The 2012–13 Budget continues funding for school education as before without any new money or initiatives resulting from the recommendations of the Review of Funding for Schooling (the Gonski Review), . The Government’s decision not to act upon the Gonski Review recommendations in the Budget has been criticised by school education sector representatives, including state education ministers, and by the Opposition.
In 2012–13, the Australian Government will provide an estimated $12.9 billion for schools, of which $8.3 billion (64.6 per cent) will be provided to non-government schools and $4.6 billion (35.4 per cent) to government schools. By 2015–16, the 2012–13 Budget projects this funding will increase by 19.6 per cent. Non-government schools will receive 85.0 per cent of this increase.
These figures do not include funding for a number of school education National Partnerships which are accounted for in the sub-function ‘School education – specific funding’. Budget paper No. 3 provides more information about the funding for these National Partnerships, disaggregated by school sector.
Two significant school education budget measures are the ‘Mathematics and science—increasing participation in schools and universities initiative’, and new funding for literacy and numeracy programs.
The mathematics and science measures are included in the budget papers under the Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education portfolio information and are the subject of a separate article in this Budget Review.
The new funding for literacy and numeracy, amounting to $243 million over 18 months, was announced by the Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett, just prior to the Budget. This item does not appear as a budget measure in Budget Paper No. 2. However, it does appear in the portfolio budget statements with funding for the National Action Plan on Literacy and Numeracy ($650 million four years).  The new funding is a response to the cessation of the National Partnership on Literacy and Numeracy, which has been credited with improving literacy and numeracy outcomes. The cessation of the National Partnership was also the subject of pre-budget lobbying by education unions and other stakeholders.
The remainder of the school education budget measures comprise cessation of programs, ‘redirection’ of funds and program parameter changes. These measures affect some of the Government’s headline programs for schools, including Teach Next (less participants but extended support), Reward Payments for Schools (reduction in payments) and the Australian Baccalaureate (postponement of funding).
The redirection of $24.4 million from the Digital Education Revolution’s project pool is in fact a restatement of a measure that was originally announced in the portfolio additional estimates statements for 2011–12.  The program also had $132.5 million redirected in the original 2011–12 Budget papers.  This means that $10 million over two years now remains for this program.
The Opposition Leader’s announcement, in his address-in-reply to the Budget, that a Coalition Government would work to ensure ‘at least a 40 per cent increase’ in the numbers of Year 12 students studying a language draws attention to the Government’s National Asian Languages and Studies in Schools Program (NALSSP), which finishes at the end of this financial year. The Government has chosen not to extend NALSSP because it considers that the program has failed its objectives. A decision about further funding for language studies in schools, albeit Asian languages only, is pending the release of the Government’s white paper, Australia in Asia, and, presumably, will be informed by discussions held between the Minister for School Education and business leaders.
Funding for school education is in a holding pattern pending outcomes from the recommendations of the Gonski Review. To date the Government has not made any firm commitments apart from developing a ‘roadmap for reform’ with state and territory education ministers,  establishing a Ministerial Schools Funding Reference Group and providing $5.8 million over two years for further developmental work on the Gonski recommendations. Nevertheless, the Government is intending to introduce new legislation for school funding before the end of 2012. Given the nature of the commitments to date, and with one state education minister stating that new school funding arrangements will not be completed by the end of 2013, it is curious what the scope of the legislation will be.
. For information about the Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling, see: Australian Government (AG), ‘Your school our future’, AG website, viewed 10 May 2012. See also: M Harrington, 'Brave new world'? The Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling, FlagPost, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 23 February 2012, viewed 10 May 2012.
. See, for example, A Stevenson and B Hall, ‘Gonski’s $5.6b urgent recommendations ignored’, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 May 2012, p. 8, viewed 11 May 2012 and C Pyne (Shadow Minister for Education, Apprenticeships and Training), $5 billion? Try $5 million, media release, 9 May 2012, viewed 11 May 2012.
. P Garrett (Minister for School Education), Literacy and numeracy schemes receive $243 million boost, op. cit.
. Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2012–13, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2012, p. 120, viewed 10 May 2012 and Australian Government, Portfolio additional estimates statements 2011–12: Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Portfolio,) Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2012, p. 18, viewed 10 May 2012.
. Note: the Australian Government provides specific funding for language studies in non-government schools through its School Languages Program. B Lane, ‘We must invest to latch on to the Asian century’, The Australian, 5 October 2011, p. 26, viewed 11 May 2012, and P Garrett (Minister for School Education), Working with business to boost Asian awareness and languages in schools, media release, 23 April 2012, 11 May 2012.
. Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2012–13, op. cit., p. 119.
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