Addressing inequality through schools funding: a short history

Year: 2016

Author: Watson, Louise, Davies, Merryn

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Since the mid-1980s, governments in Australia have been expected to demonstrate the effectiveness of public expenditure on schooling, with the increasing use of accountability instruments purporting to measure ‘school performance.’ Yet while local and international benchmarks reveal glaring inequalities in educational outcomes for students, the appropriate policy response remains contested, due partly to the absence of conclusive evidence that the provision of additional funding will ‘make a difference’. This paper asks why there is a paucity of evidence on the effectiveness of equity funding for schools in Australia, in spite of fifty years of equity policies and programs. The authors review relevant literature and discuss the evolution of equity schools funding programs targeted at ‘disadvantaged’ schools and their communities, including major developments at the federal level, such as the Karmel report in the 1970s, National Partnerships Initiatives in the early 21st Century and the recent Gonski funding review. The influence of research and policy developments on the design, stated purpose and perceived effectiveness of equity policies and programs, as well as the impact of political and structural issues associated with the Australian federation, are discussed.