Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Private schools propped up with public funds

Despite all the talk of ‘needs based funding’, private schools are getting the lion’s share of new government funding, while the public schools that need extra resources the most are missing out.

New research from the Grattan Institute shows that spending growth for private schools has far outstripped spending growth for public schools. Public school funding grew by a measly $155 per student over the decade to 2017 while private school students received an extra $1429.

Between 2007-08 and 2016-17, combined state and federal government funding for public schools grew by just 22%, while public funding for private schools grew by 46%!

Part of the problem is cost shifting. State governments are supposed to bear 80% of all education costs, while the federal government contributes 20%. Federal government spending has increased marginally, but state governments have used the opportunity to cut back on their share.

We now have the ridiculous situation where almost one in three private schools get more taxpayer dollars than a typical public school. Far from creating ‘choice’, as the major parties claim, the current funding model merely entrenches a two-tier education system that disadvantages the poor.

Both the Liberals and Labor have defended and overseen this set-up, and both have made sure that Australia spends a lower proportion of GDP on education per student than most other OECD countries.

At the moment around $13.7 billion of government funds is handed out to private schools. Socialists demand that, as a starting point, these funds are redirected back to public schools to pay for things like reduced class sizes, more staff and better teaching resources.

On top of this education funding should be significantly increased to ensure that our schools are genuinely free and have the best facilities possible.

Capitalist ideologues like to tell us about the supremacy of the market, where the best businesses thrive. If the market works so well let private businesses – including private schools – stand on their own two feet without any taxpayer handouts.

By Socialist Party reporters