Western Australia’s public schools have been hit hard by the growth in funding for non-government schools during the past decade, according to a new report.
Western Australia’s public schools have been hit hard by the growth in funding for non-government schools during the past decade, according to a new report from advocacy group Save Our Schools.
The analysis, based on figures published by the Australian Curriculum, Reporting and Assessment Authority, found public schools across Australia, on average, received $14,940 per student from government funding and parent contributions in 2018, less than private schools ($23,029 per student) and independent schools ($16,041).
Those numbers reflect a small increase in overall funding for public schools since 2009, which rose by $241 per student, compared to private and independent schools, which grew numbers by $2,096 and $2,585, respectively.
Higher funding for private and independent schools was attributable both to an increase in overall government funding, which rose by around $1,300 more per student than it did for public schools, and higher fees, which brought in between $3,000 and $12,000 more for non-government schools than in public schools.
While those changes mean funding for WA’s non-government schools sector has largely kept pace with the nation, public schools have suffered significant declines in government funding, losing $1,486 per student during the past decade.
That fall was largely the result of a $1,736 reduction in state government funding, which represented the sharpest decline recorded in any state and placed WA alongside two other states or territories in which overall government funding fell.
SOS national convener and former Productivity Commission economist, Trevor Cobbold said funding cuts had been particularly stark in WA, with changes largely benefiting non-government schools.
“There is a vast gulf between the rhetoric of school funding policies and practice in Australia,” Mr Cobbold said.
“Formally, the Commonwealth and state governments support the principle of needs-based funding, but the reality is that funding increases continue to overwhelmingly favour the most advantaged school sectors … over the most disadvantaged sector.”
More than 600 schools in WA have received independent designation since 2009.
Independent designation allows public schools greater autonomy in decision-making in exchange for stricter regulation in the form of a school board and financial auditing.