Parent financial contributions in urban public schools: Resource inequalities in a stratified education marketplace

Year: 2018

Author: Rowe, Emma, Perry, Laura

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This study examines inequalities of parent financial contributions as they occur between urban public schools. Using a census dataset of all public schools in one Australian capital city (n=150), we examine between-school inequalities of reported parent ‘contributions, fees and charges’ and how they are patterned by school socioeconomic status (SES) and other school characteristics, including enrolment of Indigenous students and Language Background Other than English (LBOTE) students. The paper aims to illuminate a secondary effect of school segregation, marked out by school’s serving majority-advantaged and majority-disadvantaged cohorts of students. In parallel, we found substantial inequalities between highly advantaged schools and disadvantaged schools, with high SES schools generating up to six times greater the amount of parent contributions compared to low SES schools. The gap between the school with the lowest and highest reportable amount of parental financial contributions is more than eighty times greater. Indigenous students and students from a Language Background Other Than English (LBOTE) are more likely to be enrolled within highly disadvantaged schools, although there are caveats issued for each. We argue that differences in parental funding capacities operate as another form of ‘compounded disadvantage’ for residualised public schools and a tiered effect of segregation.