The Facts About School Funding in Victoria – An Update

Public schools in Victoria as elsewhere in Australia face a funding crisis. The key aspects of this crisis are:

  • Government funding increases have heavily favoured private schools over public schools since 2009;
  • Independent and Catholic school in Victoria have a large resource advantage over public schools;
  • Public schools are massively under-funded despite enrolling 80% or more of disadvantaged students and will remain so into the next decade unless the current funding arrangements are over-hauled;
  • By contrast, private schools are over-funded;
  • If Victoria is to truly become an education state, it must fully fund public schools to increase equity in school outcomes.
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Fully Funding Private Schools is No Solution to Inequity in Education

This article is a summary of a new Education Policy Brief. The full Brief can be downloaded below.

The proposal of Tom Greenwell and Chris Bonnor to fully fund private schools. subject to them not charging fees and not enrolling students on the basis of ability, abrogates key long standing principles of public education, namely, that public schools are secular and do not discriminate on the basis of student background. The proposal explicitly permits private schools to promulgate their religious beliefs and values and to discriminate against students and teachers who do not share these beliefs. This is anathema to the founding principles of public education. Public schools must remain secular and take all comers, whatever their background, to provide access to education for all and to promote understanding and tolerance between different social groups.

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The Next National Schools Agreement Must Clearly Define Equity Goal

The Expert Panel reviewing the National Schools Reform Agreement (NSRA) has failed to adequately define   equity goals for the next Agreement. Its Consultation Paper released last month Panel adopted a flawed definition proposed by the Productivity Commission in its report on the Agreement. The Panel must revise its definition of equity in its final report to the Government in October. Failure to do so will mean continued failure to address the massive achievement gaps between rich and poor.

The current NSRA conspicuously fails to provide a clearly defined equity goal. It has perpetrated different meanings and interpretations of what constitutes equity in education This in turn leads to policy confusion and even contradictory approaches to improving equity. As a result many students continue to be denied an adequate education and achievement gaps between privileged and less privileged students continue. it also allows governments to avoid accountability for these failures and to misdirect funding increases to school sectors least in need.

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The Lost Decade of School Autonomy in NSW

It is just over ten years since the school autonomy program called Local Schools, Local Decisions commenced in NSW. It has been a lost decade. It was supposed to increased student results but high inequity in education continues with more bureaucracy, less central support for schools and bigger workloads for principals and teachers.

The stated goal of Local Schools, Local Decisions was to improve student outcomes.  There is scant evidence of this in NSW NAPLAN results. They show shocking inequalities in school outcomes between highly advantaged and disadvantaged students with few improvements since 2010. 

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School Autonomy and Social Justice in Education

The following is a speech by Trevor Cobbold to a form at Deakin Univeristy to launch a report on School Autonomy Reform and Social Justice in Australian Public Education. The Report is available here.

First of all, I would like to congratulate the project team on its work. It has provided one of the most comprehensive reviews of the literature on school autonomy and contributed greatly to our knowledge about the implementation of school autonomy in Australian schools and its impact on students, teachers and principals.

Rather than review the array of its findings I would like to focus on a few key issues:

  • The meaning of social justice in education;
  • School autonomy and student achievement;
  • School autonomy and the bureaucratisation of schooling.
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The School Funding System is Heavily Biased Against Public Schools

The following is a slightly revised version of a presentation by Trevor Cobbold to a Policy Symposium on Funding, Equity and Achievement in Australian Schools held at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education on 17 April.

Ten years ago, the Gonski funding model promised much to reduce the vast inequity in school funding and outcomes. What we got was the reverse, courtesy of sabotage by successive Coalition governments, which have always favoured choice over equity, and because of the failure of state governments to deliver adequate funding for public schools.

School funding in Australia is in a parlous state. It is heavily biased against public schools and systematically favours private schools in terms of past funding increases, resource levels and current funding arrangements. Fixing this is not on the immediate agenda of the Albanese Government. All it has done is delay addressing it with yet another inquiry when we already know what has to be done.

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A Golden Age of Tax Concessions for the Rich

New data released by the Australian Treasury in February shows it is a golden age of income tax concessions for the rich. Tax concessions for the wealthy in Australia are at unprecedented levels. They benefitted nearly $40 billion from seven major tax concessions in 2019-20. The avarice of the rich is robbing disadvantaged schools and other public services of much-needed revenue. It has huge social and economic costs.

The latest tax expenditure statement (now called Tax Expenditures and Insights Statement) shows that the top 10% of taxable income earners received $39.1 billion from just seven forms of tax concessions. The total revenue forgone from these seven tax concessions in 2019-20 was a$84.4 billion and 46% of this went to the top 10% of income earners.

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50 Wealthy Private Schools Raked In Over $600 Million in Donations & Investment Income

The wealthiest, most exclusive private schools in Australia are raking in millions of dollars in donations and investment income. These millions are ignored in assessing the need for government funding. This is a major flaw in how private schools are funded. The flaw means the schools are massively over-funded by the taxpayer. Funding of private schools must be overhauled.

New figures obtained from the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) show that 50 private schools received $611 million in donations and investment income over five years from 2017 to 2021 (see table below). Donations totalled $461 million and investment income was $50 million. Just 10 schools raked in $291 million, or nearly one-third of the total of donations and investments. The average income from these sources was $12.2 million per school over the five years. This is in addition to their income from fees and other charges.

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Wealthy WA Private Schools Rake in Millions in Donations

The wealthiest most exclusive private schools in Western Australia are raking in millions of dollars in donations and investment income. These millions are ignored in assessing the need for government funding. It exposes a major flaw in how private schools are funded. The flaw means the schools are massively over-funded by the taxpayer. Funding of private schools must be overhauled.

New figures obtained from the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) show that 11 WA private schools received $69 million in donations and investment income over five years from 2017 to 2021 (see table below). Donations totalled $53.2 million and investment income was $15.8 million. Just one school, Christ Church Grammar, raked in over half the total of donations and investments. The average income from these sources for the other ten schools was $3.3 million per school over the five years.

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Wealthy Qld Private Schools Rake in Millions in Donations

The wealthiest most exclusive private schools in Queensland are raking in millions of dollars in donations and investment income. These millions are ignored in assessing the need for government funding. It exposes a major flaw in how private schools are funded. The flaw means the schools are massively over-funded by the taxpayer. Funding of private schools must be overhauled.

New figures obtained from the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) show that 23 Queensland private schools received $118 million in donations and investment income over five years from 2017 to 2021 (see table below). Donations totalled $84 million and investment income was $34 million. Just nine schools received $83 million over the period. The average income from these sources for the 23 schools was $5 million per school over the five years.

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