Private funding in Australian public schools: a problem of equity

  • Greg ThompsonEmail author
  • Anna Hogan
  • Mark Rahimi


In Australia, debates around school funding tend to focus on comparisons of funding between school systems and what this means for equity. In this paper, while we look at school-level funding between systems, our emphasis is on private funding in public schools with a particular emphasis on the relationship between private funding and ICSEA. Using data provided by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, we present a series of analyses that document the current funding arrangements of Australian schools. In particular, we focus on how private income and parental contributions are mediated by sector (Government, Catholic and Independent), system (States and Territories) and educational advantage. These analyses show that government schools are generating notable private funding per student with the majority coming from parental fees, charges and other contributions. We further demonstrate that these private contributions advantage may exacerbate inequalities within public systems across Australia.


School funding Gonski Public education 



  1. Angus, M. (2003). School choice policies and their impact on public education in Australia. In D. Plank & G. Sykes (Eds.), Choosing choice: School choice in international perspective (pp. 112–141). New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  2. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2016). About ICSEA
  3. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2017a). National Report on Schooling in Australia 2015.
  4. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2017b). “Glossary”. My School website
  5. Australian Government. (2017a). Additional funding for the Northern Territory. Retrieved October 13, 2017 from Quality Schools
  6. Australian Government. (2017b). New fairer funding from 2018. Retrieved October 13, 2017 from Quality Schools
  7. Bagshaw, E., and Smith, A. (2015). NSW parents pay $61 million for public education. Retrieved October 21, 2017 from The Sydney Morning Herald
  8. Clarke, M. (2012). Talkin’ ‘bout a revolution: The social, political, and fantasmatic logics of education policy. Journal of Education Policy, 27(2), 173–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Connors, L., & McMorrow, J. (2015). Imperatives in schools funding: Equity, sustainability and achievement. Camberwell: Australian Council for Educational Research.Google Scholar
  10. Dowling, A. (2008). ‘Unhelpfully complex and exceedingly opaque’: Australia’s school funding system. Australian Journal of Education, 52(2), 129–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Forsey, M., Proctor, H., & Stacey, M. (2017). A most poisonous debate: Legitimizing support for Australian Private Schools. In T. Koinzer, R. Nikolai, & F. Waldow (Eds.), Private schools and school choice in compulsory education (pp. 49–66). Wiesbaden: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gerrard, J. (2015). Public education in neoliberal times: Memory and desire. Journal of Education Policy, 30(6), 855–868.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gerrard, J. (2018). Whose public, which public? The challenge for public education. Critical Studies in Education, 59(2), 204–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gerrard, J., Savage, G., & O’Connor, K. (2017). Searching for the public: School funding and shifting meanings of ‘the public’in Australian education. Journal of Education Policy, 32(4), 503–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gonski, D., Boston, K., Greiner, K., & Lawrence, C. (2011). Review of funding for schooling: Final report. Canberra: Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.Google Scholar
  16. Hogan, A., Thompson, G., Sellar, S., & Lingard, B. (2018). Teachers’ and school leaders’ perceptions of commercialisation in Australian public schools. The Australian Educational Researcher, 45(2), 141–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Keating, J., & Klatt, M. (2013). Australian concurrent federalism and its implications for the Gonski Review. Journal of Education Policy, 28(4), 411–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kenway, J. (2013). Challenging inequality in Australian schools: Gonski and beyond. Discourse Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 34(2), 286–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lingard, B. (2010). Policy borrowing, policy learning: Testing times in Australian schooling. Critical Studies in Education, 51(2), 129–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lingard, B., Sellar, S., Hogan, A., & Thompson, G. (2017). Commercialisation in public schooling (CIPS). Sydney: New South Wales Teachers Federation.Google Scholar
  21. Lubienski, C. (2000). Redefining “public” education: Charter schools, common schools, and the rhetoric of reform. Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, April 24–28, 2000. pp. 1-40, Louisiana: AERA.Google Scholar
  22. Marginson, S. (1993). Education and public policy in Australia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. OECD. (2012). Public and private schools: How management and funding relate to their socio-economic profile. Paris: OECD Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Pont, B., Figueroa, D., Zapata, J., & Fraccola, S. (2013). Education Policy Outlook: Australia. OECD
  25. Potts, A. 1997. Public and private schooling in Australia-Historical and contemporary considerations. Institute of Historical Research Retrieved from
  26. Rahimi, M., Halse, C., & Blackmore, J. (2017). Transnational secondary schooling and im/mobile international students. The Australian Educational Researcher, 44(3), 299–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ranciere, J. (2011). Democracies against democracies. In G. Agamben, A. Badiou, D. Bensaid, W. Brown, J. Nancy, J. Ranciere, & S. Zizek (Eds.), Democracy in what state? (pp. 76–81). New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Rowe, E. (2016). Middle-class school choice in urban spaces: The economics of public schooling and globalized education reform. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Rowe, E. (2017). Politics, religion and morals: The symbolism of public schooling for the urban middle-class identity. International Studies in Sociology of Education, 26(1), 36–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rowe, E., & Lubienski, C. (2016). Shopping for schools or shopping for peers: Public schools and catchment area segregation. Journal of Education Policy, 32(3), 340–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rudd, K., & Gillard, J. (2008). Quality education: The case for an education revolution in our schools. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.Google Scholar
  32. Savage, G., & Lewis, S. (2018). The phantom national? Assembling national teaching standards in Australia’s federal system. Journal of Education Policy, 33(1), 118–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Stitzlein, S. M. (2013). Education for citizenship in for-profit charter schools? Journal of Curriculum Studies, 45(2), 251–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Vickers, M. (2005). In the common good: The need for a new approach to funding Australia’s schools. Australian Journal of Education, 49(3), 264–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Watson, L., & Ryan, C. (2010). Choosers and losers: The impact of government subsidies on Australian secondary schools. Australian Journal of Education, 54(1), 86–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Wells, A., Slayton, J., & Scott, J. (2002). Defining democracy in the neoliberal age: Charter school reform and educational consumption. American Educational Research Journal, 39(2), 337–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Windle, J. (2014). The rise of school choice in education funding reform: An analysis of two policy moments. Educational Policy, 28(2), 306–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Australian Association for Research in Education, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationQueensland University of TechnologyKelvin GroveAustralia
  2. 2.School of Human Movement and Nutrition SciencesThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  3. 3.School of EducationThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia

Personalised recommendations