Regional schools hit by new Federal Funding model

Tuesday, 22 Jun 2021

Under a new Commonwealth funding model, students and families from 164 regional independent schools across Australia will be stripped of a combined total of $180 million annually. 

A Report released by the Coalition of Regional Independent Schools Australia (CRISA) shows regional independent schools will lose annual funding at an average rate of $760 per student; by contrast this loss is $287 per student across metropolitan independent schools. The Report demonstrates this as a seemingly unintended consequence of the new Direct Measure of Income (DMI) funding model.

Nick Johnstone, Principal of Bishop Druitt College, Coffs Harbour said today: 

“As a principal of an independent school in regional New South Wales, this loss of funding will result in a significant loss of educational opportunity for young people in rural and regional Australia.

This new funding model directly targets country kids, and country communities. These funding cuts for some schools aim to achieve school funding based on parental income, but they simply diminish the affordability of independent education for families, many of whom sacrifice a great deal to contribute to the cost of their children’s education. 

The new funding model has been announced at a time when we are doing all we can to improve outcomes for country kids who already face disadvantage. It goes against what our students, and greater communities, in regional Australia need. Families with school-aged children need more parental choice and greater investment in all schools - not a deprivation of funding support from the Federal Government for some schools based on a simplistic and inequitable formula concocted in Canberra.” 

The Coalition of Regional Independent Schools Australia (CRISA) Report demonstrates that: 

Regional independent schools will lose on average $760 per student per year, compared with metro schools losing on average $287 per student per year.

There are 59 city-based Independent schools that have had their funding losses capped, but the same cap is not applied to regional non-government schools. 

“This Report means schools like Bishop Druitt College face much heavier funding losses than those based in cities,” said Mr Johnstone. “ The government has recognised that the DMI funding model has some inequities, as highlighted in the Government’s Choice and Affordability Fund highlights, but only partly addresses the regional shortfall.

We, as a school, are fighting for our families, to ensure that they receive equal opportunities which are not currently afforded to them under this new funding model.” 

Critical Government funding support is being pulled out of circulation in the regional economy at a time when many of these communities are trying to recover from the devastation of drought, fire and flood. The DMI funding cuts also hit regional communities at large, threatening local jobs and the ongoing availability of school choices. 

CRISA represents more than 40 regional and outer-metropolitan independent schools from right across Australia, serving 40,000 students and their families. Stephen Higgs, Chair of CRISA, today called for a response which recognises the important role independent schools play as part of the backbone of our regions, and acknowledges the economic realities of life and work in regional Australia.

“Our Principals right across Australia have enough on their hands already,” he said, “without having to deal with unfair funding cuts. We need urgent Ministerial intervention to stand up for regional Australia and reverse these cuts.”

“We have heard from many Coalition Members of Parliament who are stunned that an outcome of the Federal Government’s non-government school funding policy means money being stripped from schools in country Australia. They rightly ask why the Federal Government would undermine its own stated commitment to both parental choice in school education and growth in regional Australia. We agree, and ask Federal MPs across the nation – and all who support school choice for regional families - to advocate change to this unfair policy.”

“For our part, we will not stop our campaign until this issue is addressed and will highlight this issue in the public domain all the way to the Federal election and beyond if needed,” he concluded.