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WA announces new ‘student-centred’ education funding model

West Australian Education Minister Peter Collier has announced details of an education funding overhaul that will see public schools given greater budgetary autonomy and cash based on student numbers.

Under the current system, funding is based on inputs. “Public schools in Western Australia have been funded for many years through a staffing formula and special purpose payments which aim at equitable provision,” explained Professor Richard Teese, author of a review of the WA education funding system, in a YouTube video for the WA Department of Education last year.

The model “was designed for a different age, and it has reached the limits of its effectiveness. School principals describe it as complex, difficult to understand, inconsistent, and in practice not equitable”, stated Teese.

The reforms will see a fixed amount allocated to students by year level. Collier said in a statement:

“This means that for each year 2 student, for example, each school will receive the same amount of $7572 in 2015. The same applies for year 11 and 12 students who will be funded at the highest amount of all students at $9023 in 2015.”

The changes will increase the control public schools have over spending by allocating funds as a ‘one-line budget’, a key feature of the state’s Independent Public School model since 2010. The government argues the fixed funding rates and single-line budgeting will increase transparency. The changes will also mean that the proportion of the departmental budget under direct responsibility of schools will increase from around 10% to more than 75%, representing a significant dispersal of decision-making powers to the local level.

This will include an increase in funding for earlier years compared to older students: while previously $1.38 was spent per secondary student for every $1 allocated to a primary schooler, the new ratio will be reduced to $1.25 to every dollar.

In addition, funding will be allocated for students in need of extra support. Collier stated:

“For example, every school will receive between $310 and $1085 for each eligible student from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. For the first time, every Aboriginal student will be allocated an extra $1631 to $2120 depending on the proportion of Aboriginal students in the school.”

Students with disabilities will receive up to $68,000, while extra funds will also go to students with English as a second language and gifted and talented student programs.

The model also provides an enrolment-linked base allocation “to ensure schools are able to meet general operating costs”, and a locality allocation to meet the additional costs faced by schools in remote and outer regional areas of the state. Around $869 million will be held by the Department of Education for school costs that are paid for centrally, such as housing for teachers, staff leave, capital works, maintenance and workers’ compensation.

Does Western Australia have the right idea on education? The Mandarin is examining the public policy reform — let us know what you think …

Author Bio

David Donaldson

David Donaldson is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Melbourne.