The data shows that overall spending on schools has increased. The Productivity Commission draft report has criticize for claiming that education spending in Australia has increased in real terms since its release. It is claim that our achievements have declined despite us spending more. This claim is misleading and simplistic for many reasons.
This claim is not without important limitations. Education funding is the amount spent on education services. This includes all education services including primary, secondary, and post-tertiary. It also includes salaries of teachers, principals, and bureaucrats.
This has actually increased. Education funding has actually increased in all OECD nations. In every OECD country, the average expenditure per student rose by more than 60% between 1995 and 2011. Education expenditures as a percentage of GDP have increased in most OECD countries even after the 2008 economic crisis.
Australia is not the country that spends the most on education. Australia’s education spending is lower than other OECD countries, such as the US, but higher than the OECD average. This figure includes funding from private sources such as parental contributions, philanthropy and fundraising. These factors increase the overall average.
Private sources make up a greater percentage of Australia’s per-school funding than the OECD average. This means that parents allocate more of their personal income to schooling than they do for tax.
Although school funding has increased in some schools and for all students, it has not increased in all other schools. It is important to explain in plain English how school funding works so that you can understand the misleading claims.
You should keep in mind that there are 18 different funding models for schools in Australia. Some overlap with each other. According to a Deloitte Economics Access Report, school funding is poorly coordinate and haphazard.
How Schools Get Increased Their Funding
Three types of grants are available for schools: recurrent, capital, and targeted funding. These grants can come from a variety of sources. Reports by politicians and the Productivity Commission on school funding tend to only report net recurrent funding per student. They do not include levels of capital funding. Capital funding is money that schools receive for new capital projects (e.g. swimming pools or gymnasiums).
For example, the 2014 Productivity Commission report indicates that government schools have a funding ratio at 2:1. This figure does not include capital grants. Schools that educate students with high socioeconomic status (SES), tend to get less government recurrent funding. These schools receive however more capital funding.
Glenroy Secondary College, a government high school located in the outer suburbs and Melbourne, received an average A$15.468 of net recurrent income per student from 2009 to 2013. Compare this with Melbourne Girls College, a public high school located in the inner suburbs. It received an average of $10623 per student of total net income (2009-2013). This is a lower net income per student.
Glenroy’s total capital expenditures between 2009 and 2013 are $199,121. Melbourne Girls College received $5,618,981. (This analysis is based on Rowe’s forthcoming Routledge book. There are exceptions to the rule, but we should not make direct funding comparisons.
If we only use publicly available funding data, the My School figures show serious funding gaps among schools. Reporting funding levels tends to hide the excessive capital funding received by certain schools.