Jobkeeper has proved to be a gravy train for wealthy private schools serving the most advantaged families in Victoria.
New financial statements posted on the Charities Commission website before Christmas reveal the shameless greed of some of the wealthiest most exclusive private schools in Victoria. Twenty-one schools received $90 million in Jobkeeper payments while making profits of $97 million. Most of them serve highly advantaged families.
One of Victoria’s most exclusive girls’ school, Methodist Ladies College (MLC), got $10.4 million from Jobkeeper and made a profit of $15 million in 2020. It increased its profit over the previous year by $7.8 million with the help of Jobkeeper.
MLC charges $34,000 fees for Years 11 and 12. Eighty per cent of its students are from the highest socio-educationally advantaged (SEA) quartile and 96 per cent come from the top two quartiles. It received nearly $10 million in recurrent government funding and has assets totalling $163 million.
A total of 60 Victorian private schools received $222 million from Jobkeeper and made $193 million in profits in 2020. Apart from five schools, all made a profit out of Jobkeeper and 52 increased their profits from 2019. The total increase in profits was $99 million. These schools also received $483 million in recurrent government funding in 2020.
Most of these schools serve privileged families. Between 60 and 80 per cent of their students are from the top SEA quartile and around 90 per cent or more are from the top two SEA quartiles. Several schools such as MLC, Lauriston and Strathcona provided fee remissions, rebates and discounts to their families.
As the Herald-Sun’s Susie O’Brien reported, several schools have repeatedly refused the divulge their payments (Herald-Sun. 30 December 2021). They have obscured their payments by including them with other government grants or other income. For example, Christ Church Grammar in Toorak received an increase in Commonwealth Government grants of nearly 200 per cent in 2020 but did not reveal its Jobkeeper payment.
The greed of these highly privileged schools is obscene. They grasp any opportunity to get their snouts in the taxpayer trough. Yet, they see themselves as having superior moral values that are central to their elitist culture. If they had any common decency, they would give the money back as some firms have done.
Jobkeeper was just another opportunity for the Morrison Government to provide even more special funding for private schools. It is icing on the cake of a huge funding boost for private schools through a highly flawed method of determining their financial need and by special funding deals not based on need such as the $1.2 billion Choice and Accountability Fund.
Government (Commonwealth and state) funding for private schools increased by four times that of public schools between 2009 and 2019. Government funding for Catholic and Independent schools increased by $2,050 and $2,006 per student respectively adjusted for inflation compared to only $514 per student for public schools.
The total resources of Victorian private schools far exceed those of public schools. The total income of Independent schools was $25,944 per student in 2019 and that of Catholic schools was $17,123 compared to $14,416 in public schools. Wealthy private schools seized on Jobkeeper with the connivance of the Commonwealth Government to extend their massive resource advantage.
The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, has conceded that Catholic schools have “never had it so good” in terms of funding. The same can be said of Independent private schools.
The resource advantage of private schools is set to continue for the rest of the decade under the terms of the Commonwealth-State bilateral funding agreements. Private schools will be funded at over 100 per cent of their Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) while public schools will be funded at less than 91 per cent of their SRS in all states except the ACT. As a result, public schools will remain massively under-funded. It points to the need for a comprehensive overhaul of school funding.
The above is an excerpt from an SOS article by Trevor Cobbold 3/1/2022
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