$747 million annual spending on wealthiest schools exposes broken model

Home > News and Events > Media Releases > $747 million annual spending on wealthiest schools exposes broken model

7 February 2018

The Federal Coalition is spending $747 million each year funding wealthy private schools that already meet their school resourcing standard from their own pockets – exposing just how broken the school funding model is, new research released by the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria Ltd (CECV) estimates.

‘The Prime Minister and his Education Minister Simon Birmingham say that their main objective in funding schools is to improve educational outcomes,’ CECV Executive Director Stephen Elder said.

‘This research shows that $747 million each year is being handed to wealthy schools that don’t need it – where it won’t improve outcomes.

‘Nothing could be a clearer demonstration of how the school funding model is broken.’

Mr Elder explained the government has a resource standard that estimates the funding each school requires.

‘Almost 200 schools raise all of the funding they need from private sources – mostly student fees and charges – yet the Federal Coalition is still giving these schools $747 million each year.

‘How can this be considered needs-based funding? The Government’s own funding benchmark says these schools don’t need any government funding.

‘Some of these wealthy schools – like Wesley College in Melbourne – raise $50 million more than they need to meet their resourcing standard from private income alone, yet they still receive an additional $10 million from the LNP Government.

‘Taxpayers should be asking why wealthy schools are getting this money and what they actually do with it.

‘They don’t need it to deliver core literacy and numeracy skills. Instead, the evidence suggests this funding just fuels an arms race in fancy facilities between wealthy schools with no benefit for educational outcomes – the shooting ranges, the equestrian centres and the like.

‘This isn’t a Latham hit list-style exercise,’ Mr Elder emphasised. ‘There’s already a Turnbull hit list of far more open and accessible – and far less affluent - schools that are facing funding cuts this year, with more to come.

‘It isn’t a Catholic versus independent schools issue either.

‘Instead, this is about good public policy, accountability and taxpayers getting value for money.

‘We don’t give the wealthy welfare. We have means tests. All sides of politics believe they are appropriate. Why shouldn’t something similar apply to schools?

‘Senator Birmingham has already put the cart before the horse by turning his Gonski 2.0 package into law and only then announcing reviews of two key funding elements; Socio-Economic Status scores and student with disability data.

‘The CECV report further exposes his policy processes and priorities.’

The CECV research report, The need to rethink need, highlights the three key elements of current funding arrangements that fabricate a need for public funding in wealthy schools that already raise sufficient income privately:

  1. Schools are means-tested using a hypothetical level of school private income, not their actual private income. The high levels of private resources available to elite, high-fee schools are entirely ignored in estimating their need for public funding;
  2. A school’s hypothetical level of private income is calculated using school SES scores, which are biased in favour of high-fee wealthy schools, resulting in artificially low estimates of their hypothetical private income; and
  3. Irrespective of all else, no school is assumed to raise more than 80% of their required funding (before loadings) in private income. Thus every single non-government school in Australia is estimated to need government funding, no matter how wealthy.

‘This completely distorts how school need is measured in ways that greatly benefit elite and exclusive schools,’ Mr Elder said, ‘and results in Australia being an international outlier for the extraordinary amounts of government funding that is provided to these schools.

‘If the government really wants to improve educational outcomes, then here is three quarters of a billion dollars that can be redirected to schools that actually need it –schools that don’t have wealthy families and alumni, schools where more government funding can make a real difference.

‘As the research emphasises, the current arrangements are failing Australian students. They must be revisited.

‘The review of SES scores currently underway now provides the opportunity to change the trajectory of schooling in Australia and turn the SRS model into a true, fair and equitable needs-based funding model for non-government schools.’

Further information: Christian Kerr, Media Adviser, 0402 977 352

Download PDF