Education funding hits the news as parents turn back to public schools

By Stephen Easton

Friday February 3, 2017

Education related tag cloud illustration

How much does it cost to educate a child? The national average for the 2014-15 financial year was $16,670 per student, and the average contribution by the state and territory governments was $14,439.

The Productivity Commission’s yearly release of government service delivery data made the headlines today with the figures on education and childcare, which fill more than 1300 data-packed pages.

In the Northern Territory, the average total government spending was $24,394 per student in 2014-15, while down in Victoria, schools had to make do with much less, averaging out to about $14,600 each. The Age reports this data with a slight sense of unfairness but perhaps it is a good thing. After all, the Productivity Commission report refers to funding per student as a measure of cost-efficiency.

The Victorian government’s contribution was also the least of any state or territory, $12,413 per student. Although for obvious reasons, as much as the PC tries to make the figures comparable, each jurisdiction is different and looking at spending alone does not paint a complete picture.

Effectiveness of education is also covered in the massive data dump and while it is a little harder to measure and report on, Victoria doesn’t look like it is lagging behind the nation, despite its lean school system. As The Mandarin reported in 2014, Victorian public schools are among the most autonomous in the world, and have achieved better outcomes than other states for less in previous years.

The PC has been steadily trying to improve its ability to report on outcomes, which it does through measures like student engagement, attendance and participation in the school education field.

The nation’s second-most expensive schoolkids were found in Canberra, where combined funding per student from the territory and federal governments added up to about $20,532. But as the Canberra Times reports, the ACT government chipped in more than any other state or territory — $18,461 — although the NT was not far behind, spending $18,130 per student in 2014-15.

Another interesting fact about education is that public school enrolments increased ever so slightly over 2016, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald. The Australian Bureau of Statistics found a tiny increase in the proportion of students who go to public schools from 64.1% in 2014 to 64.5% in 2016 — arresting a decline which has seen the proportion drop by about 0.4% per year over the past four decades.

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