What every Australian needs to know about school funding

(i) Additional public sector expenditure, on government and non-government schools, does not necessarily lead to improvements in assessed student achievement levels.

 PISA_spending

(ii) Additional employment of teaching staff, by government and non-government schools, does not necessarily lead to improvements in assessed student achievement levels.

 PISA_teaching 

For a further discussion of the kinds of systemic reforms that need to be enshrined into the daily practices of Australian schools, that need not rely upon more funding or more inputs into an already generously appointed schooling system, see a paper I wrote some years ago which retains its relevance to this day.

Notes: Government expenditure data drawn from ABS government finance statistics. Teaching employment data drawn from ABS school education statistics. PISA assessment mean scores for reading and science may be substitutes for mathematics, (regrettably) with the same general outcome of a trend decline in achievement recorded for Australia since 2000.

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38 Responses to What every Australian needs to know about school funding

  1. Driftforge

    The first question that spring to minds to mind is how much of that change in cost / staffing is due to increasing student numbers?

    Other than that, do consider using .png or .gif rather than .jpg for line charts — it avoids the smudging effect.

  2. dd

    The first question that spring to minds to mind is how much of that change in cost / staffing is due to increasing student numbers?

    The funding (the red line) doubled from 2000 to 2012. There are not twice as many school children as there were in 2000.
    Nonetheless it’s a good question to ask. The per-student spend would take this into account…. but given the size of the increase the effect would still be there, and still be very strong.

  3. Token

    In the dialog over the past few days it has been noted a sizable percentage of the new graduates teaching maths & science did not do Year 11 & 12 maths.

    The only way this will be fixed is for the teachers to spend their own time and money to address this gap which was created by a schooling system which thought emoting over lefty causes like the environment & indigineous issues was more important than giving children real skills.

  4. Driftforge

    According to ABS 4221.0, number of students is up ~10% in the decade to 2012.

  5. Bear Necessities

    So more money for teachers like Numbers doesn’t led to better outcomes? I’m shocked!!!!!!

  6. stackja

    Classroom noise linked to poor results
    Date: December 5, 2013
    Josephine Tovey SMH Education Editor
    Australian students report high levels of noise and disruption in their classroom and at rates worse than the US or Britain, a factor which education experts say is linked to low levels of literacy and numeracy and is contributing to the country’s worsening performance.

    I and some friends went to a restaurant last night. Other tables were occupied by girl students of maybe teenage. Our attempts at talking were made difficult by the loud conversations from the nearby tables.

  7. Driftforge

    72% increase in primary and secondary spending over the decade, 28% inflation, 10% increase in student numbers.

    So in real terms, a 22% increase in expenditure per child over the decade, corresponding to a 6% decrease in performance.

  8. Australian students report high levels of noise and disruption in their classroom and at rates worse than the US or Britain, a factor which education experts say is linked to low levels of literacy and numeracy and is contributing to the country’s worsening performance.

    Mmmmm, yeah, nah, there is a real problem with teachers who can’t keep a room disciplined because they’re fundamentally not allowed to by Department of Education regulations, OSH concerns, irate parents, etc.

    Additionally, kids who don’t learn to be quiet in primary school will be really, really noisy in high school …

    It is hard to exclude a child from a class for behavioural issues in a State school in WA (short of them pulling a gun). However, the state independent schools have this power, and are using it to good effect. The number of suspensions and expulsions from the Man-Child’s state school increased amazingly when it went independent, and it’s really working on uniforms and good behaviour now.

  9. Gibbo

    At the risk of sounding particularly picky, someone needs to fix the “compeitition” typo before I can send my hyperventilating teacher friends to that link Julie. They are looking to dismiss anything that isn’t to the left of Marx & typos will be used as ammo. Thanks :)

  10. PS. Kids who don’t learn to read and write and are as a result bored shitless in primary school, will be really, really noisy in high school as well.

  11. Pete of Perth

    I wonder if the PISA score is inversely proportional to the number of apathetic parents?

  12. struth

    That anyone can be having this argument about education seems to me just amazing.
    It’s done .
    It’s dusted.
    The education of our young has been sabotaged by leftism and their sick agenda of a concern more for moulding a society of their choosing than actual education.
    More money for this is absurd. Abbott should never have stated before the election that he would match it.
    We understand why labor throw money at the union responsible for brainwashing the kiddies but Liberals have no excuse to waste taxes like this.
    With so much money needed elsewhere for infrastructure to enable this country to get moving again and be able to compete, Abbott matches the over funding of the under achieving teachers.
    Education is rotten in it’s bureaucratic core. It requires no more funding. It requires a change of culture and a real big kick up the arse.

  13. stackja

    Philippa Martyr
    #1098975, posted on December 5, 2013 at 4:13 pm
    Mmmmm, yeah, nah, there is a real problem with teachers who can’t keep a room disciplined because they’re fundamentally not allowed to by Department of Education regulations, OSH concerns, irate parents, etc.

    Philippa Martyr
    #1098978, posted on December 5, 2013 at 4:14 pm
    PS. Kids who don’t learn to read and write and are as a result bored shitless in primary school, will be really, really noisy in high school as well.

    I know a private school that is quiet. Because the parents expect it to be quiet.

  14. Craig Mc

    Wouldn’t $/student be a more informative value to track? Better yet, inflation adjusted $/student.

  15. Driftforge

    The frustrating part of this type of simplistic analysis is it tells you nothing other than the outcomes. Is a six percent decline in outcomes a result of the increase in funding, in spite of it, or unrelated to it? Same can be asked of teacher numbers.

    Even with school by school level data, dragging out the causes of a) the increases in cost and b) the causes of the decrease in outcomes would be no simple task.

    Yet without that data, everything here is just hand waving.

  16. struth

    And we pay , pay ,pay, and then we pay pay pay the interest.
    The system is truly broken.

  17. struth

    The great minds that brought about the enlightenment, the great writers and scientists of years not so long ago, came out of single blackboard school rooms with easily an average of fifty or so students all of different ages and levels……………..Teaching is not all about money.

  18. Token

    I know a private school that is quiet. Because the parents expect it to be quiet.

    I’m sure because the parents are sinking sizeable slabs of their own money into the process they view the education process as valuable and will invest their own time to help their kid succeed.

    The “I hated school so its ok for my kid to hate school” attitude of too many parents is reflected by the tykes as they grow into citizens.

  19. I worked on a documentary for 3 months in NZ investigating the collapse of that country.
    A few observations
    When they ended corporal punishment education outcomes began falling immediately.
    Too many public schools the kids just run riot.
    The teachers have no effective measures to control them.
    That those disruptive kids are bringing down the entire class.
    In a private school the kids come from a more disciplined home environment where work and ethics matter.
    Teachers who have raised issues with disruptive student’s families find the door slammed in their face.
    It’s a problem that no one appears is ready to deal with – and the problem is bad parenting. Not all but too many statistically
    If parents don’t care and their kids don’t care – no amount of money is going to fix that – not in a welfare state where they don’t need to care.
    Recommendation.
    The experiment of passive intervention has failed.
    Bring back the cane. A little bit of pain helps focus the mind.

    [I can't work out if this is for-real or not. Sinc]

  20. stackja

    Token
    #1099025, posted on December 5, 2013 at 4:53 pm
    I know a private school that is quiet. Because the parents expect it to be quiet.
    I’m sure because the parents are sinking sizeable slabs of their own money into the process they view the education process as valuable and will invest their own time to help their kid succeed.
    The “I hated school so its ok for my kid to hate school” attitude of too many parents is reflected by the tykes as they grow into citizens.

    Catholic families who are unable to pay school fees and other charges are still very welcome to enrol in Catholic schools. Parish priests and Principals have the discretion to reduce or waive tuition fees, Building Levies and other charges and levies, in whole or part, for those families that can demonstrate that they are experiencing genuine financial difficulties.

  21. johno

    These results shouldn’t surprise.

    Governments directly control around 75% of all money spent on schooling. Government service delivery is based on central planning. The Soviets and the Chinese worked out that central planning does not work. Australia, along with most other Western countries, are yet to do so. Until we do and choose to abandon central planning, we will continue to waste $billions on government services.

    Just privatise the whole damn sector.

  22. stackja

    “Education spending will be most effective if it relies on parental choice & private initiative — the building blocks of success throughout our society.”
    ― Milton Friedman

    Fifty years ago, Milton Friedman had the ground-breaking idea to improve public education with school vouchers. By separating government financing of education from government administration of schools, Friedman argued, “parents at all income levels would have the freedom to choose the schools their children attend.”

  23. mareeS

    Don’t need to know anything about school funding. Ours are grown and educated at our own private cost. Couldn’t care less about funding other people’s kids. Take care of it yourself, peoples.

  24. Andrew of Randwick

    Driftforge at 4:36pm
    The frustrating part of this type of simplistic analysis ….the causes of the decrease in outcomes would be no simple task.

    But is has been done elsewhere. And the information is available here. But some people do not want it analysed and published.
    As I suggested to Rafe on the 30th – get a copy of “Quality Counts – What can analysis of the National Pupil Database tell us about educational outcomes?” from the UK. It is done by Deloitte – Applied Analytics and published Nov 2012.

    Insight 5. Per pupil funding is not correlated with educational outcomes at KS4 in 2010-11

    And make what you will with this extract from the Exec Summ – note how “third parties” is slipped in. Does that mean first parties don’t do this sort of stuff every day – wonder why?

    Deloitte has been commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) to independently analyse the National Pupil Database (NPD) and other publicly available datasets to examine what it can tell us about educational outcomes at Key Stage 4 (KS4). Through this analysis, it has demonstrated how third parties analysing the NPD can contribute to a developing evidence base to inform ongoing policy questions.

    And then the answer Driftforge was looking for:

    The analysis does not refute that socio-economic status is an important indicator of a pupil’s educational outcomes or specifically that low income backgrounds are associated with poor educational outcomes. However, the analysis suggests that in some cases increasing the quality of education a pupil receives can have the effect of counteracting the negative associations between educational outcomes and low income. A similar improvement can also be seen for pupils with more affluent backgrounds.

    There follows statistical analysis backing up the sensitivities.

  25. But is has been done elsewhere. And the information is available here. But some people do not want it analysed and published.

    Well done that man.

  26. Johno

    Fifty years ago, Milton Friedman had the ground-breaking idea to improve public education with school vouchers. By separating government financing of education from government administration of schools, Friedman argued, “parents at all income levels would have the freedom to choose the schools their children attend.”

    Voucher, if they were redeemable across all sector, would be an improvement on the current funding model, but they come with their own problems.

    The government will need to set a value of the voucher. If the government does not allow schools to charge above the voucher value, then the government has effectively imposed a price control on schools – government owned, catholic and private. Not a good outcome.

    Alternately, the government could allow schools to charge a price above the value of the voucher. The schools would charge whatever parents are prepared to pay and the vouchers could be used to top up the profits. No real gain to the taxpayers.

    A better solution would be for government to get out of the way and let markets delivery education.

  27. Armadillo

    Just privatise the whole damn sector.

    I tend to agree. Let the parents decide what product they wish to purchase. What a novel idea.

  28. HK_Brother

    In the dialog over the past few days it has been noted a sizable percentage of the new graduates teaching maths & science did not do Year 11 & 12 maths.


    That’s because the mathematics and science graduates end up in engineering, medicine, etc fields. As a result, they’ve had to “fill the gap” by any means necessary. This goes to prove they do NOT really care!

    So it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that mathematics and science are two key areas where grades have fallen. But we shouldn’t concern ourselves with that, as the Education/Teacher’s Union demand more money! They need more money! We need to give them more money! Think of the children! If they had the money, everything will be fine! *rolls eyes*

    Except, under Gillard’s rule as Education Minister and later on as Prime Minister, nothing has been fine!

    Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) of 15 yr olds from around the world. From 2009 to 2012…Australia has dropped:
    => from 15th to 19th in mathematics
    => from 10th and 16th in science
    and
    => from 9th to 14th in reading.

    This is Gillard’s legacy. She had employed more and spent more which she spun as “Education Revolution”…There has been NOTHING revolutionary about the results she has produced in return for spending all that money!

    By the way, USA and UK are having the same basic problem!

  29. Mr Rusty

    More money for this is absurd. Abbott should never have stated before the election that he would match it.

    He really should have added a caveat – that this is the last major increase of funding for schools, henceforth the only increases are CPI and demographic based.

    Or better still – no improvement in 5 years and funding is slashed.

    Cos we all know that in 10 years when there has been zero improvement the cries of “More money!” will be heard…again…and the Parties will try to outbid each other with our cash…again…and the same debates will pop up…etc. etc.

  30. Rabz

    Additional public sector expenditure, on government and non-government schools, does not necessarily lead to improvements in assessed student achievement levels.

    Additional employment of teaching staff, by government and non-government schools, does not necessarily lead to improvements in assessed student achievement levels.

    Wonderful. The evidence is in and the science is settled.

    Shut every public school in the country down immediately and send the kiddies down the coal mines.

    You know it makes sense.

  31. Dave of Cossack

    Old saying “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”.

    Plenty of reasons but main one is somebody has been there before and bathed then shit in the water.

    But then again the Labor and Greens have never owned a horse except the Trojan one they hid in and got morons to push into Parliament House in Canberra.

    Good Education is a necessity as the people ruling the roost, now, understand and not just a political agenda.

    I rest my case.

  32. HK_Brother

    This all makes sense…

    Who was it that encouraged more people to go to university through their policy? ALP or LNP? Both?

    More university educated generally means people are more inclined with professional, high paying, high-status jobs in the private sector. Not public sector jobs that are known to demand for pay rises.

    I notice through relatives and friends that public jobs in the state of NSW generally don’t encourage you to get better or do things more efficiently. The culture encourages you not to try your best. There’s many benefits and you are generally advised to take lots of breaks if you work too hard. The Govt is usually too scared to fire you for not performing, as you can take legal action. (Its another story if you do something seriously dodgy).

    Doesn’t that mean there will be less competent people teaching future generations if they become engineers, doctors, etc? If there is no incentive to improve, why would the organisation become more effective over time?

    Since teaching a syllabus consumes a limited fixed amount of time; cramming more Left-leaning/Social issue stuff means less time for strengthening fundamentals and addressing troubled kids.

    Throw in a generation of folks who didn’t like school and did poorly; passing off their behaviours to their kids…

    …So the net effect is a downward spiral. As well as the inability to even keep up with the Asian neighbours.

    A laid back culture that doesn’t really value education (although it knows its important); works for 5 days a week. No real solid, long term strategic plans (Nation-wise).
    VS
    A discipline culture that values family, education, etc; works for 6 days a week. Makes best use of their time. Leadership has long term plans.

    …The accumulated effect over time is obvious. The latter will come out on-top.

    Asians aren’t smarter. We just don’t do stupid, wasteful, nonsensical things. It saves us time as we focus on the things that matter. Get straight to the point.

    The only path left is to home-school your kids. Do research first. Look for methods that have proven to work in the real world. Understand your kid’s learning strengths. Mold reading, writing, science, mathematics, history, etc material to suit your kid…Because you cannot depend on the Govt to do it any longer. It has failed or in the process of failing in the 21st century. See USA, UK, and Australia. All trending downwards as we throw more money at the problem.

    If it was really about the children, we’d smash the education unions and switch to a completely new education paradigm based on methods/processes that worked and is much more suitable in the 21st century.

    Throwing technology and money at problems doesn’t solve them. The current generation ALP would have known this if any of them had real-world experience. Not that sheltered, union propped-up, ivory tower life.

  33. mareeS

    Leading a horse to water and all that, cats are smarter, because they never got big enough for a person to put a saddle on their back.

    And they are clever enough to let you live in their house and feed them three times a day.

    Cats are my favourite animals, because they’re way smarter than me.

  34. The first step – take the teachers’ colleges (or what they have now become), audit the students’ work, and force them to fail and permanently exclude students who demonstrate ongoing deficiencies in such simple things in spelling and grammar.

    The second step – send the also-rans to teach in good schools of high standard, where their glaring deficiencies will be thrown into sharp relief and their chances of achieving a good reference will be minimal.

    The third step – reinstate a teacher’s right to discipline with the yardstick upon the clothed backside or the 12 inch ruler across the bare knuckles, and back their decisions to the hilt. Tell the aggrieved parents who complain about their poor, dear little munchkins to go fuck themselves.

  35. Ellen of Tasmania

    “His education had been neither scientific nor classical—merely “Modern.” The severities both of abstraction and of high human tradition had passed him by: and he had neither peasant shrewdness nor aristocratic honour to help him. He was a man of straw, a glib examinee in subjects that require no exact knowledge (he had always done well on Essays and General Papers) and the first hint of a real threat to his bodily life knocked him sprawling.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength

  36. Token

    Voucher, if they were redeemable across all sector, would be an improvement on the current funding model, but they come with their own problems.

    The government will need to set a value of the voucher. If the government does not allow schools to charge above the voucher value, then the government has effectively imposed a price control on schools – government owned, catholic and private. Not a good outcome.

    The voucher system would be compromised by the vanity of the teachers & the fact the unions protect the incompetent against the talented & needy children.

    Any voucher system would need to reflect the true value of the education a school provides, not the cost of inputs or nominated value.

    If the value on the voucher does not reflect the value assigned by the consumer of education, you can bet there will be distortions in the market.

    One only need look at the pay premium prices people pay At ahe current time to get real estate in areas close to prime schools to understand how good quality enducation is valued.

  37. struth

    As far as disipline is concerned. Schools are institutions that can set their disiplinary standards and then let the parents know prior to the child starting at that school what they can expect. Too many times have I heard teachers complain that they can’t disipline anymore as they are not allowed or the parents come in screaming. A bit of common sense is all that is required. Common sense and communication. Set the known standard before a school starts. Make the parents sign up to the disiplinary measures before they start. A contract of good behaviour if you will. In this contract the parents also take responsibility for the child’s actions and dress sense etc, and failure to do so should have immediate endowment and welfare consequences.
    Never have I heard the army complain that they have problems with behaviour they can’t fix.
    That’s an extreme the other way but you get the point.

  38. Empire Strikes Back

    I still have fond memories of Elsie.

    Elsie was a cane rod, about one yard long, wielded in anger by my grade 6 teacher, as required. Elsie demanded respect and engendered fear. She was unforgiving of major behavioural transgressions and yet she rarely rose to smite thee. Alone, the prospect of conflict was enough to invoke discipline.

    I might have found myself on the wrong side of Elsie on occasion, but whenever I have an attack of the lazies or veer from the path of the righteous, I remember her.

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