Let's remember this come election time...
Twenty of Sydney's wealthiest private schools received $111 million in taxpayer funding last year, new data has revealed, allowing the institutions to subsidise plans for tennis courts, flyover theatre towers, and Olympic pools with underwater cameras. The schools, including The King's School, Trinity Grammar and SCECGS Redlands, have offset parents investments through the public purse courtesy of an $11 million increase in combined state and federal funding since 2012, according to MySchool data.
On Friday, Fairfax Media revealed that the oldest girls school in Australia, St Catherine's in Waverley, had won a battle to build a $63 million auditorium complete with an orchestra pit, a water polo pool, and a flyover tower for state-of-the-art theatre productions.
It is one of several multi-million dollar developments underway at schools across Sydney, where five of the most expensive institutions have received more than $92 million in state and federal government funding since 2012, equivalent to the total cost of building up to three new public schools
According to the NSW Department of Education it costs taxpayers $17,000 a year to educate the average public high school student, while taxpayers contribute about half that for each private school student. Sydney's wealthiest schools charge parents up to $30,000 a year in school fees.
North Sydney's Shore school has plans to build a new sports centre featuring strength and conditioning facilities, a 50m multipurpose pool and three indoor basketball courts, while its neighbour Redlands has pushed through plans for a $46 million development of a "state of the art" performing arts centre and rooftop pool as part of a 20-year, $104 million redevelopment plan.
Just around the harbour, Riverview is drawing up plans to construct a multi-million dollar "retail and hospitality hub", while in the inner-west Trinity Grammar is forging ahead with construction on its "Olympic pool with underwater cameras and timers" after it received $31 million in public funding since 2012.
NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge described the funding figures as a "travesty". "If parents are wondering why their child sweltered this summer in a public school class room without air conditioning then the answer is pretty obvious, it was to help some exclusive private school build its new recital hall," he said.
"It is a travesty that while some public schools struggle for basic facilities, millions of dollars of public money is subsidising the fifteenth playing field or second pool for the wealthiest private schools in the country".
It is illegal for private schools to invest recurrent funding in building works, but the public injections allow schools to produce savings in their recurrent staff budgets, and direct school fees and donations towards capital projects, where they can also receive separate dedicated capital funding from the government.
A little perspective, at the local state primary school there are 3 toilets for 75 prep students (that's the first year of school in Qld). We have only just had all the classroom's air conditioned thanks to years of fundraising by the P&C. There is no cooling facility in the assembly hall so it's not unusual to have 550 teachers, parents and students in there in 30+ degree temperatures.