Wednesday 1 December 2010

School spending - here I go again

I am going to use a number of source documents here from the Department of Education.

First - the cost of education per child in the state school system.

Second - DET fast facts.

Primary schools - total cost per student spent "in school" 2007/2008


Secondary schools - total cost per student spent "in school" 2007/2008


First thing we notice - it costs 25% more to put a kid through high school.

Next set of facts:

The 2010/11 budget for state schools totals $11,839 billion - that is capital and recurrent spending.

There are 736,000 students in the state system. 438,000 in primary school and 294,000 in secondary school.

Multiply 438,000 primary school kids by $11,148 per head and we get $4,882,824,000.

Multiply 294,000 secondary school kids by $13,977 per head and we get $4,109,238,000.

Add those two together and we get $8,992,062,000. 54% of the budget goes on primary schools and 46% on high schools - even though high school kids cost 25% more per head to educate.

This is $2,846,938,000 short of the 2010/11 budget of 11,839 billion - partly because the per head figures are based on 2007/08.

Let's split that missing $2.84 billion and give 54% to primary schools and 46% to high schools. That will allow us to calculate a per head cost for 2010/11.

Primary schools get an extra $1,537,346,520, taking their budget to $6,420,170,520 - or $14,657 per head.

High schools get an extra $1,309,591,480, taking their budget to $5,418,829,480, or $18,431 per head.

I'm not going to claim that all this money actually makes it to the schools - I reckon at least 30% is swallowed and wasted by the bureaucracy. If I had my way, I'd abolish most of the DET and give every family a voucher for this amount and let them spend it at the school of their choice.

For instance, one of our local state schools is Concord High. It has 850 kids. If I had my way, the Principal would control a budget of $15,666,350 (that's $18,431 multiplied by 850 kids). Instead, the school controls only $2.1 million (see page 6 of their last Annual Report). 87% of the school's expenditure is not controlled by the school.

Compare this with a local Catholic school - Rosebank. It costs Rosebank $15,839 to put a kid through high school. Of this, parents pay $4349 and the state pays $11,490.

Not only does Concord nominally get more funding per head - $18,431 vs $15,839, but the difference in state funding is $18,431 vs $11,490.

Yes, there are private schools that have an annual income over $18,431 per head - but they are not in the majority. I am sick of hearing that state schools are disadvantaged when it comes to funding. They are not - the disadvantage they have is in how the state system chooses to spend that money.

As for disabled kids, the state system has more of them than the independent system. I read yesterday that the state system has 80% of kids with disabilities. However, the state system also has 67% of the kids. Yes, that means the independent system has a lower share - by my calculations, they are carrying half the load of the state system. But - here's a big but - it costs more to teach disabled kids, and clearly, the state system has MORE resources than the private system, so it should carry more of the load, or give more resources to the private system to allow it to take more disabled kids.

The teachers unions and education bureaucrats have spent years mangling the numbers to make it sound like the state system is underfunded. If you compare it to the small number of very expensive private schools, it is. But if you compare it to run of the mill independent schools in place like Walla-Walla, it is very well funded.

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