Government spending on private schools grows at double the rate of public schools


New analysis by the Parliamentary Library reveals that in the decade since the Gonski Review Australian governments have increased funding to private schools at twice the rate of public schools.

The analysis of My School data shows that on a real-dollar, per student basis, combined recurrent funding from Commonwealth, state and territory governments to Independent schools increased 34.04% from 2012 to 2021, while spending on Catholic schools grew 31.17%. Spending on public schools only increased 16.92%.

The data also highlights the vast disparities between funding in different states and territories. While the Victorian government has increased recurrent funding to public schools by 22.16% per student since Gonski, public school spending has actually fallen in WA and the NT, while the Queensland government has increased recurrent funding to independent schools at nine times the rate of public schools (see table below).

Per student, public schools received $16,174 on average in recurrent government funding in 2021, while Independent schools, which are able to charge unlimited tuition fees, received $11,840.

Public schools in remote and very remote areas, which typically attract a higher funding loading to account for disadvantage, have also fallen further behind public schools in metro areas. Government funding to major city schools increased by 16.74% since Gonski, but only 14.47% and 10.58% to remote and very remote public schools respectively.

The analysis exposes the complete failure by Australian governments to enact the Gonski Review’s central recommendation: to ramp up funding to under-resourced public schools and wind back funding to over-resourced private institutions.

To clear the way for the federal government to finally close the public school funding gap the Greens will introduce a bill during the next parliamentary sitting to remove the Coalition cap that limits the Commonwealth contribution to the public sector to 20%.

Comments attributable to Greens spokesperson on schools, Senator Penny Allman-Payne:

“Since the Gonski Review panel handed down its recommendations more than a decade ago, governments have increased spending to private schools at double the rate of funding increases to public schools.

“This is absolutely scandalous.

“Gonski recommended that to close the widening inequality gap between public and private schools, extra funding should be directed to under-resourced public schools, while funding to over-resourced private institutions should be wound back. All governments agreed to this plan.

“Yet the exact opposite has happened.

“We can’t continue to pretend that fairness is central to our national identity when our public school system is on the brink of collapse and elite private schools are swimming in cash.

“Average performance is falling, student engagement is dropping and teachers are fleeing the profession. For many students public school is no longer a doorway to a better future, but a system which amplifies and locks in generational inequality.

“Labor says public schools are ‘on a pathway’ to full funding. But for teachers, students, parents and carers it’s starting to look like a road to nowhere.

“The government will try to blame this appalling state of affairs on the Coalition, but this crisis falls just as heavily on Labor’s shoulders.

“Labor is in government federally and in every state and territory government on the mainland, they have the Greens in balance of power in the Senate, and they’re bragging about having a $19 billion surplus. There is no excuse at all for public schools to remain shortchanged.

“Our kids can’t wait any longer.”

Download the full data set

Real-dollar, per-student increase/decrease in recurrent state or territory funding to schools by sector, 2012-2021

Table showing real-dollar, per-student increase/decrease in recurrent state or territory funding to schools by sector, 2012-2021