Funding inequality and resource gaps between public and private schools revealed

13 May 2019

The deep funding inequality facing public schools has been revealed in the latest ACARA My School data which shows that despite public schools educating the vast majority of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, Independent schools nationally had 40% more net recurrent income than public schools, while Catholic schools had 4% more income.

The inequality is even more pronounced in Victoria where, according to an Australian Education Union (AEU) analysis of the latest ACARA ‘My School’ data, the Catholic school system in Victoria is projected to receive more state and federal government funding per student than public schools by 2020 if its recent rate of growth in funding is maintained

Catholic schools in five key Victorian marginal electorates (Chisholm, Corangamite, Dunkley, Deakin and La Trobe) receive more state and federal government funding than neighbouring public schools.

The current gap in state and federal government funding between Catholic and public schools is largest in La Trobe at over $1,300 per student (13.1%). In Dunkley, the gap is $654 per student. In Chisholm it is $567 per student.





La Trobe

Government - Commonwealth and state recurrent funding combined






Catholic- Commonwealth and state recurrent funding combined












The urgent need for fairer funding arrangements for public schools has been highlighted in these new figures, which show large resource gaps between public and private schools in Victoria and NSW.

According to the latest My School figures, national net recurrent funding for government schools in 2017 was $14,198 per student, for Catholic schools was $14,764 and for Independent schools was $19,966.

Net recurrent income per student is the best measure of the total resources schools have to spend on the day to day education of students as it includes all sources of funding, including school fees.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said recently-released My School data shows that Victorian public schools remained by far the lowest funded in the country, while NSW public schools were also below the national average.

“When Catholic schools are getting more state and federal government funding than public schools you know how unfair the system has become,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The Morrison Government cut $14 billion from public school funding, and has refused to reverse these cuts. Providing Catholic schools with more total government funding than public schools fails any notion of fairness or equity.”

“These figures don’t even take into account the $4.6 billion Mr Morrison handed to private schools last year,” Ms Haythorpe said.

An AEU analysis of the My School data also revealed:

  • Independent school spending on capital works was five times greater than public schools in NSW and three and a half times greater in Victoria.
  • Victorian Independent schools had 70% more recurrent income to spend per student than public schools – the largest gap in the nation.
  • NSW Independent schools had 50% more recurrent income per student than public schools.

Ms Haythorpe said the figures showed how important it was to restore the $14 billion that Prime Minister Scott Morrison had cut from public schools.

“The only way to start levelling the playing field is to restore the federal funding that public schools should have received this year and last year,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Thankfully Labor has made a commitment to do exactly that if it is elected to government in the federal election and that commitment is backed in by The Greens.”

“Without that investment the resources gaps are only going to increase. Public schools educate the vast majority of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and yet they are operating in many states with thousands of dollars less per student than private schools,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Public schools are also the fastest growing schools and yet the Commonwealth has stopped providing any funding for capital works,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Because they get so much recurrent funding, Independent schools able to spend up to five times as much on buildings and facilities as public schools.”

“We know this situation is only going to get worse. We’ve had six years of the Federal Coalition fixated on cutting public school funding. The Morrison Government’s record of favouring private schools over public schools is a clear guide to what we will see for another three years if it is re-elected.”

“If this is the Morrison Government’s idea of a fair go for public schools, then the Morrison Government needs to go,” Ms Haythorpe said.