School funding inequity laid bare by new report

A new report reveals the stark funding gap between private and public schools, with one Sydney private school, Cranbrook, spending more on a new pool and expanded fitness and drama facilities in 2021 ($63.5 million) than governments spent on 2,549 public schools which educate over 472,000 students.

The report is being released as state and federal education ministers meet today. For NSW schools it also finds:

  • A 30% growth in demountables between 2011 and 2022 to over 5,000.
  • No ongoing capital funding from the Commonwealth despite calls from the NSW Government (NSW submission to NSRA review).
  • The Commonwealth capital grants program for disadvantaged schools delivered funding to two of NSW’s richest schools, Loreto Normanhurst and Newington.
  • Average annual per student capital investment 2012-2021 was $1,052 for public and $2,331 for private.
  • Knox Grammar and Shore spent $222.9 million on capital works in the five year period 2017-21. This is more than was spent on public school capital works in the entire state of Tasmania over that time ($186.6 million),

NSW Teachers Federation Senior Vice President, Natasha Watt, said public school students were being shortchanged by inequitable funding.

“Private schools are flushed with the public’s money, purchasing skyscrapers and constructing extravagant castles, while public school students are cramming into demountable classrooms. This inequity is stark and it must be addressed,” Watt said.

“The Prime Minister must uphold his commitment to fully support and fund public schools. We fully endorse the NSW Government’s demand for a funding agreement that covers both ongoing operations and infrastructure costs. Despite private schools being slated to receive nearly a billion dollars in capital funds from the Commonwealth over four years, public schools stand to receive no capital funding after this year without an extension of the current school upgrade initiative by the government.

“The Prime Minister has a critical role in levelling the playing field through significant investments in public education.”

NSW public schools are slated to receive only 89 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard, the minimum level of funding needed to properly attend to the learning needs of all students. That equates to a $1.9 billion shortfall.

“This gap must be plugged,” Watt said. “It would mean more permanent teachers, allowing smaller class sizes, and more one-on-one time for students with complex needs.

“Giving all children the start they deserve will allow them to make the most of their potential and contribute to their community and the nation.”

The recent salary agreement struck between the NSW Government and the Teachers Federation is a critical step to ending the teacher shortage in NSW, but the Commonwealth must now also step up.

“We wholeheartedly support the NSW position that the Commonwealth must do more when it comes to meeting the level of funding needed to properly attend to the learning needs of all students,” Watt said.

Recent data from the Productivity Commission reveal the growing divide in resources between the educational sectors over the past decade. Funding for public schools per student saw a real increase of 20.3% (or 2% annually) from 2012-13 to 2021-22, whereas funding for private schools from government sources grew by 37% in the same timeframe.