When it Comes to Government Funding, Public Schools Are Missing Out
With the recent announcement of funding for private schools, government schools and the government funded provided to them vs their independent school counterparts is gearing up to be one of the most divisive topics in the upcoming federal election.
In the lead up to the election, the federal government, lead by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, has recently announced a boost in funding for independent schools and catholic schools.
The coalition is proposing $4.6 billion in extra funding over the next 10 years, with a focus on a ‘choice and affordability’ fund, whose objective is to supplement current government funding in order to support low school fees and help parents be able to make decisions about schools that are focused on more that just school fees.
Morrison has stated that ‘parents should have a choice in education’ when it comes to making the important decision of the type of school their child attends. Unsurprisingly, the National Catholic Education Commission and Independent School Council of Australia support the deal, while the Greens and Labor have criticised the announcement.
It’s a significant amount of money, especially as there hasn’t been much in terms of boosts of income to private schools since the Howard era. However, how this money will actually result in benefits for school students is vague.
The official government document describing that the choice and affordability fund doesn’t give specifics of funding and costs, and since the previous education minister conceded that private schools are in fact overfunded, the question remains whether the announcement and dedication of money will actually assist students in achieving education equality.
On the whole, it seems that giving money to non-government schools doesn’t actually help the majority of students. In Australia we have more than 3.5 million students enrolled in our schooling system, with 65.6% of those in the public school sector.
If the funding actually meant that independent and catholic schools became cheaper it might – but a study done by the Australian Journal of Education found that while private schools have used government funding to increase the quality of their offering, it hasn’t resulted in any lower fees.
The same study showed that Australia’s current government funding scheme is largely useless in terms of increasing availability of private schooling to those from lower socioeconomic areas.
The review to achieve educational excellence in australian schools found that providing money for schools doesn’t necessarily result in improved outcomes, that where the money goes is crucial. And since australian schools who operate independently are by nature businesses, that money will always go towards increasing profits, which doesn’t suggest lowering school fees.
This funding is money that could be going to state schools would also help vulnerable students- the public sector educates 36% or students in the lowest socioeconomic bracket, as opposed to the independent and catholic schools who educate 13% and 21% of that same bracket respectively.
Overall, the independent school sector receives $8.2 billion dollars to educate only 14% of the population, which means that our public school students are missing out. It’s especially ironic as public education is supposed to be funded by our governments, and the whole point of private schools is that they’re privately funded.
While no one is suggesting that private schools receive zero funding, it’s a matter of urgency that more focus is aimed towards the struggling public sector, which has seen difficulties in overcrowded classrooms and scarce resources for years.
Our once world class education system is starting to lag behind, with NAPLAN and other testing showing that students are slipping down the world ranking, with Australian high school students in the public education system particularly of concern.
This would suggest that public school funding needs to be increased, not passed over in order to create funding arrangements with schools where, in some cases, they have expenditure double the amount of funding per student compared with state schools.
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