Fighting for Equity in Education

The struggle is long but hope is longer

New Figures Show States Have Cut Funding to Public Schools

Tuesday May 29, 2018

The following is a summary of a new research paper published by Save Our Schools on the state of school funding in Australia. It can be downloaded below.

New figures show that government funding increases have massively favoured private schools over public schools across Australia since 2009. Total government funding per student in public schools was cut between 2009 and 2016 while large funding increases were provided to Catholic and Independent schools. Even during the Gonski funding period of 2013-2016 funding increases for private schools far outstripped the increase for public schools.

While the Commonwealth Government increased funding for public and private schools, all state and territory governments (hereafter referred to as “states”) cut funding for public schools by more than the Commonwealth increase and nearly all increased funding for Catholic and Independent schools.

The introduction of the Gonski funding arrangements made little difference to this trend in the first three years of its operation from 2013 to 2016. While the Commonwealth increased funding for public schools (and private schools), all states except Victoria and Tasmania cut funding for public schools. The Commonwealth increase was sufficient to offset the state cuts in some jurisdictions but not in others.

The new figures were published last month by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority but have been adjusted here for rising costs by a composite index of the Wage Price Index for public and private education and training and the Consumer Price Index.

School income 2009-2016
The total recurrent income per student of Catholic and Independent schools in Australia and in nearly all states and territories was significantly higher than in public schools in 2016. The average total income per student in public schools in Australia was $13,747 compared to $21,092 per student in Independent schools and $15,026 in Catholic schools.

The total income (adjusted for inflation – hereafter called “real” income/funding) of public schools fell by $174 per student between 2009 and 2016 but increased massively for private schools. The total real income of Catholic schools increased by $1,582 per student and by $1,866 in Independent schools.

The disparity in real income per student between public and private schools has widened considerably since 2009 – from 36% to 55% higher for Independent schools and from 6% lower to 10% higher for Catholic schools.

Government funding changes accounted for the large part of the increased income disparity between public and private schools. Fees and donations in private schools also increased in real terms.

Government funding 2009-2016
Australia
Average real total government (Commonwealth and state) funding per student in public schools across Australia was cut by $110 per student (-1%) between 2009 and 2016 while funding for Catholic schools increased by $1,171 per student (15.2%) and for Independent schools by $1,026 (16.3%).

The cut in real government funding for public schools was due to significant cuts by state governments which more than offset increased Commonwealth funding. Real Commonwealth funding for public schools increased by $370 per student (23.1%), but state government funding was cut by $481 (-5.4%).

Both the Commonwealth and state governments increased real funding for private schools. Commonwealth funding for Catholic schools increased by $1,091 per student (18.9%) and by $950 per student in Independent schools (20.8%). State government funding for Catholic schools increased by $80 per student (4.1%) and by $76 per student (4.4%) in Independent schools.

States and territories
Real total government funding for public schools was cut in all states except Queensland and Tasmania while private schools received large funding increases in all states. The funding increases for Catholic schools were larger than for Independent schools in all states.

The largest cuts in real government funding for public schools occurred in Victoria (-$267 per student), Western Australia (-$806), and the Northern Territory (-$1,282). The largest increases for Catholic and Independent schools were in Victoria ($1,360 & $1,166 respectively), Tasmania ($1,917 & $1,738) and the Northern Territory ($3,666 & $1,609).

The Commonwealth increased funding for public schools in every state, but every state government cut funding to public schools. The state cuts to public schools were very large in most cases: NSW -$523 per student; Victoria -$458; Queensland -$144; Western Australia -$961; South Australia -$370, Tasmania -$264; ACT -$410 and the Northern Territory -$3,026.

Increases in Commonwealth funding for Catholic and Independents schools were over double that for public schools in all states.

Most state governments increased funding for private schools while cutting funding for public schools. For example, the Victorian Government increased funding for Catholic schools by $254 per student and by $131 for Independent schools while cutting funding for public schools by $458. Where cuts to funding for private schools occurred, they were much smaller than the cuts to public schools. For example, the NSW Government cut funding to public schools by $523 per student compared to only $77 per Catholic student and $10 per Independent student.

School income in the Gonski period: 2013-2016
The total real income per student in Catholic schools increased by $699 between 2013 and 2016 and by $827 in Independent schools compared to only $86 in public schools. The disparity in real income per student between public and private schools widened from 48% to 55% for Independent schools and from 4% to 10% higher for Catholic schools.

Government funding changes accounted for the large part of the increased income disparity between public and private schools. Fees and donations in private schools also increased in real terms.

Government funding in the Gonski period: 2013-2016
Australia
In the first three years of the Gonski funding plan from 2013 to 2016, average real total government funding per student in Catholic and Independent schools across Australia increased by over four times that in public schools. Real total government funding for public schools increased by $123 per student (1.2%) compared to $524 per Catholic student (6.3%) and $507 per Independent student (7.4%).

The smaller increase for public schools was due to a smaller increase in Commonwealth funding and a cut in state funding. Commonwealth funding for public schools increased by $260 per student (15.2%) compared to $532 per student (8.4%) in Catholic schools and $482 per student (9.6%) in Independent schools.

State governments cut funding for public schools by $137 per student (-1.6%) compared to a cut in funding for Catholic schools of $8 per student (-0.4%) and an increase of $25 per student (1.4%) for Independent schools.

States and territories
Catholic and Independent schools received much larger increases in government funding than public schools between 2013 and 2016 in all states. Total government funding for public schools increased in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania but by far less than for Catholic and Independent schools. For example, funding for NSW public schools increased by $3 per student compared to $427 in Catholic schools and $363 for Independent schools.

Funding for public schools was cut in Western Australia (-$76 per student), South Australia (-$151), the ACT (-$606) and the Northern Territory (-$431) but increased for Catholic and Independent schools in Western Australia ($251 & $336 respectively), South Australia ($344 & $408) and the Northern Territory ($1,516 & $1,641) and for Catholic schools in the ACT ($879).

The larger increases for Catholic and Independent schools were due to higher increases by the Commonwealth and significant cuts to public school funding all states except Victoria and Tasmania.

Commonwealth funding increases for Catholic and Independent schools were generally much larger than for public schools – in nearly all cases they were double or more those for public schools. In Western Australia, the increase for Catholic and Independent schools was 9-10 times that for public schools and the increase for Catholic schools in the ACT was over 10 times that for public schools.

Six state governments cut funding of public schools during the Gonski funding period. Large cuts to public schools occurred in Queensland (-$273 per student), South Australian (-$296), ACT ($-660) and Northern Territory ($-1,391).

Several states also cut funding to Catholic and Independent schools, but generally by small amounts, while others increased funding. The cuts were generally much smaller than for public schools in the same jurisdiction.

Conclusions
Government funding increases since 2009 have strongly favoured private schools. Since the introduction of the Gonski model in 2014, government funding increases for public schools have continued to lag far behind those for Catholic and Independent schools.

State governments have spectacularly failed in their responsibility to adequately support public schools. Every state has cut real funding for public schools since 2009. Even during the Gonski plan years, six of the eight state governments continued to cut real funding for public schools.

The Turnbull Government has abandoned the concept of a national school funding model and reverted to separate funding roles for the Commonwealth and the states. Its new funding arrangements guarantee future funding increases for private schools but not for public schools because this is left to state governments which are responsible for about 80% of the funding of public schools.

Public schools are likely to remain significantly under-funded under the new Commonwealth arrangements unless state governments provide a major funding boost for public schools. Private schools will be over-funded unless state governments cut their funding.

The immediate priority is to ensure a funding boost for public schools by the states. The longer-term goal remains to implement a nationally integrated funding model directed at reducing disadvantage in education and which ends special deals and over-funding of private schools.

Trevor Cobbold

The State of School Funding in Australia.pdf

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