Million Dollar Salaries & Private School Resources Underwritten by Public Money

by Alexia Adhikari and Morgan Harrington


The Australia Institute is recommending that private schools have stricter reporting requirements, greater transparency in funding arrangements, and increased accountability when spending public money, in a submission to the NSW Government’s review into Section 83C of the Education Act.

Private schools are investing millions in infrastructure and paying some principals’ salaries in excess of $1 million – all enabled by public funding and tax concessions.

The cost of tax concessions to just five private schools in NSW is estimated at over $2m per year, suggesting the total likely cost is tens of millions in NSW and possibly hundreds of millions across the country.

Key points:

  • In 2024, more than half of the estimated $29.1 billion the Commonwealth Government will spend on schools in Australia will go to private schools ($17.8 billion).
  • Australia Institute research shows that:
    • Four in five Australians agree that private school facilities should be available to community groups outside of school hours as a condition of receiving special tax deductions for buildings.
    • Australians are most supportive of tax deductions for school buildings that have clear educational benefits (libraries 76%, classrooms 74%, science labs 73%).

Australia Institute recommendations to the NSW education review include:

  • All schools should be required to table in state parliament an annual report detailing school income (by source); and an itemised list of expenditures including senior manager salaries.
  • Tax deductions given to private school building funds should be removed.
  • Private school facilities should be made available to community groups outside of school hours.
  • As a condition of receiving public funding, private schools should have to disclose an itemised list of the salaries they pay senior executives.

“The current system is unbalanced and unsustainable. Reform is desperately needed to ensure all Australian children have access to the best education possible regardless of income, geography, or culture,” said Dr Morgan Harrington, Postdoctoral Research Manager at the Australia Institute and co-author of Funding a fairer education system.

“The amount private schools are spending on luxurious amenities and high salaries is of great concern. These building funds disproportionately benefit those with higher incomes because their capacity to spend is well above what public schools can afford. Much of this spending is not part of core educational requirements, which calls into question how they benefit NSW as a whole.

“Removing tax concessions for private school building funds and requiring greater transparency in reporting will reduce inequities and make private schools more accountable for the public money they receive.”

Figure 1: Buildings and tax deductions

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