Federal funding for public education at all-time low

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The Productivity Commission’s Annual Report into Government Services (ROGS) looking at childcare, education and training has revealed that per-student total government recurrent funding to private schools has grown at 3.3 times the rate of public school funding over the last decade.

The report showed that annual per-student growth in total government funding for private schools in 2017-18 was 3.4%, compared with only 1.5% for public schools.

According to ROGS, non-government school funding per student grew 3.3 times faster than public school funding per student in the last decade, a gap that has widened further in the past year. In the ten years to 2017-18, government funding for non-government schools rose by 35.2%. Meanwhile, per-student government funding for public schools was only increased by 10.6% in the same period.

AEU federal president Correna Haythorpe said the policies of the Morrison government had entrenched the gap in funding growth between public and private schools. She said that under the federal Coalition 99% of public schools would be funded at less than the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) by 2023, while 100% of private schools would be funded at or above this benchmark.

“ROGS shows once again that per-student growth in government funding for private schools last year was more than three times greater than that for public schools,” Ms Haythorpe said. 

“It also showed government funding for public schools has grown by only 11% over the last ten years, whereas government funding for private schools has grown by 35%.” 

“Public school student enrolments are soaring, yet the Morrison government is ignoring the needs of two-thirds of Australia’s school students by refusing to provide equitable funding for public schools.” 
 
“This is patently unfair to Australia’s 2.6 million public school students, who deserve a high-quality and well-resourced education.”
 
“The report is further evidence that the Morrison government’s school funding legislation entrenches inequality, favours private schools and denies public schools the vital resources needed for our students,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“ROGS clearly shows that while government funding of private schools grows year after year, growth in government funding of public schools has actually gone backwards in relation to that of private schools,” Ms Haythorpe said. “This is an appalling situation. Where is the equity?”

“Public school funding has been growing at a slower rate than that of private schools for a decade.”

According to ROGS, in 2017-18 total government expenditure on VET fell by $252 million to a total of $6.02 billion, a decline of 4% from the previous year. This is the lowest real terms spend in any year of the last decade.  Additionally, total annual hours of training provided by government expenditure continued to fall to 36.4 million, a decline of 6.4% from last year and of 30.6% from the 2012 peak.

“This report demonstrates yet again that the Morrison government’s agenda is to strip funding from TAFE and privatise vocational education in Australia,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The Morrison government has been nothing short of a disaster for TAFE and for vocational education. TAFE funding cuts have had a devastating impact on our students, our communities and TAFE staff.”

In addition to these cuts to TAFE and VET, in October 2019 the Morrison government stripped $4 billion from the Education Investment Fund, and failed to spend nearly $1 billion in funding allocated for TAFE and training programs.

“It is clear that the Morrison government fails to appreciate the vital role that TAFE graduates play in keeping the Australian economy operating, especially in tough economic times. TAFE is instrumental in providing high-quality vocational education for students and must be prioritised as the strong public provider,” Ms Haythorpe said. 

“This reports shows that in 2018 Mr Morrison cut more than a quarter of a billion dollars in funding from TAFE and VET budgets, and that hours of provision funded by the government are now at an all-time low. The Morrison government must commit to providing preschools, schools and TAFE with the funding and resources need to provide a high-quality education for all students.” 

MEDIA CONTACT: NICK BUCHAN, 0418 288 104 

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