Private schools hit back over funding analysis

Private schools hit back over funding analysis

A new analysis of school funding data is flawed and misrepresented, say the nations Catholic schools.

The remarks follow a new analysis of school funding in Australia which shows the income divide is wider for many schools than at any point in the past decade.

The analysis published today by ABC News used MySchool data to reveal how a sharp rise in private school funding has left thousands of public schools with less public funding than similar schools in the independent sector.

“Average figures tell us Catholic school students receive 84 cents for every taxpayer dollar spent on public school students and independent school students receive 69 cents – but averages, which lump together vastly different kinds of schools, reveal only a fraction of the story,” the authors of the analysis wrote.

Glenn Savage, a senior lecturer in education policy at the University of Western Australia, was one of a handful of researchers to receive the data.

“The extra money delivered to schools is supposed to be increasing equity by implementing a needs-based model,” Savage told The Educator.

“Unfortunately, what happened after Gonski was like a slow descent into political madness…the great hopes of the reform were quickly compromised.”

Savage said that taking a position that “privileges the needs of a group of young people over another” is “morally and ethically fraught”.

“At the end of the day, we should be caring about other people’s children as well, not just our own … as a nation we should want all young people having access to a quality education, not just some kids,” he said.

“I think what these data tell us is that over the last ten years, while major attempts have been made to render Australian school funding more equitable, we still have a messy patchwork of inconsistent funding mixes that do not reflect needs-based principles.”

However, in a statement today, the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) executive director, Ray Collins, said that comparing schools with similar socio-economic characteristics using ‘per-student’ funding data is “fraught with problems” because it ignores variables such as school size and teacher salaries.

“The data on the MySchool website does not represent the funding governments provide to system schools, but the funding that school systems allocate to meet schools’ needs, based on size and student disadvantage,” Collins said.

Collins said systems must reallocate funding from their larger schools to their smaller schools to address student need and cover costs.

“The key point here is ‘Do government schools attract more public funding (State and Federal combined) than Catholic schools?’ and the answer is ‘Yes, they do’. That has always been the case and remains the case today,” he said.

In a statement released later in the day, the Independent Schools Council of Australia (ISCA) said it disagreed with the methodology used by the ABC in its analysis.

"It lacks balance comparing median government school funding to individual Independent school funding and fails to understand that individual schools will receive different levels of funding for many reasons, including school and student characteristics and which State the school is in," the statement read.

"Using an average government school funding vs average Independent school funding methodology, taking into account ICSEA scores, school location and school type, there are very few cohorts where an average Independent school receives more public funding than a government school."