Morrison Govt abandons public schools in private school capital-funding cash splash

13 August 2019

The extent to which public schools in Australia are being ignored by the Morrison Government when it comes to capital funding for new facilities and renovations has been highlighted again today.

This year alone the Commonwealth Capital Grants Program has allocated more than $146 million to fewer than 140 non-government schools. By contrast, public schools will not receive a single dollar of equivalent Commonwealth funding[1].

Between 2013 and 2017, Australia's four richest elite private schools spent more on new facilities and renovations than 1800 schools combined.

In 2017, only 38 per cent of total spending on school infrastructure was in public schools — far below the sector’s 66 per cent share of enrolments.

The richest 1% of schools spent $3 billion, while 50% of schools spent $2.6 billion combined. That 50% of schools teaches nearly five times as many students.

Australian Education Union Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that public school capital funding requirements have been completely disregarded by the Morrison Government’s private school capital funding cash splash.

Ms Haythorpe said the figures raised serious questions about how private schools are using recurrent funding provided by the Commonwealth.

“In private schools around the country the amount they allocate to capital projects is similar to the amount provided by the Commonwealth for recurrent funding,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“However the rules are clear - recurrent funding cannot be used for capital works projects. This raises serious questions about how some private schools are actually using their recurrent funding.”

While the Morrison Government will provide $1.9 billion in capital works funding for private schools over ten years, public schools will not receive a single dollar of equivalent Commonwealth funding.

Ms Haythorpe said the Federal Coalition increased the private school capital fund by $300 million in 2017 while at the same time putting an end to capital funding for public schools.

“Not only has Scott Morrison cut $14 billion from public schools he was also the Treasurer who stopped capital funding for public schools altogether,” Ms Haythorpe said.

The lack of Commonwealth capital funding for public schools is despite the fact ABS data shows almost 200,000 additional students have enrolled in Australian schools in the past five years and 76% of the growth has been in public schools.

Between 2015 and 2018 the number of students in public schools increased by 113,039 compared to an increase in Catholic school enrolments of 196 and an increase of 29,626 in Independent Schools. Catholic school enrolments decreased in 2017 and 2018.

“In 2018 and 2019 alone, 315 non-government schools received a total of $312.6 million in allocations from the Morrison Government’s private school capital works fund – an average of nearly one million dollars per grant,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The Prime Minister’s insistence on ignoring public schools while handing billions in capital funding to private schools will entrench and increase the funding inequality gaps between the sectors.”

“Public schools are experiencing significant enrolment growth and it is the public sector which has the greatest need for classrooms, libraries, science labs or sporting facilities.”

Ms Haythorpe said that the Commonwealth should establish a capital works fund for public schools as recommended by the Gonski Review. She said this fund should include at least $300 million in the first instance.

“If the Morrison Government wants to give all school students a fair go, it must immediately end capital funding inequality and provide funding to public school capital works.”