Attacking educational disadvantage through school funding

Nicholas Biddle asked me to contribute to a piece written for The Conversation about the funding allocated to tackling educational disadvantage under the National Plan for School Improvement. The piece on The Conversation is yet to be published and will be significantly shorter than this.

“…all students must have access to an acceptable international standard of education, regardless of where they live or the school they attend. …[equity means] differences in educational outcomes are not the result of differences in wealth, income, power or possessions” (pg 105, review of funding for schooling)

Education can be cause or cure for disadvantage within and across societies. The extent to which education reduces rather than exacerbates inequality, however, is largely determined by the quality of education. In Australia, all levels of government and the major political parties recognise the role of the public sector in funding the delivery of education. With regards to school funding, there is debate around three main questions:

  1. What should be the total level of government funding available to school education?
  2. To what extent should governments subsidise the choices made by families to send their children to non-government schools?
  3. How should the characteristics of students and schools impact on the amount of funding received?

The National Plan for School Improvement

The responses to each of these questions are different in the eight Australian States and Territories. While the Federal Government has a minimal direct role in school education, they do provide significant funds to the States and Territories. The National Plan for School Improvement (NPSI) and the Australian Education Bill 2012 represent the Federal Labor Government’s response to the three questions posed above and is an attempts to make funding more standardised across Australia.

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