Ecumenical System of Schools (VESS), we have been concerned that the proposed changes may impact on our funding as a school.
VESS have been very proactive in trying to understand the proposed model, the trends that we have identified and particularly the impact on regional independent schools. We believe strongly in the work of independent schools in our regional communities and the opportunities they provide for our families and their children. We also believe that our school and other independent schools offer choice for families and act as a drawcard for families considering relocation to Gippsland.
The VESS lobby group experienced some success in Canberra at a recent forum attended by almost 800 independent school leaders from across Australia. Our united voice has hopefully relayed the message that there is to be no change to the current system of funding for 2019, and no change until all schools have had the opportunity to assess the data surrounding the proposed changes. Be assured that we will be very vigilant in this matter.
During the forum itself, our representatives were addressed by The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, David Gonski AC, the Hon Bill Shorten MP, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham and a number of other dignitaries. It was interesting to hear what both sides of politics had to say. All parties agreed that that they wanted funding to be transparent, needs based, non-sectorial and equitable - with no special deals. All agreed that parents should be able to choose the School to which they would like to send their children.
For those who may be facing questions in relation to the funding received by private schools, here are some facts:
- There are 1123 Independent Schools in Australia catering for 604,436 students
- The average Australian Government funding per student per annum is as follows:
- Independent School $8,850
- Catholic School $10,670
- Government School $17,280
- The additional recurrent funding cost to governments if every independent student moved to the government system is $4.6 billion per annum
- The average percentage of capital funding for independent schools that comes from parents and communities is 89%
- Independent schools make a huge contribution to the economy each year:
- Salaries and wages of $6.5 billion
- PAYG Tax of $1.4 billion
- Superannuation costs of $0.7 billion
The sources of income for independent schools rests predominantly on parents who choose to send their children to an independent school. It is my hope that Government, regardless of party, will find the way to achieve their goal of open, transparent, fair and equitable funding for all students and all schools. Also that the methodology should:
- Be based on the needs of students
- Be subject to rigorous assessment, and validation prior to implementing
- Treat all sectors equally, and
- Maintain the viability of schools which offer important options for parental choice