The Facts About School Funding in Victoria

Total government funding per student in Victorian private schools adjusted for inflation (“real funding”) increased by over $1,500 per student between 2009 and 2017 while funding for public schools was cut. Government funding of public schools increased during the Gonski funding period of 2013-2017, but it was significantly less than the increase for private schools.

Commonwealth Government funding increases massively favoured private schools in both periods. The Victorian Government cut real funding of public schools by $530 (-6.8%) per student between 2009 and 2013. It increased real funding in the Gonski period, but not sufficiently to offset the earlier cut. As a result, public schools had far fewer human and material resources per student in 2017 than in 2009 and far less than available in private schools.

Government funding increases have been badly mis-directed in favouring the more privileged, better-off school sectors and students. Over 80% of disadvantaged students in Victoria are in public schools and nearly 90% of disadvantaged schools are public schools.

Total income of schools 2017

The total income per student of Victorian Independent schools was nearly double that of public schools in 2017 while that of Catholic schools was 21% higher. The total income of public schools was $12,968 compared to $24,161 in Independent schools and $15,669 in Catholic schools [Chart 1].

Source: ACARA, National Report on Schooling data portal.

Funding 2009 to 2017

The income disparity between public and private schools has widened substantially since 2009. Total real income per student in public schools fell by $104 per student (-1%) per student but increased by $2,120 (20.5%) in Catholic schools and by $2,423 (14.4%) for Independent schools [Chart 2].

The increased income disparity between public and private schools was mainly due to much larger Commonwealth funding increases for private schools than for public schools, reduced funding of public schools by the Victorian Government while increasing funding for private schools and large fee increases in private schools [Chart 2].

Real government funding for public schools was cut by $93 (-1%) per student while funding for Catholic schools increased by $1,542 per student (21%) and for Independent schools by $1,500 (28%).

The Commonwealth increased real funding for private schools by over four times that for public schools. It increased funding for Catholic schools by $1,316 (22.9%) per student and by $1,299 (30.9%) for Independent schools compared to only $279 (16.3%) for public schools.

The Victorian Government cut real funding for public schools by $372 (-4.8%) per student while increasing its funding of Catholic and Independent schools – $226 (14.1%) and $201 (17.3%) respectively.

Private schools also increased fees and other income by more than cost increases. After allowing for inflation, Catholic schools increased fees and other income by $579 (19.3%) per student and Independent schools by $921 (8.1%).

Sources: ACARA, National Report on Schooling data portal. Adjusted for inflation by combined index of ABS Wage Price Index for private and public education and training and ABS Consumer Price Index.

Funding 2013 to 2017

The income disparity between public and private schools also widened since the introduction of the Gonski funding plan in 2014. Total income per student in public schools increased by only $419 (4.3%) compared to $973 (8.5%) in Catholic schools and $1,306 (7.3%) in Independent schools [Chart 3].

The increased disparity in this period was also due to larger Commonwealth funding increases for private schools than for public schools and fee increases well above the rate of inflation in private schools.

Real government funding per student in public schools increased by $508 (5.7%) per student compared to $693 (8.5%) in Catholic schools and $892 (15%) in Independent schools.

The Commonwealth increased real funding for Catholic schools by $754 (12%) per student and $824 (17.6%) for Independent schools compared to $349 (21.3%) in public schools.

The Victorian Government increased real funding of public schools by more than for private schools. Its funding of public schools increased by $158 (2.2%) per student compared to a cut for Catholic schools by $61 (-3.2%) per student and an increase for Independent schools by $68 (5.3%) per student.

Private schools also increased fees and other income by more than cost increases. After allowing for inflation, Catholic schools increased fees and other income by $281 (8.5%) per student and Independent schools by $412 (3.5%).

Sources: ACARA, National Report on Schooling data portal. Adjusted for inflation by combined index of ABS Wage Price Index for private and public education and training and ABS Consumer Price Index.

Victorian public schools will remain under-funded indefinitely while private schools will fully funded within four years

Under the new Commonwealth/Victorian funding agreement Victorian public schools will only ever be funded at slightly less than 91% of the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) while private schools will be funded at 100% of their SRS by 2023.

Under the agreement, the Commonwealth will increase its funding of public schools from 17.2% of the SRS in 2018 to 20% by 2023 while the Victorian Government is due to increase its share from 68% to 75% by 2028. However, an accounting trick in the agreement allows the Victorian Government to claim other non-school based expenditure (depreciation, rural school transport up to 4% of the SRS towards its commitment.

The Victorian Government also negotiated a special deal not available to other states. It can claim the full amount of its expenditure on curriculum and regulatory agencies that relates to public schools towards its share of the SRS.

These concessions mean it only has to increase its share of the SRS to slightly less than 71% over 10 years. Consequently, Victorian public schools will only ever be funded at a little less than 91% of their SRS at best. The cumulative under-funding to 2028 will be over $17 billion.

The Commonwealth has guaranteed that Victorian private schools will be funded at 80% of their SRS by 2023 (they are currently funded at 78%). They are also funded at 19.8% of their SRS by the Victorian Government and this is due to increase to 20% by 2023. Thus, Victorian private schools will be fully funded at 100% of their SRS by 2023.

In addition, Victorian private schools will receive an additional $1.4 billion under the funding arrangements announced by the Morrison Government last year to apply over ten years from 2020. It will ensure that Victorian private schools are actually over-funded from 2023 at the latest.

Catholic and Independent schools can continue to supplement their large increases in government funding with increases in income from fees, charges and donations in excess of rising costs to extend their resource advantage over public schools in the future.

Policy direction

There is no prospect that the new Morrison Government will fund public schools beyond 20% of their SRS. The immediate priority is to pressure the Victorian Government to commit to funding public schools at 80% of the SRS by 2023.

Public education organisations must to continue to advocate for a nationally integrated funding model directed at reducing disadvantage in education, ending special deals and over-funding of private schools, and boosting funding for public schools.

Trevor Cobbold

One Reply to “The Facts About School Funding in Victoria”

  1. Resources need to be increased in government schools ASAP.
    Reading programmes and ‘STEAM’ cannot be developed unless more materials, purpose- built classrooms and more teachers are provided.
    More full-time, specialist staffing are also required to support disadvantaged students.
    Schools should not have to choose between basic building maintenance and literacy and numeracy programmes.
    Government schools need guranteed, on-going building programmes, reflecting a broad, extensive and developing curriculum. Portables should be used as temporary measure and utilised on a site for no more than 4 years.
    School buildings should provide safe, modern and aesthetically-welcoming, learning environments. The government needs to plan for future schools and deliver permanent structures. Government school budgets must be increased. School facilities need to be assessed.
    All government schools should be provided with the highest and same level of attention and resources. Those schools, in more need, due to low socio-economic levels, student welfare issues or having students with special learning needs, should be given additional support.

    I have experienced a marked decline in staffing numbers and resources within the state system over the past 40 years.
    We need to invest in our future society.

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