New figures show that, adjusted for inflation, government funding for private schools has increased since 2009, while funding for public schools has been cut. National Convenor of Save Our Schools, Trevor Cobbold, said that the new figures reveal the disastrous state of funding for public schools.
“Public school funding in Australia is in dire straits. Total government (federal & state/territory) funding for public schools in Australia fell by $224 per student between 2009 and 2013 while funding for Catholic schools increased by $716 per student and by $574 per Independent school student.
“The changes represent a cut in real funding for public schools of 1.9% and an increase of 8% for Catholic and Independent schools.
“The decline in real government funding of public schools was due to a large reduction in state and territory government funding:
•State/territory funding for public schools fell by 3.5% per student compared to an increase of 4.2% for Catholic schools 2.7% for Independent schools.
•Federal Government funding for public schools increased by 7.3% compared to 9.4% for Catholic schools and 10% for Independent schools.
“As a result of these trends, Independent schools now have total resource advantage of nearly 50% over public schools. In 2013, the total income from all sources for Independent schools was $18,590 per student compared to $12,576 in public schools. The income of Catholic schools slightly exceeded that of public schools.
“Government funding has provided Independent schools with their huge resource advantage. The difference in total income between Independent and public schools was $6014 per student which was more than accounted for by government funding to Independent schools of $7790 per student.
“Government funding increases in recent years have been totally misdirected. They have favoured more privileged schools over disadvantaged schools.
• Only 4-7% of low SES, Indigenous, remote area, very remote area and disability students attend Independent schools and 9-17% attend Catholic schools in contrast to 76-87% who attend public schools.
• Disadvantaged students comprise only 14% of Independent school enrolments and 23% of Catholic schools compared to 46% of public school enrolments.
• 94% of schools with more than 50% of their enrolments from low SES families are public schools.
“The resource advantage of private schools is compounded because they serve only a small proportion of disadvantaged students compared to public schools. Public schools have to do more with their more limited resources because they have a far heavier disadvantage burden.”
The new figures were recently provided to Senate Estimates by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). The figures have been adjusted for inflation in a new paper published by Save Our Schools. The adjustment for inflation allows a comparison of the quantity of human and material resources available to schools over time by discounting cost increases.
Mr. Cobbold said that the large increases in real government funding for Catholic and Independent schools and the cuts to public schools are the legacy of pre-Gonski funding policies.
“The funding trends demonstrate why there must be a complete overhaul of school funding in Australia as recommended by the Gonksi report. The Gonski funding plan set a new direction in school funding aimed at reducing disadvantage in education.
“The dismemberment of the plan by the Federal Government and several state/territory governments will see the continuation of the large gap in school outcomes between rich and poor. This will have severe costs for disadvantaged students, the economy and society generally.
“Reducing disadvantage in education is a matter of fairness and social justice. It is a matter of national values and the nature of our society. But, it is also a matter of economics.
“Reducing disadvantage in education generates large economic returns. It increases the general skill level of the workforce, earnings, productivity and economic growth. It also leads to better health outcomes, reduced dependency on welfare and reduced crime which also reduces the longer term pressures on government expenditure in these areas.
“The individual, social and economic benefits of reducing disadvantage in education will not be achieved without a thoroughgoing re-orientation of the distribution of school funding and a large increase in funding to support students most in need. A renewed commitment to a national school funding plan is desperately needed.”