Busting a popular myth on school funding

During this election campaign, education funding has been an important focus for the major political parties. All too often, some sectors of our community question the reasons why apparently wealthy and well-resourced Independent schools continue to receive public funds. Conveniently, a very small number of Independent schools are highlighted in these references, and even more conveniently, a very large number of poorly resourced Independent schools are forgotten.

Yes, there is no doubt that impressive educational facilities are a feature of a small, though important, proportion of Independent schools. And subsequently we hear the far too often repeated myth that government funding to these schools is being used to build extravagant sports amenities, concert halls etc. But the fact is, federal and state/ territory governments supply varying levels of recurrent funding to all Independent schools solely for the provision of education. This includes the payment of teacher salaries, curriculum-related and general school running costs. Spending recurrent funding on capital works is not allowed, and schools’ compliance in this is carefully monitored.

So where do Independent schools get funding for capital works? The answer is, almost entirely from parents. They contribute close to 90 per cent of the cost of buildings and equipment in the Independent sector, mainly through school fees.

The Australian Government does provide some support for capital infrastructure in Independent schools. This is provided under the Capital Grants Program, which must give priority to schools with the least capacity to raise funds from their school communities. In 2015 grants for the Independent school sector totalled approximately $52 million.

Many long-established Independent schools receive no capital assistance at all from governments. The extent and quality of their facilities reflect instead many years of contributions from families, former students and other donors.

To read the full text of this opinion piece by Colette Colman, Executive Director, Independent Schools Council of Australia see here

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