PASSWORD RESET

Magazine of the Socialist Party, Australian section of the CWI

Public money for public schools!

Oppose taxpayer handouts to private institutions

The government’s recent announcement that they will increase funding to private schools has been met with outcry from parents and students at underfunded state schools.

The move, a desperate attempt to win votes in the lead up to the federal election, will see an increase of $4.5 billion in government funding to private non-government schools, mainly benefiting the Catholic sector.

This increase was announced on the back of the existing funding agreement made under Turnbull which set private school funding at $11.3 billion this year, increasing to $18.2 billion in 2029.

This amount is well below what state run schools get, currently $7.4 billion for this year rising to $13.7 billion in 2029.

Prime minister Scott Morrison has shamelessly returned to the old Liberal catch-cry that increased funding to private schools will bring down fees and give parents more “choice” about whether to send their children to private or public schools.

This funding model, according to Morrison is “needs based” but, in reality, it gives huge amounts of money to already privileged schools. Fees at private schools are not based on the “needs” of those attending them, private schools set fees that are charged to everyone regardless of their income.

The median income of families in non-government private schools is more than $200,000, while most families from working class backgrounds earn around $70,000. Private school fees, at their very lowest, sit at around $4000 per year, making them out of reach for most working class families and far from a choice.

Morrison’s real reasons for this dramatic increase lie in the need to secure support prior to the 2019 election. He is desperate to try and outbid the Labor Party for support via votes and donations from the rich and powerful, most who send their children to private schools.

Additionally, middle class families who send their children to less privileged non-government schools, particularly within the Catholic sector, will welcome any reduction in fees and the government hopes to woo votes amongst those people.

Morrison argues that these funding changes take nothing away from state education. This is a fraud. While it is true that he proposes the same bare bones funding agreement that Turnbull did, he ignores the huge impact this additional funding would have if was put into public education, even just $4.5 billion of it.

Any parent who sends their children to a state school knows that although in theory, they are free; there are always other costs. Currently the total cost of a public education to parents from prep to year 12 is a minimum of $60,000 depending on the area.

Many schools additionally struggle to provide adequate programs, teacher’s aids and even teachers on the relative pittance they receive from the government. Often there are not enough resources at state schools meaning limited access to information technology, books, equipment for sports and after school care programs.

Socialists oppose state funding being spent on private institutions, just as we oppose government handouts to any private company. We stand for a fully funded public education system from early childhood to university.

While not opposing faith-based schools, socialists are not in favour of these schools being funded with taxpayer money. If churches want to set up their own schools it should be up to the religious institutions to fund. Clearly this shouldn’t be too much of problem for the mega-rich Catholic church!

Taxpayer funds should be used to create first class state schools, free for all. Some may argue that the money doesn’t exist to pay for this, but that is just not the case.

Imagine what could be provided if all the corporations that currently pay no tax in Australia were forced to pay a much higher rate of tax. These companies, over 700 of them in 2017, made over $500 billion in profits and include the likes of Adani, Goldman Sachs and the Tatts Group.

Billions could be raised if these companies were taxed appropriately and billions more could be saved by stopping handouts to private institutions.

The money raised would mean that everybody, regardless of their background would have access to the best quality education and a proper start in life. This is what we should demand; this is what we should fight for to ensure a decent future for all.

By Denise Dudley