Saturday, September 04, 2004


Leftists have still not accepted Australia's long tradition of Federal subsidies for non-government (mostly church-run) schools

"Thankfully, long gone are the days of the acrimonious debate over state aid. The overwhelming majority of Australians support the existence of both government and non-government schools and accept that parental choice in education is a democratic right.

Not so the Australian Education Union, the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens. All, to varying degrees, argue against non-government schools and seek to penalise those parents who send their children to independent schools. The union's 1998 curriculum policy argues: "that the resources of governments should be wholly devoted to the public systems which are open to all" (4.5).

As might be expected from a left-wing union, the belief is that education should be a state monopoly and parents choosing the non-government system should be made to pay more.
Evidence of the union's continued antipathy to non-government schools is easy to find. The union is embarked on a campaign to destroy the Howard Government based on the (mistaken) premise that independent schools are over-funded (visit campaigns/).

The Labor Party also is a critic of nongovernment schools and, while acknowledging their right to receive some government funding, argues that many receive too much money and that priority must be given to government schools. To quote Opposition Leader Mark Latham, when interviewed on ABC radio: "We'll be taking money off the overfunded schools..."

While many associate the Greens with koalas and the environment, the party's schools policy is far from soft and cuddly. If in a position of power after the next election, the Greens pledge to abolish the SES system of funding non-government schools and reintroduce the Labor-designed New Schools Policy. The New Schools Policy was introduced by Labor to bolster the ailing government school system by making it almost impossible to establish new non-government schools. The Greens also wish to abolish funding to the so-called wealthiest non-government schools, categories 1 and 2 under the old funding scheme, and to significantly reduce funding to category 3 schools.

The union, the ALP and the Greens also argue that the Howard Government fails to properly fund government schools. Ignored is that the overwhelming responsibility for funding the public system resides with state governments and that, over the past five to six years, such governments have drained schools of resources.

That such attacks on non-government schools are illogical and counterproductive is easy to prove. Every time a parent decides to send a child to a non-government school, more money is freed up for the government school system. With government schools, the average student government recurrent funding (2001-2002) is just under $9000.

On average, students attending nongovernment schools receive approximately $5000 in government recurrent funding - a saving to government of $4000 for each student. Not only are parents who make the choice saving governments money, their taxes also fund the government school system.
Based on research carried out by the Productivity Commission, it is estimated the financial sacrifice of non-government school parents amounts to a S4.2 billion annual saving to governments across Australia. Money that can be spent in other areas such as welfare and health. As demonstrated in 1962 in Goulburn, NSW, when the local Catholic authorities closed their system and 2200 additional students suddenly knocked on the door of their overcrowded public schools, the government system would collapse if not for the presence of non-government schools.....

Notwithstanding that non-government schools save governments billions of dollars, such schools have become a target of the Left in the federal election. Why is this so? One reason is because teacher unions define non-government schools as elitist and guilty of promoting a "competitive and culturally biased system of education". While the Berlin Wall may have collapsed, those running the union still believe in the class war and non-government schools are an easy target.....

Ignored is that parents are voting with their feet (32 per cent of students now attend non-government schools, up from 22 per cent in 1980)..."

(The above is excerpted from an article by Kevin Donnelly that appeared in the Brisbane "Courier Mail" on September 2nd., 2004)

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