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.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
This research was supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council's Discovery Projects funding scheme (project DP170103647).
Note: The data used in this publication are sourced from the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) and are available from ACARA in accordance with its Data Access Protocols.
Note: Some schools are exempt from reporting on My School. These tend to be small, specialist schools such as those tasked at dealing with extreme behaviour.
Missing data on a school’s levels of educational advantage encompass 465 special schools, 115 secondary, 63 primary and 8 combined across the states and territories.
Calculated numbers for the rest of the analyses are slightly smaller than these totals, due to unavailable socioeconomic data for some schools.
As shown by Table 1, unequal counts of schools in various categories caused some restrictions in using statistical methods for comparing the calculated averages of variables related to finance.
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.
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2016). About ICSEA http://docs.acara.edu.au/resources/About_icsea_2014.pdf.
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2017a). National Report on Schooling in Australia 2015. https://www.acara.edu.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/national-report-on-schooling-in-australia-2015.pdf?sfvrsn=0.
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2017b). “Glossary”. My School website https://www.myschool.edu.au/glossary/.
Australian Government. (2017a). Additional funding for the Northern Territory. Retrieved October 13, 2017 from Quality Schools https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/additional_funding_for_the_northern_territory.pdf.
Australian Government. (2017b). New fairer funding from 2018. Retrieved October 13, 2017 from Quality Schools https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/new_fairer_school_funding_2018.pdf.
Bagshaw, E., and Smith, A. (2015). NSW parents pay $61 million for public education. Retrieved October 21, 2017 from The Sydney Morning Herald http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/nsw-parents-pay-61-million-for-public-education-20150622-ghu1wv.html.
Clarke, M. (2012). Talkin’ ‘bout a revolution: The social, political, and fantasmatic logics of education policy. Journal of Education Policy, 27(2), 173–191.
Connors, L., & McMorrow, J. (2015). Imperatives in schools funding: Equity, sustainability and achievement. Camberwell: Australian Council for Educational Research.
Dowling, A. (2008). ‘Unhelpfully complex and exceedingly opaque’: Australia’s school funding system. Australian Journal of Education, 52(2), 129–150.
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.
Gerrard, J. (2015). Public education in neoliberal times: Memory and desire. Journal of Education Policy, 30(6), 855–868.
Gerrard, J. (2018). Whose public, which public? The challenge for public education. Critical Studies in Education, 59(2), 204–217.
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.
Gonski, D., Boston, K., Greiner, K., & Lawrence, C. (2011). Review of funding for schooling: Final report. Canberra: Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
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.
Keating, J., & Klatt, M. (2013). Australian concurrent federalism and its implications for the Gonski Review. Journal of Education Policy, 28(4), 411–426.
Kenway, J. (2013). Challenging inequality in Australian schools: Gonski and beyond. Discourse Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 34(2), 286–308.
Lingard, B. (2010). Policy borrowing, policy learning: Testing times in Australian schooling. Critical Studies in Education, 51(2), 129–145.
Lingard, B., Sellar, S., Hogan, A., & Thompson, G. (2017). Commercialisation in public schooling (CIPS). Sydney: New South Wales Teachers Federation.
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.
Marginson, S. (1993). Education and public policy in Australia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
OECD. (2012). Public and private schools: How management and funding relate to their socio-economic profile. Paris: OECD Publishing.
Pont, B., Figueroa, D., Zapata, J., & Fraccola, S. (2013). Education Policy Outlook: Australia. OECD http://www.oecd.org/edu/EDUCATION%20POLICY%20OUTLOOK%20AUSTRALIA_EN.pdf.
Potts, A. 1997. Public and private schooling in Australia-Historical and contemporary considerations. Institute of Historical Research Retrieved from https://sas-space.sas.ac.uk/4651/1/Public_And_Private_Schooling_In_Australia_-_Historical_And_Contemporary_Considerations_by_Anthony_Potts___Institute_of_Historical_Research.pdf.
Rahimi, M., Halse, C., & Blackmore, J. (2017). Transnational secondary schooling and im/mobile international students. The Australian Educational Researcher, 44(3), 299–321.
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.
Rowe, E. (2016). Middle-class school choice in urban spaces: The economics of public schooling and globalized education reform. London: Routledge.
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.
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.
Rudd, K., & Gillard, J. (2008). Quality education: The case for an education revolution in our schools. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.
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.
Stitzlein, S. M. (2013). Education for citizenship in for-profit charter schools? Journal of Curriculum Studies, 45(2), 251–276.
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.
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.
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.
Windle, J. (2014). The rise of school choice in education funding reform: An analysis of two policy moments. Educational Policy, 28(2), 306–324.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Thompson, G., Hogan, A. & Rahimi, M. Private funding in Australian public schools: a problem of equity. Aust. Educ. Res. 46, 893–910 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13384-019-00319-1
- School funding
- Public education