Government funding for students at elite private schools is set to exceed that for students at public schools by 2020. That is the shocking conclusion of a comprehensive report released in July.
Private school, public cost: how school funding is closing the wrong gaps estimates that government funding for Catholic and independent schools is growing at a faster rate than for public schools.
The report’s authors, Chris Bonnor and Bernie Shepherd, write that, despite recent government focus on closing the gap in student achievement, “The only gap being closed is that between government funding of its own schools and its funding of the schools that are considered to be ‘private’”.
In 2012, then opposition leader Tony Abbott, speaking to the Independent Schools Council of Australia, referred to this funding gap as an “injustice”. Let’s consider what Abbott’s justice looks like.
Data from 2013 show that private schools received on average 73 percent of what public schools received from the government. The report estimates that by 2020 the figure will be 104 percent. Government funding for Catholic schools will be $12,650 per student and the remaining private schools $11,900 per student. Each public school student will be funded only $11,800.
Not all these private schools are like Scotch College – many service people who are not that well off. But the trend points to the increasing privatisation of education. That can only be a bad thing. It will lead to greater differentiation and a far more unequal distribution of education resources.