The Guardian • Issue #2008


Private schools got richer under JobKeeper

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2008

To say that JobKeeper was a program designed to benefit the ruling class during the pandemic would be an understatement.

As we have seen, Harvey Norman received $22 million in subsidies after posting record profits for the 2020-21 financial year. Now, however, it has been revealed that non-government schools experienced similar benefits.

The ABC found from its analysis of “all 395 non-government schools” that with “taxpayers subsidising pay packets, together these schools more than doubled their surplus in 2020 to almost $1 billion.” Here, institutions like The King’s School (NSW) received $8 million; Southport School (QLD) “pocketed almost $5 million in the same year it tripled its surplus”; Sacred Heart College (SA) “increased its surplus by almost the same amount it received in JobKeeper” ($7.6 million).

And here we see the flaw inherent in JobKeeper manifest again: that it misallocated funds because of poor assessments and did not regulate its use. We saw it with Harvey Norman, and we now see how it took place in our non-government schools.

Dean Paatsch, an investment analyst who has been following JobKeeper, told the ABC:

“The taxpayer does not need to be subsidising schools that have more money than they know what to do with […]. JobKeeper topped up their [surpluses] and increased their cash […]. They could renovate their boat shed, finish their indoor pools […] upgrade their gymnasium and wellness centre – all of those things occurred.”

Many of these facilities mentioned by Passtsch are already state-of-the-art, outdoing their council or private counterparts, and are funded by wealthy alumni, parents, or benefactors, many of which are Australia’s richest.

Independent Schools Australia contends that its schools “rely heavily on fees paid by parents – many of whom lost jobs or income due to the impacts of COVID-19.” However, it is clear from the above that any loss of jobs did not have the described impact. In fact, according to the ABC, “only six school campuses reported their revenue falling by thirty per cent or more across 2020.” Furthermore, Paatsch denies this claim stating that “teachers weren’t stood down [and] school fees continued to be paid by parents.”

Wealth inequality under a near-decade of Coalition government has risen drastically. The inefficiency of the JobKeeper program reveals only one way in which the Coalition was able to exploit a crisis to the benefit of the ruling class. With the Morrison government defeated, Australia has one of its most progressive parliaments in decades and can start to rectify this massive gap of wealth between the classes. However, it will be to all Australians to ensure that the promises of the ALP, the Greens, and Independents are kept.

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