Private Schools Over-Funded by $6 Billion: Public Schools Under-Funded by $60 Billion

New research by Save Our Schools shows that private schools will be over-funded by $6 billion from 2021 to 2029 under current funding arrangements while public schools will be under-funded by nearly $60 billion. SOS national Convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said that the new figures show that school funding in Australia is heavily biased against public schools.

“The Morrison Government has abandoned all pretence at funding private schools according to need and it has washed its hands of ensuring that public schools are fully funded. Private schools are lavishly funded while public schools are starved of funds needed to make a difference for the vast majority of disadvantaged students.

“The blatant favouring of privilege over disadvantage is unconscionable. Australia has one of the most inequitable education systems in the OECD. Achievement gaps between rich and poor are huge because preferential funding of private schools gives them a massive human and material resource advantage.”

Mr. Cobbold said that private schools will be funded at over 100% of their Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) from 2021 until at least 2029. The sources of the over-funding are:

  • $2.4 billion from funding at over the Commonwealth target of 80% of the SRS;
  • $2.5 billion from funding at over the States target of 20% of the SRS;
  • $1.2 billion through the Commonwealth’s Choice and Accountability slush fund (from 2020).

Mr. Cobbold said that these figures are based on the Government’s own data provided in Senate Estimates and on figures published in the Commonwath0-State bilateral funding agreements.

“However, this over-funding is just the tip of the ice-berg. Over-funding is under-estimated because the Direct Measure of Income (DMI) method of calculating the financial need of private schools ignores income provided by grandparents and untaxed capital gains income as well as donations to private schools. As a result, the financial need of schools is over-estimated and they receive even more funding than warranted.

“If other sources of family income and multi-million donations to schools were taken into account, government over-funding would amount to billions more than we have estimated.”

SOS estimates that public schools will be underfunded by $57.9 billion to 2029. Mr. Cobbold said that this is the result of the bilateral funding agreements between the Commonwealth and the states.

“The Morrison Government has conspired with state governments through the bilateral funding agreements to under-fund public schools indefinitely.

“While private schools will be funded at over 100% of their SRS, the target for public schools is 95%. Even this lower target is a deceit. It is actually only 91% because the agreements allow the states to count some expenditures excluded from the definition of the SRS as part of their target of 75%.

“The same accounting trick is not applied to state funding of private schools. They still get more than 100% of their SRS to 2029. It is a stark example of government favouritism of private schools over public schools.”

Mr. Cobbold said that school funding in Australia must be completely overhauled to re-focus on need.

“The Morrison Government has completed the demolition of the Gonski funding model after years of sabotage by the Abbott and Turnbull governments. There is now no option other than to return to the drawing board and design a new funding model to address disadvantage and improve equity in education.”

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