Research by SOS questions the methodology for identifying how much funding is going to private schools and reveals that the amount of money for public schools is dropping.
They contend that Commonwealth funding for public schools increased by $863 per student (43.8 per cent), but it was more than offset by a reduction in state funding of $912 per student (-7.7 per cent).
SOS disputes data published in the 2020 Report on Government Services (ROGS). Their figures differ from the ROGS figures in two ways. First SOS’ figures exclude book entry items (user cost of capital, depreciation) and other items (payroll tax, school transport) which are included in the ROGS data for state/territory government recurrent funding of public schools. These items are not included in the published figures for private schools and, as a result, the ROGS over-estimates funding for public schools in comparison with private schools.
Second, the ROGS uses the General Government Final Consumption Expenditure Chain Price Index (GGFCE) to adjust current dollar figures for inflation. However, this price index does not distinguish between different rates of cost increase in different areas of public provision. Instead, the Wage Price Index for Public and Private Education and Training is used in SOS' work to deflate nominal funding figures. The ROGS method of adjusting for inflation under-estimates cost increases for schools and, therefore, over-estimates the actual increase in real resources available to schools, SOS contends.
The report says that in recent years, government (Commonwealth and state) funding increases have favoured private schools over public schools. Between 2009-10 and 2017-18, total government funding (Commonwealth and state) for private schools increased by $1779 per student, adjusted for inflation, while funding for public schools was cut by $49 per student. In percentage terms, private school funding increased by 18.9 per cent while funding for public school students was cut by 0.4 per cent.
The cut in funding for public schools was due to cuts by state and territory governments (the 'states”'). They took advantage of increased Commonwealth funding to cut their own funding of public schools.
Both the Commonwealth and state funding changes strongly favoured private schools over public schools. The Commonwealth increase for private schools was nearly double that for public schools – $1589 compared to $863 per student, although in percentage terms the increase for public schools was much larger than for private schools because it was from a much lower base – 43.8 per cent and 23.1 per cent respectively. The states increased funding for private schools by $190 per student (7.5 per cent) while cutting funding for public schools.
The pattern of much larger funding increases for private schools than public schools across Australia was repeated in all states. Government funding increases for private schools exceeded $1500 per student in all states while funding for public schools was cut in five states and increases in the other three states were much smaller than for private schools. The funding cuts for public schools ranged from $121 per student in South Australia to $1540 in Western Australia. The funding increases for private schools were about six times that for public schools in NSW and Tasmania and nearly three times that of public schools in Queensland the SOS report says.