Shocking $30bn gap in Aussie schools revealed

Shocking $30bn gap in Aussie schools revealed

New research has revealed a shocking $30bn gap in capital spending on schools, highlighting the growing equity crisis in Australian education.

The report, released by the Australian Education Union (AEU) as Education Ministers gather in Melbourne today, shows the average annual capital spending per student in private schools in the decade to 2021 was more than double what was spent on public schools.

Sydney private school Cranbrook, which spent more on a new pool and expanded fitness and drama facilities in 2021 ($63.5m) than State and Territory governments spent on 2,549 public schools which educate over 472,000 students. This also exceeded what the NT and Tasmanian governments spent on new and upgraded schools in 2021.

While private schools are slated to reap nearly $1bn in Federal capital funding between now and 2028, public schools will be left empty handed unless the Albanese Government extends a one-year program.

The report said more than $40m from a Federal Government capital fund designed to support private schools in disadvantaged areas has been funnelled into wealthy private schools over the last five years, including two of the wealthiest in Australia.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said just 1.3% of public schools are fully funded compared to 98% of private schools.

“That inequity in recurrent funding is contributing to an unacceptable $30bn divide in spending on new and upgraded schools,” Haythorpe said.

“While private schools, fuelled by government overfunding, are buying office towers and building $80m Scottish castles, public schools in every state and the NT are underfunded and increasingly left with demountable classrooms to cope with rising enrolments.”

Haythorpe said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese must deliver on his promise to fully fund public schools.

“We also strongly support the call from state and territory governments for new bilateral agreements to include both capital and recurrent funding,” she said.

“Our report is calling for a $1.25bn injection into public schools to make up for the fact there has been no ongoing capital funding from the Commonwealth since the former Coalition Government axed it in 2017.”

The union is also calling for an ongoing fund that matches the per student investment of the Commonwealth in private schools and that ‘full service schools should be established which provide a broader range of allied health and community support services on site to better support students and their families.

“We aren’t calling for Olympic pools and polo fields. We are calling for safe, high-quality classrooms, libraries and learning spaces that enable teachers and students to do their best,” she said.