Last week I posted on trends in private school enrolments, and my colleague and friend Brad Rogers commented to me that the shift to private schooling is bringing significant savings to the State Government. While State Schools receive the bulk of their funding from the State Government, private schools receive large amounts of funding from parents and the Federal Government, and the State Government contributes much less. A simple comparison of some schools in my local area shows the thousands of dollars of savings that accrue to the State Government per student, if a student is shifted from a State High School such as Indooroopilly (Indro) SHS to a private school such as Brigidine or Brisbane Boys College (BBC) (see chart below based on My School data).
While the State Government saves a large amount of money when a student shifts from a State School to a private school, a fraction of this saving ends up being replaced by the Federal Government, which provides significant funding to private schools – although the level of this funding varies greatly across schools. I suspect the differences in Federal funding between Brigidine and BBC reflect the socio-economic mix of students. BBC’s ICSEA (Index of Community Socio-economic Advantage) score is 1,168 compared with Brigidine’s score of 1,103 (N.B. average is 1,000), which would mean BBC receives less Federal funding than Brigidine on equity grounds.
Overall, for every private school student, the State Government appears to be saving around $8,000 per student per annum. A back-of-the-envelope calculation tells me that, if private schools had remained at the 29% share of Queensland students they had in 2000 rather than increasing to a 33% share by 2013, the State Government would have to spend up to an additional $300 million per annum on the State’s education system.
N.B. for simplicity, in making the above calculation, I have ignored capital funding for schools and have ignored any average cost differences that may exist between primary and secondary students.
Update. See my more recent post Catholic schools still benefiting from very favourable funding deal from Howard Govt days, which corrects my misunderstanding of the reason for the difference in Commonwealth funding between BBC and Brigidine.