Funding fail for crumbling state schools

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

It’s been a decade since the Gonski review said governments should boost funding for state schools.

So what’s changed?

The answer depends on where you live and what school you go to, with many believing the gap between public and private education is wider that it ever was.

In 2012, recommendations from the Gonski review included establishing a needs-based model that could provide a baseline education to students by 2023. It also revealed poor infrastructure in government schools was impacting staff morale and enrolments. Its suggested solution was for governments to boost capital works spending on public schools.

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But in 2023, president of the Australian Education Union, Correna Haythorpe believes the public school system is still facing the same issue. And in some schools, those issues have become even worse.

Ms Haythorpe says states have increased capital works funding to public schools – but says it is simply not enough. Since the commonwealth government scrapped its recurrent capital works contributions to state schools in 2017, the divide between private and public school infrastructure has widened – and the chasm is still growing.

In 2021, the union’s commissioned report into school funding found that, for every dollar invested for facilities in a private school, per child, between 2013-2018, a public school would only get between 27 and 50 cents.

Although the 2023-24 budget announcement that the Albanese government would commit $250m to improve infrastructure for public schools is a positive more, Ms Haythorpe says the government needs to restore a recurrent funding pool.

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“We want to see a permanent fund established,” she said. “It’s the right of every child to go to school in a high-quality teaching environment.”

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]