Tasmanian classrooms are increasingly becoming overcrowded. Picture: THINKSTOCK
Tasmanian classrooms are increasingly becoming overcrowded. Picture: THINKSTOCK

Public students losing out to private schools

FUNDING for public education in Queensland and New South Wales is barely keeping up with inflation and wages growth leaving schools struggling, new analysis shows.

Despite a significant Federal Government funding boost over the past decade actual cash available to public schools has not greatly increased.

Meanwhile, for non-government schools funding increases have provided a significant boost to financial resources - in some instances almost five times that of their government counterparts.

The issue is particularly important for regional schools, where student needs are often higher and the increase in funding desperately needed.

The analysis of Productivity Commission data conducted by the Grattan Institute shows nationally, public school funding increased by just $155 per student on average, between 2007-2008 and 2016-2017.

For non-government schools that figure is $1,429.

 

On average, funding for public schools increased $155 per student over the past decade

The data shows state governments have effectively taken away the extra cash injected by federal governments since 2007 with Queensland public schools $304 better off, and NSW $584 more per student.

Private school students are much better off at $1,365 more in Queensland and $963 in NSW.

Actual funding increases in NSW public schools are among the best in the country, the data shows, beaten only by Tasmania ($587).

Education funding is a shared responsibility between the states and the federal governments with states contributing the lion's share of 80% compared to 20% from the Commonwealth.

 

 

Queensland public school students just $304 better off 

In Queensland, the Federal Government has increased funding per student by $1,179.

But state governments have effectively reduced that funding by $875 per student,  the Grattan Institute analysis shows.

It means the actual increase available to public schools in Queensland is an average of just $304 per student over 10 years, enough to employ one additional teacher for a school of about 200 students.

Non-government schools in Queensland received an average boost of $1,465 per student from the Federal Government with just $100 taken away by the state.

That leaves an additional $1,365 per student available - the equivalent of four teachers for a school of 300 students and almost five times the increase for public schools.

Grattan Institute School Education Program Director Peter Goss said while all schools had a funding target, and few managed to achieve that target, the data clashed with the idea of 'needs-based' funding.

 

Queensland (Public schools)

  • Federal funding increase since 2007-08 = $1,179
  • Effective state government reduction = $875

= $304 boost per student

**(Actual funding increases were lowest in Queensland between 2012 and 2015)

(Private schools)

  • Federal funding increase since 2007-08 = $1,465
  • Effective state government reduction = $100

= $1,365 per student

 

Statistics show public schools have room for improvement when it comes to OP scores. 35/M/19052 generic
“That doesn’t mean private schools are over funded, but they are better funded than public schools compared to targets and did very well over the last decade,” Mr Goss said.


"The big issue here for regional schools is probably the disconnect between the rhetoric they would have heard and the reality they would have faced," Mr Goss said.

"If you read the papers and watch the news, the expectation is that schools should be swimming in money, but many principals say that's not their lived reality.

"This analysis shows that for government schools in particular, nearly all of that extra money simply kept pace with wages. Principals are probably right to say that this analysis finally matches what they've sensed on the ground.

"Non-government schools have had good increases in effective funding over the decade that has been above wages and keeping up with the number of students.

"That doesn't mean private schools are over-funded, but they are better funded than public schools compared to targets and did very well over the last decade."

 

This doesn't pass the playground test

 

NSW students receiving more federal funding than most in Australia

In New South Wales, actual increases are among the best outcomes in the country with only Tasmanian schools achieving better on average increases per student.

The Federal Government increased funding per student in NSW by $1001 with the state removing $418, leaving a $584 boost over the decade,  the Grattan Institute analysis shows.

 

NSW (Public schools)

  • Federal funding increase since 2007-08 = $1,001
  • Effective state government reduction = $418

= $584 boost

(Private schools)

  • Federal funding increase since 2007-08 = $11,046
  • Effective state government reduction = $82

= $963 per student

 

"Government schools tend to be much further behind target compared to non-government schools, which is surprising after nearly a decade of talking about needs-based funding," Mr Goss said.

Mr Goss said the analysis showed the current funding model did "not pass the playground test".

"Every school has a funding target, and few schools achieve it - that fails the playground test," he said.

"If an adult says one thing, then does another, well even a child can see that's not fair."

So what's the solution?

Mr Goss decided to analyse previous data from the past decade, rather than projected data, to gain a better understand how education funding was being distributed.

He said while education funding had experienced a significant boost, it was still behind international standards when compared with other countries.

"Money isn't everything in education but putting money in the right places really does matter," Mr Goss said.

"In the last decade we have put in about $2 billion above wages growth, yet most of it has gone into the schools that needed it least.

"We need to keep putting in further funding. International comparisons show we spend less than comparable countries, so we need to make sure we put the funding where it is needed most.

"And that is not into non-government schools."

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