Philanthropy In Schooling Urged by Gonski Report
20 February 2012 at 2:59 pm
The much-anticipated Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling calls on the Federal Government to create a fund to provide national leadership in philanthropy in schooling, and to support schools in need of assistance to develop philanthropic partnerships.
The report by David Gonski is described as the biggest review of the Australian education system in forty years.
The report says media attention on philanthropy in schooling is often focused on donations from individuals and businesses to school building funds and the superior facilities that result in non-government schools with high socio-economic status communities.
However, it says the benefits of philanthropy should be considered more broadly.
David Gonski says philanthropy can and should be used to create partnerships with those schools that have the greatest need to improve student outcomes.
The report says schools have very different starting points in terms of their knowledge and capacity to seek out and secure philanthropic donors.
“A school’s ability to maximise the impact of philanthropic contributions can be limited if school leaders lack the time to utilise these resources effectively. The centralised nature of school systems may also result in the limited discretion of principals to make certain resourcing decisions,” the report says.
“Other schools have well developed contacts with business and networks within their communities, such as alumni structures, which can generate additional funding and other support such as professional advice to the school.
“This type of giving appears to primarily benefit some non-government schools and selective government schools. In particular, it is difficult for schools in all sectors that service low socioeconomic status communities to access resources and capabilities from their immediate communities in the same way that schools in more affluent areas can. These schools are less likely to have networks, the confidence to approach potential donors, or the time and resources to devote to grant applications.”
In addition, the report says that there is a misconception in the government sector that government schools are unable to receive philanthropic support, which could stem from a lack of policy support from education authorities.
It says education authorities may also be responding to concerns in the community over philanthropic activity in government schools, including the level of influence that corporations and other philanthropic donors may have over schools, and the time taken to engage potential donors.
The Australian Government has commissioned a consultancy to address these concerns. Due to report in May 2012, the consultancy will develop guiding principles for school–business relationships that are voluntary and supportive, encourage good practice and emphasise mutual benefit.
A number of submissions to the Gonski review indicated that tax incentives are an important consideration for private individuals, charitable funds or foundations and businesses when making donations, particularly for major giving.
It says that despite recent initiatives to increase philanthropy in schooling, it is clear that more can be done to encourage activity in this area. Approaches to encourage philanthropy in schools should increase their capacity to form philanthropic relationships, reduce barriers to private investment, and provide national leadership and direction in focusing philanthropic activity to all disadvantaged school communities.
The panel considers that there is scope for the Federal Government, in consultation with the schooling sectors, to develop a philanthropic fund with deductible gift recipient status focused on assisting schools to develop philanthropic partnerships.
Its says the fund could work alongside existing public and private funds and community organisations, including those established by state and territory governments, to raise awareness of the importance of improving educational outcomes to Australia’s prosperity.
The fund could operate in conjunction with the proposed National Schools Resourcing Body, possibly in partnership with a private partner or partners. It could operate by attracting support (cash and in-kind) from businesses and other trusts and foundations, private individuals and communities.
These donations would fund initiatives designed to improve student outcomes, particularly in low socio-economic areas.
The report says the fund’s scope of giving should be wide. It should include the traditional school building improvements and scholarship categories, but also allow for much wider injections of funds for the improvement of schools in low socio-economic areas or serving students from such areas.
To this end, the report suggests that the fund should be established to allow donors to influence how funds are directed, if they wish to support a specific school or community.
The fund should also have a role in assisting disadvantaged schools to develop capacity to advance philanthropic partnerships. This could be achieved by the fund having on staff a group of people with philanthropic experience and capacity to support individual schools and/ or regions to develop philanthropic partnerships for the purposes of specific projects or indeed generally.
The cost of such a group could perhaps be funded by the Federal Government on the basis that the return from such investments will have a ‘multiplier’ effect.
A panel of eminent Australians lead the Review of Funding for Schooling. The panel was chaired by David Gonski AC, an eminent businessman and philanthropist who is also the Chancellor of the University of NSW and Chairman of the Australian Securities Exchange, Coca-Cola Amatil and Investec Bank.
The 285-page Gonski review proposes major changes in the way resources are distributed between private, government and Catholic schools including a base level of funding per student for all schools, with further payments from governments based on socio economic status and other categories of need, like disability.
In response to the Gonski recommendations on philanthropic funding, the Government says that more work is required and the Parliamentary Secretary for School Education Jacinta Collins will lead the work on capital funding and philanthropy.