Funding a fairer education system

Submission to the NSW Government’s Review of Section 83C of the Education Act 1990 (NSW)
by Alexia Adhikari and Morgan Harrington

The NSW education system is increasingly inequitable. Private schools receive public funding and tax concessions that have enabled multimillion dollar developments and salaries in excess of $1 million, while public schools struggle.

This submission makes recommendations that would ensure private schools are more transparent and accountable for how they spend public money.

The NSW Government review into Section 83C of the Education Act 1990 (NSW) is a timely addition to the broader discussion on school funding in Australia. Many private
schools in NSW receiving government funding or tax concessions appear to be operating in breach of the relevant legislation that requires them not to operate for
profit, to pay wages in line with market values, and with expenditure that is not required for the operation of the school. Examples include:

  • Cranbrook School, which spent $125 million on a five-story sandstone building that contains a double-height orchestra room, 267-seat theatre, and Olympic-sized indoor pool;
  • The Scots College, which in 2019 paid a reported $29 million to renovate a library so that it would resemble a Scottish Baronial castle; and
  • The King’s School, which paid $15 million to buy six hectares of land next to Lane Cove National Park for staff and student camps.

To arrest growing inequality in our school system, we recommend that:

  • All schools – including private schools – be required to table in state parliament an annual report that includes details of school income broken down by funding source, and an itemised list of expenditure including the salaries paid to individual senior managers.
  • The tax deductions given to private school building funds should be removed.
  • The facilities of private schools should be made available for community groups to use 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.