Public funds for public schools!

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The federal government’s relaunch of its My School website has once again pushed the debate about the public funding of private schools to the fore. The website will reveal exactly how much taxpayer money actually goes towards elite private schools – most of which are closed off to all but the richest of Australian families.

Figures already released show the disproportionate amounts of funding the federal and state governments pump into private schools. Despite constant promises to improve the situation for public school students and teachers, governments consistently favors private schools when it comes to the dishing out of tax dollars.

Schools with Year 12 fees of more than $20,000 are being subsidised by $2000 to $5000 per student. Geelong Grammar, the most expensive school in Australia, will receive $4195 per secondary student and total federal funding of $4.8 million in 2011 alone.

By contrast Australia’s most disadvantaged schools, which rely purely on government funding, receive less than $1000 per student. More than two-thirds of Australian’s are educated in public schools which face a dire lack of resources. This negatively affects the education opportunities of the majority of students.

Many private schools yearly fees stand between $16,000 and $27,000 for Year 12 education. On average these schools raise their fees by a further 5 to 10 per cent every year. These costs are often out of reach for working class families therefore the only option open to them is to send their children to an under funded public school.

As if the situation facing government schools was not bad enough, the state Liberal government in Victoria has just broken its election promise to increase the wages of state school teachers. Low pay will only act as a disincentive for people to take up teaching, which will in turn impact on class sizes and the quality of education being delivered.

In a press release prior to the election Ted Baillieu said: “Under the Coalition’s proposal, Victorian teachers will become the highest paid in Australia”. The Coalition has now ruled out any pay increase above 2.5 per cent. This will ensure Victoria’s teachers stay among the lowest paid in the country.

The Australian Education Union is seeking a pay increase of 30 per cent over three years for Victoria’s 45,000 primary and secondary teachers. This would cost around $1.3 billion which is something close to what private schools will receive from taxpayer funding over that period.

All government funding should be directed to public and not private schools. We can not continue with a situation where public funds are put into private hands with no public accountability. The billions spent funding already wealthy private schools should be used to improve public school facilities. At the same time the teacher’s wages should be increased to attract new staff and allow class sizes to be reduced. This would ensure that every child in every school gets a decent education.

By Adam Hemsley