Private schools reap $747m a year in taxpayer money – report

Private schools reap $747m a year in taxpayer money – report
Private schools are reaping $747m a year in taxpayer money, according to a new report by the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria (CECV).

The report, titled: “The need to rethink need: How the Gonski Review got it wrong on funding non-government schools”, shows that 195 private schools are raising all of the funding their students are estimated to need from private sources.

In the majority of cases, this funding came from school fees.

Of the 195 schools covered in the analysis, 10 Catholic schools whose private income exceeds their School Resourcing Standard (SRS), which measures how much government funding each school is entitled to, including extra loadings to help address disadvantage.

Among the schools shown to have substantially raised their annual income were Melbourne’s Wesley College, which raised nearly $90m in one year, Sydney’s Knox Grammar, which raised $70m and Brisbane’s Anglican Church Grammar School, which raised $33m.

Stephen Elder, executive director of the Catholic Education Office in Melbourne, said this latest report should prompt the Schools Resourcing Board to ask hard questions.

“This just isn't about Catholic and Independents, this is about the Government's funding model that gives an entitlement to schools that they don't deserve because they meet the resourcing standard through their own fee income,” Elder said.

“Those schools that are charging massive fees, well in excess of what the student resource standard is, they should be asked to reduce those fees, and they shouldn't get any incentive for Government to charge those fees to the tune of $750m that would be better off spent in those poor Catholic and Independent schools which the Government has taken money from.”

Collette Colman, executive director of the Independent Schools Council of Australia (ISCA), said “every student in Australia is entitled to a government contribution towards the cost of their schooling”.

“Some Catholics argue that the amount of fees parents in a school can pay should be measured by the fees that the school is charging rather than what parents can actually afford to pay,” Colman said.

“Using this logic, all non-government schools should just charge minimal fees and cost-shift the bulk of their costs to the taxpayer.”

Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, said he was “surprised to see a part of Catholic education arguing that some children don’t deserve any government support for their education”.

“This is a rerun on Mark Latham’s hit list of schools and children deemed to be unworthy of support for their education,” Birmingham said in a statement provided to The Educator.

“The Turnbull Government believes that every child deserves some support, regardless of what their parents choose to pay, but that more funding should go to those who most need it.”

Birmingham said this approach sees Victorian Catholic education already receive “more than twice the per-student funding of many of the schools it now seeks to vilify.”

“I urge the CECV to constructively engage in the independent review they called for that is examining possible enhancements to the funding model, which currently provides an extra $3.5 billion for catholic schools,” he said.

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