Massive Increases in Govt Funding for Private Schools

Monday February 16, 2015

New figures show that private schools were massively favoured over public schools by government funding increases between 2008-09 and 2012-13. Funding for private schools, adjusted for inflation, increased by a staggering eight times more than for public schools.

The huge disparity shows that governments give greater priority to funding more privileged sections of the community than improving the learning outcomes of disadvantaged students, the overwhelming majority of whom attend public schools. The disparity is even larger than that revealed by the latest Report on Government Services, which shows that funding for private schools increased by four times that for public schools.

Total government recurrent funding per student in private schools, adjusted for inflation, increased by 15.5 per cent between 2008-09 and 2012-13 compared to only two per cent for public schools (see Chart 1 below). Funding increases for private schools far outstripped those for public schools in every state and territory.

Private schools in NSW and Victoria got massive increases while real funding for public schools fell. Funding for private schools in Victoria increased by 18.5 per cent per student compared to a decline in public school funding of two per cent while in NSW the increased funding for private schools was 12.5 per cent compared to a decline of nearly one per cent for public schools. In Western Australia, private school funding increased by 18.8 per cent compared to an increase of 1.2 per cent for public schools.

The funding increase for Queensland private schools was double that for public schools and more than double in Tasmania. In the ACT and the Northern Territory the increases for private schools was over three times that for public schools. The increase for private schools in South Australia was over 50 per cent higher than for public schools.

Across Australia the dollar increase for private schools was nearly five times that for public schools. The average increase for private schools was $1181 per student compared to only $247 for public schools (Chart 2).

There were massive disparities in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia. In NSW, private schools received an increase of $970 per student while funding for public schools fell by $108 per student. In Victoria, the disparity was even bigger – an increase of $1299 for private schools compared to a decrease of $234 in public schools. In Western Australia, private school funding increased by $1532 per student compared to $177 for public schools.

The funding increases for private schools in Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory also far exceeded those for public schools. Only in South Australia did public schools gain a larger increase than private schools, although the percentage increase was much lower than that for private schools.

These new government funding figures are derived from the latest Report on Government Services (ROGS) published by the Productivity Commission. The ROGS figures have been adjusted by SOS to exclude items included in public school funding that are not included in private school funding.

The ROGS figures over-estimate funding for public schools because they include book-entry items (user cost of capital and depreciation) that are not included in government funding figures for private schools. The above figures exclude these items from public school funding. However, they do include payroll tax and school transport which are also not included in the private school funding figures.

These book-entry items do not affect student outcomes and for this reason they are excluded from other figures on school funding compiled by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority.

The massive ongoing disparity in funding increases for public and private schools is a national disgrace and scandal. The learning needs of disadvantaged students are being ignored by the priority given to funding more privileged sections of the community.

Unacceptably large percentages of low socio-economic status (SES), Indigenous and remote area students do not achieve national standards in literacy and numeracy. For example, the results from the OECD’s PISA results show that one-third of low SES 15 year-old students not achieving the international mathematics benchmark and nearly one-quarter are not achieving the reading and science benchmarks compared with 5-8 per cent of high SES students. Just over half of all Indigenous students are not achieving the mathematics benchmark and nearly 40 per cent are not achieving the reading and science benchmarks.

There are huge achievement gaps between rich and poor. For example, low SES students are about two and a half years behind high SES students in reading, mathematics and science while Indigenous students are three or more years behind high SES students. ;

The vast majority of disadvantaged students attend public schools. Over 80 per cent of low SES and Indigenous students are enrolled in public schools. Yet, these students are denied the funding increases granted to their more privileged peers in private schools. Disadvantaged students are being discriminated against by government funding policies. Not only is it a scandalous injustice, but it sustains lower workforce skills and reduces potential economic growth.

The Gonski funding plan promised to make a difference, but it has been completely sabotaged by the refusal of the Federal Government to fund the final two years of the six year plan when large increases would have flowed to public schools. Many state governments are failing to fulfil their commitment to funding public schools. Parents, teachers, school organisations, community groups and the business community must demand that governments fully implement the Gonski plan.

Trevor Cobbold

Charts on Government Funding Increases for Public and Private Schools 2008-09 to 2012-13.pdf

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