Private financing in urban public schools: inequalities in a stratified education marketplace

  • Emma RoweEmail author
  • Laura B. Perry


This study examines inequalities of school funding as exclusively generated by the parent community in urban public schools, and potentially illuminates a secondary impact of between-school segregation. For schools that are largely understood as free, the substantial injections of private financing into public schools indicate a concerning tension for fairness and equity. Using a census dataset of all public schools in one Australian capital city (n = 150), we compare reported parent ‘contributions, fees and charges’ and how they are patterned by measures of school disadvantage and advantage. We found a statistically significant relationship between private financing and measures of school-based advantage or disadvantage, over a four-year period. Advantaged schools generate up to six times greater income in comparison to disadvantaged schools over a four-year period, and we argue that the substantial gaps function as another form of ‘compounded disadvantage’ for residualised public schools and a tiered effect of segregation.


Segregation Public schools Socioeconomic status (SES) Parent contribution Parent fees Fundraising 



The authors would like to acknowledge the work of Diana Langmead, a brilliant research assistant. We acknowledge funding we received for this study from Research for Educational Impact (REDI), Deakin University. The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful reviews, which helped in strengthening this paper.


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia
  2. 2.School of EducationMurdoch UniversityPerthAustralia

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