School Funding

School Funding

Interesting article in The Age today from Ben Preiss about school budgets for 2014 (link at bottom of this post).

Funding is delivered into Victorian government schools through the Student Resource Package, which provides a certain amount of funding per student to which is added amounts for a range of other things including:

  • Students with disabilities
  • Rurality and small school size funding
  • New arrival and refugee students (to support language programs)
  • Vocational Education and Training (VET)
  • Cleaning
  • Maintenance
  • Utilities

Funding is divided

  • 80% credit, for salaries. This is held centrally but controlled by the principal
  • 20% cash, received in quarterly payments and managed by the school council.

The credit component is obviously the big one and this is where there can be considerable pressure if the school has a high cost staffing profile eg a lot of experienced teachers with higher salaries. Some schools are able to generate a profit from their credit line and convert this to cash to use for local projects. More common is the ‘staffing deficit’ where the cost of staff exceeds the budget.

So when principals express concern about their budgets they are generally talking about the credit or salaries component. Government schools, apart from those receiving significant equity funding, generally run with fewer staff than non government schools which have the capacity to set compulsory student fees.

Enrolments are the lifeblood of any school, particularly for government schools which are banned from setting compulsory school fees. More enrolments, more money, more staff, more cash, more programs. The opposite is also true.

The great hope of government schools has been that the Gonski funding would deliver significant additional resources based on student need. The frustration being spelt out in The Age article is that precious little of that funding has made its way to schools at this stage, with the exception of high needs/low SES schools. It’s inevitable and appropriate that additional funding should flow to these schools first but other schools are clearly struggling with funding. Anecdotally my colleagues all seem to be saying that 2014 looks like a difficult year and that perhaps there has not been sufficient indexation of budgets to offset the higher salaries due to last year’s EBA outcome.

I have particular sympathy for my colleagues in schools along the Murray where their NSW neighbours appear to be flush with additional Gonski funding for 2014. Makes it hard for them to compete for enrolments when the NSW schools are now able to offer more staff and programs.

As my previous post on ‘What School Principals Might Want in 2014’ pointed out, school funding will be a warm political issue in the 2014 state election and again, and perhaps even more so, at the time of the next federal election. There might be arguments, as in this case, about when and how Gonski funding is released but the Napthine government and Labor (federal and state) are committed to seeing the full 6-year Gonski funding package delivered. In the meantime there will be some angst about what’s delivered to schools.

Categories: School Funding

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