Government Funding of Public Prmary Schools

The following is an overview of a paper on primary school funding and outcomes prepared for the Australian Government Primary Principals’ Association. It can be downloaded below.

Over the past twelve years, government funding increases have heavily favoured private primary schools over public schools. Since 2009, funding for private primary schools has increased by about three times that for public schools. Funding increases for Catholic and Independent primary schools have ensured their income per student is much higher than that of public primary schools. This provides private primary schools with a large human and material resource advantage.

Public schools are massively under-funded and this will continue until at least the end of the decade unless the current funding arrangements are dramatically revised. Public schools in all states except the ACT will be only funded to 91% or less of their Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) by 2029. By contrast, Catholic and Independent schools will be funded at over 100% of their SRS.

The misdirection of large funding increases to the more privileged Catholic and Independent school sectors has major consequences for national student achievement because money matters in education. Inadequate funding means that public primary schools cannot fully address major learning challenges. Public schools enrol over 80% of low SES, Indigenous, remote area and high disability students. Large proportions of disadvantaged primary school students do not achieve national standards in literacy and numeracy and the achievement gaps between them and high SES students amount to about two years of learning by Year 5.

The new National School Reform Agreement and the new Commonwealth-State funding agreements to be negotiated next year which will apply from 2025 should ensure that public schools are funded at 100% of their SRS. This should include removing the provisions in the current agreements that allow the states to defraud public schools by counting expenditures excluded from the design of the SRS towards their share of the SRS.

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