The Turnbull government has handed an extra $7.1 million to 102 of the richest private schools in the country.
This is the first instalment of a $40 million National Adjustment Assistance Fund created to help “vulnerable and disadvantaged” schools transition to Gonski 2.0 – the cut-price Liberal version of the education funding model implemented by the previous Labor government.
For education minister Simon Birmingham, the “needs-based” bonus will help overfunded schools, mostly in NSW and Victoria, which find it “unreasonably hard to adjust to the reduction of funding”.
Schools set to benefit include Loreto Kirribilli, which is massively overfunded at 196 percent of the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) – the Gonski measure of public funding needed to ensure adequate education is provided. This is on top of the school’s own fundraising initiatives and tuition fees of up to $30,000 per year.
Despite public schools remaining well below the SRS, Birmingham promises an increase in investment into non-government schools of 4.2 percent every year.
Data from the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority show that, in Victoria, capital expenditure by private schools per student is seven times that of public schools. More than $500 million was spent on capital works in 2016.
Australian Education Union president Correna Haythorpe argues that public funding needs an injection of $1.9 billion or it will never catch up. She told the Age:
“While public schools wait for new classrooms to cope with growing enrolments, elite private schools are gold-plating pools and gyms and engaging in the educational equivalent of an arms race.”
Victorian Presbyterian Ladies’ College recently announced a $31 million high-capacity performing arts centre equipped with an orchestra lift. Caulfield Grammar plans to spend $47.3 million on an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an adjustable floor to cater for any water sport, including water polo.
Documents released late last year by the federal Education Department showed that Gonski 2.0 will massively increase the number of private schools above the SRS – from 143 to 531 by the time it is rolled out – while public schools will remain underfunded.