Sydney’s Wealthiest Schools Get Millions in Over-Funding

The current funding model for private schools is delivering millions of dollars in over-funding to many of Sydney’s most privileged families and schools. In 2010, 20 primary and secondary schools in Sydney’s wealthiest suburbs were over-funded by $42 million [see table below]. Their total funding was over double that warranted by their assessed socio-economic status.

Schools were over-funded by up to $4,000 per student. Several primary schools, including St. Michael’s in Lane Cove, Sacred Heart in Mosman, Holy Family in Lindfield, Sacred Heart in Pymble and Father John Therry Catholic school in Balmain, were over-funded by more than $3,500 per student. Their actual funding was 3-4 times more than their assessed SES funding rate. Ten primary schools were over-funded by a total of $14.6 million.

Among the secondary schools, Marist College on the North Shore was over-funded by $4,064 per student while Loreto Kirribilli was over-funded by $3,315 per student. Others were over-funded by over $2,000 per student. The actual funding for many was 2-3 times more than their assessed SES rate. Ten secondary schools were over-funded by a total of $27.2 million.

The SES funding model for private schools purports to fund schools according to need as measured by the socio-economic status of families. However, it only strictly applies to about half of all private schools. About 50% of private schools and about 60% of private school students are funded more than is warranted by their assessed SES score.

This over-funding is the result of the “no losers” guarantee given by the Howard Government that schools receiving high levels of funding under the previous scheme would not have their funding reduced. The over-funding costs taxpayers about $700 million a year and much of it goes to higher SES schools.

This is a scandalous waste of taxpayer funds on the most privileged families and schools while many disadvantaged schools continue to be denied the funding they need to improve student outcomes. The additional federal funding for disadvantaged schools amounts to less than $500 per student.

The SES funding model is benefitting the most well-off families in Australia at the expense of the most disadvantaged families.

The current review of school funding must come up with a fairer model that directs government funding to where it is most needed, not to where it is least needed. It must ensure increased funding for government schools because they enrol the vast majority of disadvantaged students.

Trevor Cobbold

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