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New research suggests funding gap between private and public schools

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Australian Education Union research suggests a funding gap between public and private schools in Australia.
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A new report from the Australian Education Union (AEU) has highlighted the extent of the funding gap between private and public schools.

It found about 1% of Australian public schools are meeting minimum funding standards, compared to 98% of private schools.

Private schools will receive an estimated $815 million in over-funding this year. There is a projected $4.5 billion funding shortfall for public schools.

School funding

All schools receive government funding — a combination of Federal, state and territory support. Further, private schools receive income through student tuition fees.

Financial contributions from governments are set out in the National School Reform Agreement. This is a joint agreement between federal, state and territory governments “to lift student outcomes across Australian schools”.

The Schooling Resource Standard

The schooling resource standard (SRS) measures the minimum funding a school requires to operate.

SRS is calculated based on factors including the number of students in a school, disabilities, the level of education (primary or secondary), needs of First Nations students, and socioeconomic background.

Findings

In every Australian state, the AEU says 99% of public school funding is below SRS, while 98% of private school funding is above it. This indicates a funding gap between private and public schools.

Private school funding reaching above SRS standards includes other income streams like fees. However, according to the report, many of the “richest private schools in the nation” receive “far more than the maximum of 80% of their SRS entitlement from the Commonwealth.”

The ACT is the only Australian jurisdiction where public schools are meeting SRS funding needs. In the NT, all schools (public and private) are underfunded.

The AEU is calling for “100% funding for 100% of schools”. This is under a new national partnership which includes a goal to reach SRS in 25% of public schools by 2028.

Recommendations

The AEU recommended several strategies, including staggered increases in federal funding to support public schools.

Additionally, it recommended improved infrastructure investment “that is on par with the average investment in private schools”.

The report also called for additional spending to support teachers during a “critical shortage” of staff.

Government response

Education Minister Jason Clare told TDA the Government was “committed to working with the states and territories to get every school on a path to 100% of its fair funding level”.

Clare said he’s working to “include targets or reforms to close the education gap”. The government will renew the next National School Reform Agreement next year.

Greens Senator Penny Allman-Payne called it “the perfect opportunity to end decades of decline and fully fund the public education system.”

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