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When private schools go public

Chris Bonnor and colleagues write in Inside Story (16.3.20) about government funding to public and private schools, arguing that non-government schools can no longer be said to be saving taxpayer dollars.

‘Australia’s decades-old debate about school funding is increasingly weighed down by assumptions and claims that passed their use-by date years ago. Foremost among these is the belief that non-government schools represent a big saving to taxpayers, and therefore warrant public subsidies. If privately educated children went to public schools, the argument goes, then taxpayers would spend a lot more than the subsidy private schools receive from state and federal governments.

‘Some have claimed that saving to be anything up to $8 billion in recurrent funding each year. But the reality, at least in the case of two-thirds of non-government schools, is that government funding produces no savings at all. Why? Because those schools are now funded at the same or higher level as similar public schools.

‘Since 2011, in fact, governments would have come out ahead if all new school enrolments had gone to public schools. That would have involved capital expenditure, of course, but even the capital savings created by competing school sectors are less than a third of the amounts frequently claimed.’

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