A report on how private schools use of taxpayer funding is branded “grossly inaccurate”.
Apr 13, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
A leading independent schools body has slammed claims that wealthy private schools are using taxpayer dollars to fund lavish facilities.
The NSW Association of Independent Schools (AIS) has responded angrily to an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald which, it says, makes assertions that are “grossly inaccurate” and designed to “deliberately mislead”.
The article, titled “Taxpayers fund private school orchestra pits and swimming pools” claims 20 of Sydney’s wealthiest private schools used $111 million in Government grants last year to offset the cost of ambitious capital works.
The story claimed taxpayer funding was used to pay for school essentials so parental contributions could go towards building projects such as flyover theatre towers and Olympic pools with underwater cameras - projects it said were also eligible for Government capital funding grants.
The AIS has hit back with a scathing attack, saying the claim that recurrent funds have been used by schools to offset the cost of capital projects has “no basis in fact”.
Chief executive Dr Geoff Newcombe said: “Independent schools must account for the use of funds provided by state and federal governments and provide annual audited statements to demonstrate that they have been used for the provision of education.
“This includes the payment of teacher salaries, curriculum-related and general school running costs.
“The recurrent funding provided to the schools is a relatively small proportion of their overall income.
“To suggest that these funds are used to offset building costs simply doesn’t make sense when the schools undertake separate fundraising activities for this purpose.
“The payment of school fees by parents represents a significantly higher proportion of the income received by these schools.”
Schools named in the article include The King's School, Trinity Grammar, SCECGS Redlands and St Catherine's in Waverley.
The AIS says none received funding under government capital funding programs from 2009-14.
And it has refuted as “just plain wrong” an assertion by NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge that independent school funding impacts on public school budgets.
“Funding formulas and allocations for government and non-government schools are entirely separate, with no relationship between the two,” said Dr Newcombe.
“An increase in funding to non-government schools does not correspond to a decrease in funding for government schools, and vice versa.”
MySchool data shows that compared to the annual average of $17,000 per student in a New South Wales state high school, the elite schools mentioned in the article received an average of between $2,700 and $5,300 per student in government funding from 2012-14.
“It is clear from the figures that students attending independent schools around Australia save the taxpayer billions of dollars annually,” Dr Newcombe said.
“The majority of Independent schools receive either very little or no government funding at all for capital purposes and must maintain, refurbish and upgrade their facilities from privately raised funds.”
With the nation’s wealthiest schools charging upwards of $30,000 per year for senior tuition, arguments remain over why Government money should go to private institutions which can afford lavish facilities when many public schools struggle for basic resources
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