Restrict Funding Increases for Wealthy Private Schools

The public education group Save Our Schools today called on the Federal Government to restrict future funding increases for wealthier private schools. SOS National Convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said that modelling based on the funding announcement last week by the Prime Minister shows that private schools would get a huge windfall gain of nearly $2 billion a year.

“The PM’s commitments last week could give an additional $1.9 billion to private schools. Medium and high socio-economic status (SES) schools would get $1.8 billion; low SES private schools would get only $100 million.

“High SES schools currently funded at their SES score rate would receive the biggest increases per student. The average increase per primary student would be $2,915 and $3,700 per secondary student. Funding for low SES schools would only increase by $1,019 and $1,344 per student.

“Just 73 of Australia’s most elite and wealthy schools would get an increase of $288 million. Many would get increases of $4-10 million each. For example, in NSW, Barker College (the Federal Education Minister’s old school) would get an increase of over $8 million. Other big increases include SCEGGS Redlands ($5.5 million), Abbotsleigh ($5.4 million), Newington College ($5.3 million), Cranbrook ($5 million), and The King’s School ($4.7 million).

“In Victoria, the biggest winners would include Caulfield Grammar ($9.6 million), Wesley College ($9.4 million), Carey Grammar ($7.9 million), Methodist Ladies College ($7.8 million), Xavier College ($7.3 million), Scotch College ($7.1 million) and Melbourne Grammar ($6.8 million). The most expensive private school in Australia – Geelong Grammar – would get an increase of $4.1 million.

“Elite schools in other states would get increases of $4-6 million.

“Such increases would put a huge hole in the Gonski funding bucket of $5 billion for disadvantaged government and private schools, unless the Government is prepared to add another $2 billion to it. The wealthiest schools and families in Australia would gain at the expense of disadvantaged schools and students. It would be completely contrary to the direction set by the Gonski report.

“The huge increase for better-off schools would exhaust the proposed Federal Government funding contribution of 30% of the Gonski recommendation and make funding for disadvantaged schools wholly dependent on state and territory governments coming to the party.

Mr. Cobbold called on the Federal Government to restrict increases for wealthy private schools when it responds to the Gonski report.

“Increased funding of this order to the most elite schools in Australia would be scandalous. The Federal Government must put a limit on the increases so that a larger pool of funding is available for low SES government and private schools.

“The Government’s funding priority should be to disadvantaged students in government and private schools to reduce the massive achievement gap between rich and poor in Australia. There is no priority to add to the privileges of the wealthy.”

Mr. Cobbold said that the Prime Minister’s commitments to provide increased funding to all private schools and to fund them all on a consistent basis have put the Government in a bind.

“The commitments will necessitate the construction of a new set of funding rates. Not only would “funding maintained” (FM) schools get to keep their over-funding, currently running at $615 million a year, but they would also get an increase in funding. This would drive huge funding increases for the 1,595 non-FM schools currently funded at their SES score rate so that all schools are funded at the same rate at each SES score.”

The details of the likely private school funding increases are contained in a paper released today by Save Our Schools. Mr. Cobbold said that various funding schedules can be designed to give larger or smaller increases.

“Our modelling is based on Government statements to date. The precise amounts will depend on further details to be provided by the Government, but clearly the Government will have to do something to limit the increases to higher SES schools if it is serious about giving priority to lifting funding for disadvantaged schools.”

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