The State spent over €97 million on the salaries of teachers in private schools last year, new figures reveal.
In the academic year beginning September 2019, the Department of Education paid the salaries of teachers in 52 fee-paying schools across the country.
New figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show the private salaries cost the State nearly €1.7 million more in the 2019/2020 school year than the year before.
In the academic year beginning September 2018, the Department paid just over €95 million in salaries — bringing the total spent over a two-year period to €192 million.
The highest amount was paid last year to teachers in St Andrew's College in Dublin, at over €3.9 million.
The economic argument is strongly in favour of retaining the current system
Arthur Godsil, a former headmaster of the school, said the State should continue to fund the salaries of teachers in fee-paying schools.
“The economic argument is strongly in favour of retaining the current system. If all the schools were to go into the free scheme, the teachers would still have to be paid, the children would still have to be taught,” he said.
“I’d imagine many of these particular schools have got buildings and lands that have been bought by them by the private means and so on, and therefore they’d have to buy them over, so the economic argument doesn’t actually work.”
However, Sinn Féin's education spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said the State's financial support of these schools should be phased out.
“If people want to educate their children privately that’s entirely their prerogative, it’s entirely the prerogative of the schools to organise that,” he said.
“We don’t agree with the families of those who have children in schools with high disadvantage that are underfunded, should be subsidising with their taxes.”
Aside from St Andrew's College, the salaries of teachers in five other schools also cost the State over €3 million last year.
Nearly 26,000 students attended the 52 fee-paying schools during the 2019/2020 academic year.