Australian disability claims boost private school funding at expense of public schools

The Australian Education Union has questioned the government’s decision to considerably increase spending for private schools based on their enrolment numbers of disabled students, deploring that public schools are set to receive much less.

The AEU has received information of a Federal disability funding increase of AUS $106.8 million across all schools during the 2017-18 academic year, with Victorian private schools set to receive AUS $59.6 million, or 55.8 per cent.

Uneven funding

“The Federal Government’s own figures show that more than half the total funding increase for students with a disability goes to Victorian independent schools,” said AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe.

She went on to note that the figures raise questions about why schools viewed as overfunded in 2017 are now projected to be underfunded in 2018, which entitles them to a big funding boost.

Across private schools, the percentage of students categorised as having a disability has risen markedly as a proportion of their enrolments (26 per cent), compared to public schools (17 per cent) and schools in the Catholic sector (13 per cent).

The AEU has also highlighted that the national increase in disability funding of around seven per cent falls drastically short of the total increase in students eligible for disability funding, which has more than doubled from 212,000 to 470,000.

“How can the Federal Government concentrate a miserly funding increase among wealthy private schools that are suddenly reporting a big unexplained rise in their claimed numbers of children with a disability?” Haythorpe asked.

Gold-plating of the private system

She insisted that, at the same time, public schools across five states and territories will be hit with funding cuts for students with a disability. In addition, in just three out of eight jurisdictions will public schools receive an increase in disability funding during the 2017-18 academic year; meanwhile, independent schools in six jurisdictions will see an increase in such funding.

“We need an explanation, and that may only come with an independent audit of what appears to be a further gold-plating of the private system at the expense of children in public schools,” Haythorpe concluded.

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