Who’s got it right on private-public school funding?

by Sarah Bachman17 Feb 2016

The private-public school funding debate can be divisive at the best of times, but just how accurate is some of the data being presented?
 
Recent MySchool data found that public funding for some of Sydney's most expensive private schools had increased at double the rate of many of the state's poorest schools.
 
A spokesman for the Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, told The Sydney Morning Herald that Commonwealth funding per student in government schools had grown at more than three times the rate of per student funding in the non-government sector in the 10 years to 2013-14.
 
“In the 10 years to 2013-14 the Commonwealth's funding grew in real terms by more than 66% in government schools and 18% in non-government schools while state and territory funding per student grew by 6.7% and 12.3% respectively,” the spokesman said.
 
Trevor Cobbold, national convenor of public school advocacy group Save Our Schools (SOS), said the data showed that the average funding increase per student for 14 selected private schools was 23% from 2009-2013.
 
In a statement released on the SOS website, Cobbold claimed that for 15 of the most disadvantaged public schools in NSW, the average increase per student was 11% over the same period.

“In NSW, government funding for Meriden School increased by 29%; Ravenswood by 28%; St Andrew's Cathedral School by 26%; and for Ascham, Kincoppal Rose Bay, The King's School and Trinity Grammar by 24%,” the report stated.


In contrast, funding for Punchbowl Boys High School fell by 3%, while funding increased for Canley Vale High School by 2%; Francis Greenway High School by 3%; and for Chester Hill High School, Lake Illawarra High School, and Windsor High School by 12%.
 
Cobbold said the figures showed Australia had “an incoherent and unfair” school funding system.

“Past government funding increases have been woefully misdirected to favour more advantaged students over disadvantaged students,” he said in a statement.

But just how fair an assessment is this?

Dr Jennifer Buckingham, a research fellow from the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), told The Sydney Morning Herald that funding increases in each sector were from different bases altogether.

"A funding increase of 23% in an independent school getting $2,000 per student in government funding will be an absolute increase of $460 per student, while a funding increase of 11%in a government school getting $15,000 in government funding will be an absolute increase of $1,650 per student," Buckingham said.
 

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