Chris Bonnor. School funding and achievement: following the money trail

The recurrent expenditure on school education in Australia is over 44 billion dollars, around 36 billion of this provided by governments. These are considerable sums, more often than not expressed as a cost rather than an investment – especially when it doesn’t always seem to deliver noticeable improvements in student results.

But a closer look at where the money goes and what it delivers reveals many surprises. Schools are expensive places, some far more than others. But in recent years the biggest funding increases have gone to the most advantaged schools – and there is scant evidence of any difference in student results.

Some schools are better than others – but regardless of sector, schools which enrol similar students turn out much the same results. This prompts us to take a close look at how much schools are spending to get these same results.

We find that if schools spent the same as the most efficient providers up to $3.3 billion each year could potentially be diverted to our most needy students. Gonski would be back in play, Australia’s worrying achievement gaps would diminish.

This study shows the figures, the possibilities and some the inevitable arguments.

This is a synopsis of a larger paper that contains tables and footnotes.  Click here to read it as a PDF.

Chris Bonnor is a Fellow of the Centre for Policy Development.


Chris Bonnor is an education researcher and writer.

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