The Facts About School Funding in the Northern Territory

Total government funding of Northern Territory private schools adjusted for inflation (“real funding”) increased massively between 2009 and 2017 while funding for public schools was cut. Even during the Gonski funding period of 2013-2017 the funding increases for private schools were 20-30 times that for public schools.

The NT Government took the opportunity of increased Commonwealth funding for public schools to massively cut its own real funding of public schools.

Government funding increases have been badly mis-directed in favouring private schools. About 83% of disadvantaged students in the Northern Territory are in public schools and 88% of disadvantaged schools are public schools.

Under the new Commonwealth/Northern Territory funding agreement, NT public schools will continue to be badly under-funded to 2023 and beyond while private schools will be nearly fully funded by 2023.

Total income of schools 2017

The total income of Catholic and Independent schools in the Northern Territory is significantly higher than for public schools. The total income of public schools was $21,649 per student compared to $23,721 in Catholic schools and $23,338 in Independent schools and [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 $1,070 (-5.9%) per student but increased by $3,848 (25.6%) in Catholic schools and by $3,038 (19.6%) for Independent schools [Chart 2].

The increased income disparity between public and private schools was due to a massive cut in funding of public schools by the Northern Territory Government which more than offset increased Commonwealth funding [Chart 2].

Real government funding for public schools fell by $764 (-4.4%) per student while funding for Catholic schools increased by $4,048 per student (35.3%) and for Independent schools by $2,535 (23.3%).

The Commonwealth increased real funding for public schools by $4,013 (200.4%) per student, by $4,245 (48.4%) in Catholic schools and by $2,904 (37.8%) for Independent schools.

The Northern Territory Government cut real funding for public schools by $4,777 (-31.2%) per student compared to cuts of only $198 (-7.4%) per student in Catholic and $369 (-11.4%) per student in Independent schools.

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 $113 (0.7%) compared to $2,996 (18.9%) in Catholic schools and $2,811 (17.9%) in Independent schools [Chart 3].

The increased income disparity between public and private schools was due to a massive cut in funding of public schools by the Northern Territory Government which almost fully offset increased Commonwealth funding [Chart 3].

Increases in real government funding per student massively favoured Catholic and Independent schools. Government funding for Catholic schools increased by $1,897 (13.9%) per student and by $2,567 (23.6%) in Independent schools compared to an increase of only $87 (0.5%) in public schools.

The Commonwealth increased real funding for public schools by more than for private schools. Its funding for public schools increased by $3,228 (115.8%) per student compared to $2,125 (19.5%) for Catholic schools $2,400 (29.3%) for Independent schools.

The Northern Territory Government cut real funding for public schools by $3.141 (-23%) per student compared to a cut of only $228 (-8.4%) per student in Catholic schools and an increase of $168 (6.2%) in Independent schools.

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 $1,098 (48.8%) per student and Independent schools by $85 (1.8%).

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.

Northern Territory public schools will remain badly under-funded indefinitely while private schools will be nearly fully funded

Under the new Commonwealth/Northern Territory funding agreement Northern Territory public schools will only be funded at 76.6% of the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) by 2023 and there is no commitment to ever get to 100%. In contrast, private schools will be funded at 95% of their SRS by 2023.

Under the agreement, the Commonwealth will reduce its funding of Territory public schools from 23.1% of their SRS in 2018 to 21.6% by 2023 while the Territory Government will only increase its share from 56% to 59% by 2023. However, an accounting trick in the agreement allows the Territory Government to claim other non-school based expenditure up to 4% of the SRS towards its commitment. This means it can effectively reduce its funding to 55% of the SRS by 2023 rather than increase its funding. Consequently, Territory public schools will only be funded at 76.6% of their SRS by 2023. The cumulative under-funding to 2023 will amount to about $1.3 billion. There is no commitment to increase the Territory share beyond 2023 as in the other Commonwealth/state agreements.

The Commonwealth has guaranteed that Territory private schools will be funded at 80% of their SRS by 2023 (they are currently funded at 70%). They will continue to be funded at 15.1% of their SRS by the Territory Government. Thus, Northern Territory private schools will be funded at 95% of their SRS by 2023 – much more than for public schools.

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 Northern Territory 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

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