Deep school funding inequality entrenched over past decade

New analysis of ACARA data by Trevor Cobbold from Save our Schools Australia shows that funding inequality has been exacerbated under the Morrison Government’s funding legislation and special deals for private schools. Private school funding over the past decade has grown up to nine times faster in real terms than public school funding

Analysis of 10 years of school funding data reveals:

  • Catholic and private schools are far better resourced than public schools in every state, even though public schools enrol more than 80% of all disadvantaged students, and 95% of all disadvantaged schools are public schools.
  • The total recurrent income per student in Catholic and private schools in Australia was higher than for public schools in 2018. The average total income per student in public schools in Australia was $14,940 compared to $23,029 per student in private schools and $16,401 in Catholic schools.
  • Between 2009 and 2018, the increase in total income per student, adjusted for inflation (‘real’ income) for private schools was up to nine times higher than for public schools. The real total income for private schools increased by $2,585 (16.9%) per student and by $2,096 (19.7%) in Catholic schools, compared to an increase of only $241 (2.1%) per student in public schools.
  • Government funding increases have been pivotal in ensuring that private schools have far more resources than public schools. Government funding accounted for 77% of the increase in Catholic school income and 62% of the increase for private schools.
  • The increase in real Commonwealth funding for private schools was more than twice that for public schools. Catholic school funding increased by $1,502 (26.2%) per student and for private schools by $1,427 (31.5%) compared to $637 (39.7%) for public schools.

Australian Education Union Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that the analysis of the ACARA data exposed the funding favouritism shown to private schools by the Morrison Government.

“This analysis shows that per-student growth in private school funding in the past decade was up to nine times higher than for public schools,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“This is a shameful indictment on the Morrison Government’s school funding legislation funding agreements and special deals, which have privileged the private school sector instead of delivering funding to the schools in most need.”

“The Morrison Government says that it supports needs-based funding, yet it has overtly favoured private schools with special deals that have resulted in funding growth which has rapidly outstripped that of the public sector over the past decade,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“This analysis shows the deep inequality that exists under the Morrison Government’s school funding legislation and must be an urgent call to action for all governments to address the growing funding gaps for public schools.” 

“Prime Minister Scott Morrison has delivered a new age of school inequality. This is set to continue due to the many special deals his government has provided to private schools,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The Morrison Government’s school funding agreements mean that by 2023 all private schools will be at or above the minimum funding benchmark, the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) while the vast majority of public schools will be below that benchmark.”

“Public schools teach the vast majority of students, including 80% of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who have the highest level of need,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“For every child to achieve their full potential, Australia’s funding inequality must be rectified. It is a joint responsibility between the Commonwealth and State and Territory governments to ensure that public schools have the resources needed to cater for the educational needs of every child.”