The 2018–19 Budget embeds the new school funding
arrangements that were put in place by the 2017–18 Budget and later modified
through the passage of the Australian Education Amendment Act 2017.
The increased funding for these later changes for the years 2017–18 to 2020–21 was
provided in the Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2017–18.
Using its Consumer Price Index (CPI) forecasts and
projections, the Budget shows that total school funding will increase by an
estimated 4.0 per cent in real terms from 2017–18 to 2018–19 and by an
estimated 12.4 per cent in real terms from 2018–19 to 2021–22.
Expenses in the government school sub-function are expected
to increase in real terms by almost double that for the non-government schools
sub-function from 2018–19 to 2021–22 (17.8 per cent compared to 8.8 per cent). However,
the historic pattern of Australian Government funding for schools remains; that
is, the majority of Australian Government funding is provided to non-government
schools and state and territory governments provide most of their funding to
government schools. Thus, in 2021–22, government schools will receive an
estimated 41.4 per cent of total school funding. However, since the school
funding arrangements legislated by the Australian Education Act 2013 were
implemented in 2014, the proportion of funding to government schools has
increased. In 2012–13, government schools received 34.8 per cent of Australian
Indexation of base per student
Under the Australian Government’s school funding
arrangements, schools are funded according to a Schooling Resource Standard
(SRS) which comprises a base per student amount (with different amounts for
primary and secondary school students) and various disadvantage loadings.
From 2018 to 2020 the base per student amounts are to be indexed
by 3.56 per cent (slightly less than the previous indexation factor of 3.6 per
cent). From 2021, this
indexation factor will change. It will be made up of 75.0 per cent of the Wage
Price Index (WPI) and 25.0 per cent of the CPI, or it will be a set minimum
threshold of 3.0 per cent, whichever is higher. Based on the Budget’s forecasts
for the WPI and CPI, the indexation factor for the base per student amount from
2021 to 2022 will amount to an estimated 3.25 per cent, which is less
than the current indexation factor of 3.56 per cent, but more than the set minimum
of 3.0 per cent.
The National School Chaplaincy
There are few new school education budget measures. Of these,
the National School Chaplaincy Programme (NSCP) is the most significant. With
funding of $247.0 million over four years from 2018–19 (which will fund about
3,000 schools to employ a school chaplain), the NSCP has been identified in the
budget papers as one of the top ten expense initiatives in the entire budget.
Moreover, the Treasurer in his budget speech announced that it would be funded
on a ‘permanent basis’.
The Government has also announced that the program will have
a new focus—school chaplains will be required to upgrade their skills by
undertaking cyber-bullying training provided by the eSafety Commissioner.
The Labor Party and other critics of the Government’s school
funding arrangements maintain that the Government is providing $17.0 billion
less over ten years and $2.19 billion less from 2018 to 2019 than would have
been provided under the previous Labor Government’s original plan for school
funding. The National Catholic
Education Commission (NCEC) is also disappointed that the Budget has not
addressed its concerns, particularly in relation to the various reviews that
have been undertaken (see below).
The NSCP’s renewal has been welcomed by the non-government
schools sector, but criticised by various secular groups.
The Australian Education Union argues that the funds should have been used
instead for ‘professional school counselling services, ongoing professional
development for principals and teachers and student well being programs’.
The future of school funding
The Budget does not contain any school education measures as
a result of the recent Gonski review which examined school reform or the Review
into Regional, Rural and Remote Education. The reports of these
reviews will be considered further by the Council of Australian Governments’ Education
Council and both will have implications for school education.
Another review, yet to be completed, that will also have an
impact on school funding arrangements, is the National School Resourcing
Board’s Review of the Socio-economic Status (SES) Score Methodology.
Commonwealth funding to non-government schools is adjusted by a school’s
‘capacity to contribute’ which is based on its SES score, which, in turn,
provides a relative ranking of all non-government schools based on the income,
education and occupation characteristics of the areas in which their students
The extension of the National Partnership Agreement
Universal Access to Early Childhood Education (the NP), that was first
announced in February this year, is the most significant of the early learning
budget measures. The NP, which provides
funding for preschool programs for children in the year before full-time
school, has once again been extended by one year only. The Government is providing
$441.6 million over two years from 2018–19 to extend the NP for the 2019 calendar
year and to undertake the National Early Childhood and Care Collection in early
This yearly extension of the NP has been the practice since
2015 in spite of continuing concerns by the early childhood education sector
about the uncertainty that this creates—there are also calls for the NP to be
extended to three-year-olds. The Shadow Minister for
Early Childhood Education and Development, Amanda Rishworth, has warned that
funding uncertainty may mean ‘fees will have to rise or services will have to
The Government has not provided an explanation for the
continuing annual renewal of the NP. And it seemingly runs counter to the
consensus about the importance of early childhood education to children’s
learning outcomes, which has been most recently canvassed by the Gonski review and
the Review to Achieve Education Excellence in Australian Schools through Early
Childhood Interventions, which was commissioned by the Education Council.
None of the budget measures discussed in this article require
For further information, see: M Harrington, ‘Schools
funding legislation passed by Parliament—an update on the amendments’,
FlagPost, Parliamentary Library blog, 26 June 2017; and M Harrington, Australian
Education Amendment Bill 2017, Bills digest, 116, 2016–17,
Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2017.
S Morrison (Treasurer) and M Cormann (Minister for Finance), Mid-year
economic and fiscal outlook 2017–18, p. 146.
The budget figures in this article have been taken from the following
document unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Budget
strategy and outlook: budget paper no. 1: 2018–19.
Australian Government, Final
budget outcome 2012–13, p. 95.
Information about indexation arrangements is from M Harrington, Australian
Education Amendment Bill 2017, op. cit., p. 10.
Australian Government, Budget
measures: budget paper no. 2: 2018–19, p. 92; S Birmingham (Minister
for Education and Training) and K Andrews (Minister for Vocational Education
and Skills), Guaranteeing
essential services—reform and investment for better education opportunities,
media release, 8 May 2018; Australian Government, Budget
2018–19: budget overview, p. 34.
S Morrison (Treasurer), Budget
speech 2018–19, p. 11.
Birmingham and Andrews, op. cit.
T Plibersek (Shadow Minister for Education and Training), Biggest
threat to public schools: Liberals’ massive cuts, media release, 20 March
National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC), Budget
doesn’t address Catholic schools’ concerns, media release, 9 May 2018;
R Urban and R Deutrom, ‘Catholic
backlash builds as funding concerns sidestepped’, The Australian, 10
Independent Schools Council of Australia, Chaplaincy
program extension welcomed, media release, 9 May 2019; NCEC, op. cit.; P Karp,
chaplain program’s $247m budget extension rejected by teachers’ union’, The
Guardian, 9 May 2018.
Australian Education Union, Turnbull’s
Budget fails our children, media release, 8 May 2018.
Department of Education and Training (DET), ‘Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools’ and ‘Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education’, DET websites.
DET, ‘Review of the socio-economic status (SES) score methodology’, DET website.
S Birmingham (Minister for Education and Training), Preschool
funding boost, media release, 3 February 2018.
Australian Government, Budget
measures: budget paper no. 2: 2018–19, p. 91.
For example: Early Childhood Australia, Missed
opportunity on quality early learning, media release, 8 May 2018;
Mitchell Institute, Funding
announcement hurts preschools, media release, 5 February 2018.
A Rishworth (Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and
leaves families in limbo without funding certainty, media release, 9
S Pascoe and D Brennan, Lifting our
game: report of the Review to Achieve Education Excellence in Australian
Schools through Early Childhood Interventions, 2017; J Mikakos
(Victorian Minister for Early Childhood Education), Time
for Turnbull to pull his weight on early childhood, media release, 1
All online articles accessed May 2018.
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