The Real Story!

Members of our community might have seen an article in last week's Bayside Leader relating to funding of schooling. It is important you are aware of the truth regarding the funding of education. I was misquoted in that article. I actually said that it was important governments, both state and federal, accept there is a responsibility to support all children in the compulsory years of schooling. If that is the premise, the task is to then identify on what basis funding should be allocated to students enrolled in non-government schools. It should not be about whether there should be funding for non-government schools.

Australia is different to the United Kingdom, the United States, and other nations, in that we have a significantly higher percentage of children in non-government schools (both Catholic and Independent). The reality is each student enrolled in a non-government school costs the tax payer less than a student enrolled in a government school: in the case of BGS, far less, given we are at the low end of government support.

Whenever I have spoken on the matter of government funding, I have always stressed the importance of considering all information, not just the information that suits one side! To talk solely about federal government funding for government and non-government schools is a distortion given that the majority of government funding for non-government schools comes from the federal government, whereas the vast majority of funding for government schooling comes via state governments.

Government funding for Brighton Grammar School comes from both the state and federal government. From Canberra, we are allocated a per capita amount for each primary and secondary student based on the Socio Economic Status rating of the school community (based on census collection units). When this approach was introduced it was an attempt to match funding to the capacity of the community: in blunt terms, the wealthier the community, the higher the SES ranking, the lower the per capita funding. In 2009, for example, we received around $2.7 million from the commonwealth government, $1,907 for each primary school student and $2,385 for each secondary student.

The Victorian government allocates far fewer resources to non-government schools, and uses a more complex formula which does incorporate an SES consideration into it. Once again, this recurrent grant is based on a per capita allocation. Last year we received just over $570,000 from the state government. The Victorian government allocates significantly less money to non-government schools in comparison with other states. We receive $411 for each primary student and $604 for each secondary student. By comparison, a school in Perth with a higher SES score than Brighton Grammar School receives $1,319 for each primary student and $2,002 for each secondary student from the Western Australian Government.

There are a number of other 'pools' of funds that might be available to non-government schools relating to special education, special programs, and some money for ELCs. In total last year we received around $150,000 for what we might call 'tagged' funding.

When I spoke with the Leader journalist I stressed the importance of recognising that last year and this year, the 'bottom line' relating to non-government school funding will be distorted due to the BER program introduced by the Labor Federal Government. In 2009 we received just over $1 million funding, which primarily relates to the construction of the Peter Toms Early Learning Centre. More funding has come to us this year for that project.

Government recurrent grants, both state and federal, account for just under 12% of our income. Parents contribute well over 70% of our income, parents who are paying taxes in the same way parents accessing government schools pay taxes. The Leader article specifically referred to a $3.0 million "profit" in 2009. This "profit" included BER grants, insurance on the loss of the Labertouche buildings and unrealized gains on investments in particular the Endowment Fund.

We want all children to receive a top quality education, whether they are attending a government or non-government school. That means governments must resource education appropriately.

Simplistic presentations in the media trying to create a divide between government and non-government schools is unhelpful and inaccurate, not just in terms of finances, but in terms of relationships. We have strong relationships with many local schools including Brighton Secondary College, who make use of our facilities. Brighton Grammar School and Brighton Secondary College went into partnership on the development of the synthetic hockey pitch at BSC.

We should be focusing on the rights of all children to receive government support in their education, and focusing on positive relationships between government and non-government sectors

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