The State of School Funding in Australia

The following is a summary of a new Education Funding Brief by Save Our Schools. The full Brief can be downloaded below.

Income per student in Independent and Catholic schools exceeds that of public schools. The national average income per student in all Independent schools was $25,649 in 2022 and $19,747 in Catholic schools compared to $18,076 in public schools.

Independent schools have a large resource advantage over public schools in all states, especially in NSW and Victoria. Income per student in Catholic schools is greater than in public schools in all states except NSW and the ACT where resource levels are similar. Victoria was the worst performing state for resource gaps between public and private schools.

Government funding increases are the major factor behind the resource advantage of private schools. Government funding has favoured Catholic and Independent schools over public schools since 2009. Government funding adjusted for inflation increased by $2,901 per student for Catholic schools between 2009 and 2022 and by $2,478 per student in Independent schools compared to $1,621 in public schools in Australia.

Commonwealth Government funding increases heavily favoured Catholic and Independent schools over public schools in all states. Commonwealth  funding increases for Catholic and Independent schools was more than double that for public schools – $2,687 per student for Catholic schools and $2,345 for Independent schools compared to $1,021 for public schools.

Despite their primary funding role, the states have provided only small funding increase for public schools. State funding per student for public schools increased by only $600 from 2009 to 2022. State funding per student for Catholic schools increased by $214 and by $133 for Independent schools. The Western Australian and Northern Territory governments cut their funding for public schools by large amounts.

The resource advantage of private schools was supported by significant increases in income from fees, charges, donations, etc. while it fell in public schools.

The bias towards the funding of private schools and the under-funding of public schools is a major factor behind the large achievement gaps between rich and poor in Australia. Despite enrolling the vast majority of students with the most learning challenges, public schools are massively under-funded. Public schools are only funded at 87.6% of their Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) in 2024 while private schools are funded at 104.9% of their SRS.

The new funding agreements being negotiated between the Commonwealth and state governments must ensure that public schools are genuinely fully funded by 2028. This includes ending the accounting tricks that defraud public schools.

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