News News Releases Education and Training

Scathing report reveals true costs of schooling

A scathing report into the true costs of schooling reveals Victorian families are struggling to pay for items and activities that should be free. It must prompt swift action to assist families and help students remain in education, according to the Victorian Council of Social Service.

“Today’s report by the Auditor-General confirms what VCOSS has been saying for some time: that rising school costs are hurting families, putting increased strain on community organisations and schools, and are a serious barrier to education,” said Emma King, CEO of VCOSS.

“Victorian parents are also paying more for schooling than in any other state.”

“The State Government must now act to ensure all Victorian school students are able to participate in the opportunities afforded by a quality education.”

“The Andrews Government gave strong commitments towards helping families afford the basic costs of education in the lead up to last year’s state election. Today’s report highlights the urgency of this and the government now has a chance to act on those commitments and ensure that Victorian students and their families are properly supported to meet rising school costs.”

“The Auditor-General’s report finds each year Victorian parents are being asked to pay more for education. In 2013, they paid $310 million to schools – $558 per student – a rise of $70 million, or 29 per cent, since 2009.  It says that payments by parents have evolved over time from supporting free instruction to being essential for its provision, and warns that parents are being charged for items and activities that should be free under legislation and policy.”

“The Auditor-General states the Department of Education and Training: ‘has done little to find out what it actually costs to educate a child. Without this information it cannot inform government about whether the funding it provides is in fact adequate, or that it is being used efficiently, effectively and economically by schools’.”

“The Auditor-General also reports that the lack of transparency in school funding means it is almost impossible for a parent, Parliamentarian, or the public to understand how much money schools get, where the money comes from and how it should be used.”

“VCOSS is pleased that the Auditor-General has recognised the extraordinary demand that is being placed on Victorian community services, who families are increasingly turning to for help with school costs. Our overstretched community organisations should not have to pick up the tab for an underfunded education system.”

“The rising school costs for parents highlighted by the Auditor-General have been exacerbated this year by the previous Napthine Government’s disastrous decision to cut the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which assisted the families of more than 200,000 students meet the costs of basic school items such as books, stationery, uniforms and excursions.”

“Across Victoria we’re hearing about families sending their children off to start the 2015 school year only to discover that this long-standing support no longer exists and that they will have to bear these rising costs on their own.”

“This report is the latest to highlight the inadequacy of Victoria’s schools funding. The Productivity Commission’s recently released Report on Government Services on child care, education and training showed that Victoria spends $2,000 less per government school student than the national average, and $1600 less than New South Wales.”

“Today’s report also shows why Victoria must have a needs-based funding model, along the lines of the Gonski model of schools funding, which would deliver certainty to schools and parents and reduce the need for community organisations to prop up our ailing system. We look forward to the state government releasing its report showing where Gonski funding has gone to-date and call on the Federal Government to deliver the full six years of Gonski funding.”

Quote from affected parent:

“This issue will have a chain reaction felt throughout the wider community. Your child or someone else’s child will be disenfranchised because they will not be able to attend excursions, contribute to fundraisers, buy school uniforms and school essentials because of the abolition of the EMA. As a parent, would you be able to choose between school photos or an excursion to the zoo? No parent should be made to feel that they are dis-empowered by their financial situation especially if their child or children attend a public school.” – Leilani, parent.

___________

VCOSS also highlighted the issue of school costs in the most recent edition of VCOSS Insight magazine. Free, or not so free? The costs of education describes how families facing disadvantage are finding it increasingly difficult to meet rising school costs, and outlines how community organisations are increasingly stepping in to help families meet them.