There is much anticipation about the future of school funding with proposed new arrangements for school funding scheduled to be presented to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in April this year. The meeting will be the culmination of the latest iteration of the debate about school funding that has been ongoing since the Australian Government announced its Review of Funding for Schooling (the Gonski Review) in April 2010.
The Labor Government took its first steps towards reforming school education funding when in 2009 it transformed a funding structure that in essence had been in place since 1974. It restructured its funding for schools, particularly for government schools, as a result of a new federal financial relations framework established through COAG’s Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations (IGA). The Government also implemented new programs that have resulted in increased funding for schools. Of these initiatives, it was the Building the Education Revolution (BER) economic stimulus programs that produced the greatest increase in funding, albeit temporarily and for infrastructure only.
Although the Labor Government has made some moves towards reforming school funding arrangements, the underlying historic pattern of ongoing government funding for schools remains essentially unchanged. In 2012–13 the Australian Government will provide an estimated $12.9 billion to schools, most of which (64.6 per cent) will be provided to non-government schools. Conversely, state and territory governments provide most of their funding to government schools.
This Background Note updates a previous version of this publication. Its purpose is to explain how the Australian Government provides funding to schools by answering some commonly asked questions. In doing this, the Background Note provides: a brief history of Australian Government funding for schools, explains the system of funding and examines expenditure trends. It also provides an overview of the final report of the Gonski Review and the Government’s response to date.