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Question time: Wealthiest private schools receiving public funds

Mehreen Faruqi 22 Jun 2021

Senator FARUQI (New South Wales) (14:55): My question is for the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Youth, Senator Reynolds. An investigation by the Nine newspapers found Australia's 50 wealthiest private schools now have assets worth $8.5 billion. This grew by more than 40 per cent over just four years. The investigation also found the combined surpluses for the top 50 schools was almost $400 million in 2019 while still receiving public funding of more than $620 million in the same year. Minister, why does the government continue to overfund these obscenely rich private schools that are running surpluses and accumulating enormous wealth?

Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia—Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Minister for Government Services) (14:56): Thank you, Senator Faruqi, for that question. Can I just say that there is nothing further from the truth. This government is not abandoning any student or any school and never will. The federal government has clear responsibilities, as do states and territories. The DMI method gives a more accurate record of the capacity of families to contribute to the cost of non-government schooling. This ensures that Commonwealth funding is better targeted and fairer. The move to the new DMI method would result in an estimated additional $3.2 billion in funding for non-government schools were it done in May 2020. So, from 2022, all schools will have their funding adjusted according to the capacity of their school community to contribute as assessed under this new methodology.

The government has put in place a range of supports to assist non-government schools with the transition to DMI school funding. These arrangements include the financially best socioeconomic status, SES, score and the new DMI score funding in 2020 and 2021. Secondly, there will be a gradual transition through to 2029 for schools transitioning downwards to their share of schooling resource standards. Thirdly, there's an extra $1.2 billion from 2020 to 2029 for non-government schools through the Choice and Affordability Fund. Fourthly, we are establishing a robust review process to address unexpected or unique circumstances affecting the financial capacity of a school's community. The fund includes requirements that non-government representative bodies provide a specific level of support to transition regional and remote schools and also a consolidated annual report on the expenditure to ensure accountability and transparency.

This government's record beats that of any other government, particularly those on the other side— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Faruqi, supplementary question?

Senator FARUQI (New South Wales) (14:58): Minister, under current funding arrangements, private schools will be overfunded by $6 billion from now until 2029 and public schools will be underfunded by $58 billion over the same period. The choice and affordability slush fund will dish out more than $100 million every year to private schools, while public schools are completely locked out. Minister, what on earth happened to needs based funding?

Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia—Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Minister for Government Services) (14:58): Thank you for that question. The truth and the facts matter. Let me share with all of those in this chamber the truth of this matter. First of all is a funding comparison between government and non-government schools. The Commonwealth funding for government schools to 2022 has doubled—in fact, just over doubled at 100.7 per cent—since 2013. We will see a further increase to 2029 of 46 per cent. The facts matter. We have funded government schools more than those on the other side of this chamber ever did.

Additionally, from 2013 to 2029, government schools funding will have increased by 192 per cent. This government, between 2013 and 2029, will have provided a nearly 200 per cent increase for government schools. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Faruqi, final supplementary question?

Senator FARUQI (New South Wales) (15:00): Last month's budget revealed that private schools are set to receive over $20 billion more federal money than public schools over the next four years. This government seems to be hell-bent on exacerbating the funding inequalities between private and public schools. Minister, why is the government continuing to betray more than 2.5 million public school students and thousands of under-resourced and underpaid public school teachers?

Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia—Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Minister for Government Services) (15:00): Well, again, that is simply not true. Senator Faruqi talks about individual students. Let me tell you what the figures are for individual students under this government. Between 2013 and 2022, Commonwealth funding per student in government schools has increased by nearly 80 per cent and will see a further increase of 72.2 per cent to 2029. Commonwealth funding per student for non-government schools has grown by 53.6 per cent since 2013 and will see a further increase of 53.6 per cent to 2029. Additionally, from 2013 to 2029 government school funding per student will have increased by 127 per cent per child. Again, in comparison, from 2013 to 2029, non-government school funding will have increased by 81 per cent. (Time expired)


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