TREVOR COBBOLD. Funding Increases for Private Schools Continue to Outstrip Increases for Public Schools

New funding figures show that government funding increases for private schools continue to far outstrip increases for public schools. Government funding per student in public schools (adjusted for inflation) was cut between 2009-10 and 2016-17 while private schools received a massive increase. Even during the Gonski funding period of 2012-13 to 2016-17 increases in funding for private schools far outstripped those for public schools.

While Commonwealth funding for public schools has increased, all state governments have cut funding since 2009-10 and all except NSW continued the cuts during the Gonski funding period. Both Coalition and Labor state governments made large cuts in the funding of public schools while increasing funding for private schools.

Australia

Governments increased funding for private schools while cutting funding for public schools between 2009-10 and 2016-17. Total government funding (Commonwealth and state), adjusted for inflation, for public schools was cut by $163 per student compared to an increase of $1,451 in private schools.

The cut in funding for public schools was due to large cuts in state government funding. State governments funding for public schools was cut by $881 per student compared to an increase of $126 per student for private schools.

The Commonwealth Government increased funding for both public and private schools but the increase for private schools was nearly double that for public schools. Commonwealth funding for public schools increased by $718 per student compared to $1,325 in private schools.

While the introduction of the Gonski funding arrangements improved funding for public schools, funding increases for private schools continued to far outstrip that for public schools. Between 2012-13 and 2016-17, government funding of private schools increased by over three times that for public schools – $846 per student compared to $260 per public school student.

State governments cut funding for public schools between 2012-13 and 2016-17 by $249 per student compared to a cut of $34 dollars per student in private schools. Commonwealth funding for private schools increased by $880 per student compared to $509 per student in public schools.

The new funding figures clearly show that the states have failed to adequately fund public schools in recent years. They have substituted increased Commonwealth funding by cuts of their own. The states were encouraged to do this by the Abbott Government’s decision to release them from any obligation to increase their funding as initially planned under Gonski 1.0.

The states

Total government funding per student in private schools increased in all states between 2009-10 and 2016-17 by around $1,000 per student and more while funding for public schools was cut in all states except NSW, Queensland and Tasmania.

All state governments cut funding for public schools by large amounts while increasing funding for private schools. Both Liberal-National and ALP state governments have cut funding to public schools. Coalition governments cut funding by large amounts in Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. ALP Governments cut funding to public schools by significant amounts in New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT.

Commonwealth funding for private schools increased by much more than for public schools in all states except the Northern Territory. The increases for private schools were two to three times bigger than for public schools in Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and the ACT.

Total government funding per student in private schools increased in all states during the Gonski funding period of 2012-13 to 2016-17 but was cut for public schools in all states except NSW, Victoria and Queensland. The increases for public schools in Victoria and Queensland were far less than for private schools but exceeded that for private schools in NSW.

All state governments except NSW cut funding for public schools during the Gonski funding period while five increased funding for private schools. Large cuts for public schools occurred in Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory. Commonwealth funding for private schools increased by much more than for public schools in all states except NSW and the Northern Territory.

Public schools will remain massively under-funded

There is little prospect that public schools will be adequately funded over the next decade. Under the new bilateral funding agreements between the Commonwealth and state governments public schools will only be ever funded at 91% of the national resource standard at best, while private schools are guaranteed to be funded at 100% of the standard or more by 2023.

The Gonski funding model aimed to provide a fair national funding system that included a large funding increase for public schools to address educational disadvantage. However, it was shattered by special deals for private schools, dismembered by the Federal Coalition government and shunned by state governments. As a result, the plan has disintegrated into a most unfair system that discriminates against public schools and favours private schools.

The prospect of indefinite under-funding of public schools is a national disaster. It threatens huge costs to individuals, society and the national economy because it means continuing failure to address disadvantage in education.

A large proportion of low socio-economic status (SES), Indigenous and remote area students do not achieve international minimum standards in reading, mathematics and science. About one-third of low SES students and remote area students did not achieve the minimum international standards in reading, mathematics and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment in 2015. Forty to fifty per cent of Indigenous students did not achieve the standards.

It will be up to a Federal Labor Government to provide the funding necessary to support public schools and disadvantaged students because they have been abandoned by the Coalition. The Morrison Government has introduced a $1.2 billion slush fund for private schools and nothing more for public schools. Labor should undertake to terminate the slush fund and re-negotiate the funding agreements with the states to ensure public schools are fully funded by 2023. State governments must stop their neglect of public schools.

Trevor Cobbold is National Convenor of Save Our Schools. This article is a summary of a new SOS Education Research Paper on trends in school funding in Australia.

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One Response to TREVOR COBBOLD. Funding Increases for Private Schools Continue to Outstrip Increases for Public Schools

  1. Stephen Saunders says:

    It’s a logical consequence of the Gillard-Gonski ‘needs based, sector blind’ scam and it will keep on happening under Shorten Labor. The fed will readily find the loot, to fund the (selective, fees-based) church sector at 80% of SRS and the (all comers, free) state sector at 20%. The states will ever fall short, at funding 15:75 the other way.

    Let’s put it in crass terms. The bipartisan plan is to lock in church schools as the valued provider of first choice. In what other OECD nation would the PM openly deride the public schools, too ‘skin curling’ by far for his pious poppets?

    If that’s the model Australia really wants, fine by me. But don’t also expect to climb the OECD ladder for equity and excellence.

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