Private schools’ Budget windfall: 140,000 public students miss out

The NSW Government’s $100 million increase in funding for non-government schools in Tuesday’s Budget would have benefitted more than 140,000 students in public schools, according to NSW Teachers Federation analysis.

The analysis described the Berejiklian Government’s 15 per cent increase in funding of non-government schools over 2018 to 2020 as “particularly shocking”.

Federation’s breakdown of the Budget found that: “If the NSW government in 2019-20 chose to divert the $100 million funding increase from private schools to targeted public schools, more than 140,000 students would then be in public schools fully funded by NSW government to agreed Gonski SRS target levels.”

Non-government school funding in the Budget was increased by $100 million or 7.7 per cent for 2019-20 compared with the previous year, when the sector received a 7.5 per cent increase in the 2018 Budget.

“In the past two years the NSW government has delivered more than 15 per cent growth in funding for non-government schools,” Federation President Maurie Mulheron said.

“The 15 per cent growth in funding for non-government schools is of particular concern given that non-government schools are already over-funded by NSW in terms of its 20 per cent commitment towards the Gonski School Resourcing Standard, the SRS”.

Mr Mulheron said the funding increase was even more galling to the point of being hypocritical.

“The NSW Government signed an agreement with the Commonwealth in 2018 to bring down its share of spending towards non-government schools (based on the SRS),” he said.

“In its budgeting and in its practice, the NSW government continues year in and year out to deliver over-funding to a sector that should be getting a smaller share of the pie.

“The consequence of this very real growth in the over-funding of the non-government sector is that the resourcing gap between public and private schools will not be closed as was intended by the agreement struck with the Commonwealth.

“The opportunity cost of continuing to over-spend on the non-government system is borne by children in public schools.”

The Liberal-National Government also allocated $500 million over four years to support non-government schools to build, extend or upgrade their facilities to provide more student places in growing communities. This is despite the fact that Catholic schools are currently experiencing decreasing enrolment numbers across NSW.

Further, the latest available ACARA data from 2017 shows NSW non-government schools spent, on average, more than $2600 per student on capital goods and buildings, totalling more than $1.1 billion.

When this figure is cast against the public sector, NSW public schools – which have double the number of students – were allocated a total of only $490 million in capital spending. On a per student basis, the NSW Government spends $626 on public school students, which is less than a quarter of that spent by private schools.

“There is no economic or equity justification for any NSW Government to continue to further subsidise a massive imbalance in capital expenditure between public and private schools,” the report stated.

“That public schools are the direct responsibility of the NSW Government makes this discriminatory approach towards capital spending not only massively unfair but appears as wilfully negligent of the children that are meant to be provided for served by the NSW Government.”

Federation noted the Budget’s increase in capital spending for the public sector is to meet projected enrolment growth as well as reducing the massive maintenance backlog. The union also noted that the allocation of an additional 4600 teachers across public schools over four years is to meet expected enrolment growth.