Since 1996 state school enrolments in Australia have risen 1.2% while independent and catholic school enrolments have increased 21.5%. As argued in an earlier post these trends could reflect a move to quality or a move by aspirational parents to give their kids a 'leg up'.
Our ratbag teacher unions (the lot who want vastly higher pay without any merit or performance component) offer an unhelpful input. The Australian Education Union's Victoria branch president Mary Bluett said the shift was in part a result of reduced federal funding for government schools. ‘Last year the federal funding share for Victoria was $920 per government school child and $4339 per non-government student … so I think it is influencing this trend’.
But what about total government grants to government and non-government schools? In 2003/04 governments in total (Commonwealth and State) contributed almost twice the amount to educating a student in the government schools ($10,000 on average) compared with educating a student in the non-government schools ($5,600 on average). Private households picked up the gap, paying on average $8690 for an average secondary independent school compared to amounts from households to a government secondary schools of $390 and to catholic schools of $3600.
Parents sending their children to independent schools are not drawing excessively from the public purse as Bluett suggests. Those sending their children to private and independent schools are heavily cross-subsidising the costs of children in the public system and enabling a better quality education and higher teacher salaries than would otherwise obtain.