Identify how Gonski dollars are being spent

The Gonski dollars improving students’ outcomes should get the credit they deserve.

Teachers are encouraged to learn how to read their school’s budget so that they can identify teaching and learning programs financed by the needs-based funding model. With this knowledge, teachers can confidently communicate the programs’ successes to politicians, community and family, in an effort to secure funding for the fifth and sixth years of the Gonski agreement from the Federal Government.

School budgets in 2015 include the four Equity loadings for Socio-economic background, Aboriginal background, English language proficiency and Low level adjustment for Disability (where applicable). These four equity loadings should be combined and receipted in the budget as one amount. Schools are expected to expend these equity funds in the year they are received.

The Department states: “Equity funds are to be used to support school plans, maximising opportunities to explore innovative practices that support continuous improvement in student achievement. Accountability for the expenditure of these funds will occur through the School Plan and the Annual School Report.”

It is important that teachers become involved in the school’s budgetary process. Teachers on school budget/finance committees may be help shape the school’s priorities. Federation Representatives are encouraged to hold a Federation meeting to discuss and vote on staff representation on the school’s budget/finance committee so they may be included in the budget meetings which should begin at the beginning of term 3.

The Department’s intranet states:

“School budget or finance committees can play a pivotal role in ensuring that available resources are effectively allocated in accordance with locally identified priorities and the school’s overall educational plan. While responsibility for the budget process rests with the school Principal, for those schools without a school finance or budget committee, the Principal may wish to consider the formation of a committee to inform and support the budgetary process.

“The Principal should consider the skill, knowledge, expertise and commitment of possible budget committee members.

“Membership could include:

“school staff with responsibilities for program activities, nominated as program managers, such as: faculty heads; executive staff; school administrative & support staff teachers; teacher/librarians.

“The involvement of staff and community members in the school’s budgetary process has significant benefits such as increased awareness amongst school staff and community members of competing priorities, it fosters an understanding of the rationale applied in the decision making process and provides transparency of the budgetary process.”

The Department also recommends a timeline (see table, right) for budget/finance committee meetings to ensure that the school’s budget is ready for use at the commencement of the new school financial year.

RAM is not the source of funds

School budgets are now being referred to as a Resource Allocation Model (RAM). Federation does not support the RAM as a method of delivering school budgets. The additional Gonski funds and equity loadings could be delivered through a number of allocation mechanisms. The RAM is favoured by Treasury as it gives them much greater control over the amount schools are allocated. When RAM was introduced to TAFE it led to dramatic funding cuts. The only reason RAM in schools is not delivering cuts is because of the political campaign which has delivered additional Gonski money.

For an overview of school finances refer to memorandum DN15/00011 Semester 1, 2015 School Funding Entitlement for Non ELSNP Schools. For more information see “Accounting for RAM loadings” in School Finance News, DN/15/00034. Both these documents are available through the Department’s staff portal.