Once again, a disturbing divide in Australia’s education system is being supported by Australian taxpayers and the National Secular Lobby is imploring politicians to make it stop.
According to recent news articles, dozens of independent schools – many of them religious-based – are set to receive bonus payments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from the federal government.
NSL ambassador and education expert Dr David Zyngier says this only perpetuates the two-tier private versus public education system in Australia, which runs counter to last year’s OECD report Equity in Education.
“This report said that equity in education is achieved when schools ‘provide equal learning opportunities to all students’,” Dr Zyngier says. “Clearly that can not be achieved when many private schools are grossly over-funded while other public schools struggle to make ends meet.
“Furthermore, according to the report Australia is one of the worst OECD nations – 32nd out of 35 – when it comes to perpetuating ‘socially stratified education systems’. That is, class-based schooling."
News articles cite examples of St Scholastica's, Loreto Kirribilli, St Aloysius College and Pius X College that will all get more than $350,000 in payments this year from the Federal Government’s private school funding package. Many so-called "low fee" Catholic and other religious schools are now receiving more public funds than public schools.
This runs against former education minister Simon Birmingham's needs-based funding reforms that were designed to reduce funding to over-paid independent schools over the next 10 years.
“Australia is unique in the OECD in that we publicly fund private schools that charge parents fees. It is time that we stop all government funding to private schools ,” says Dr Zyngier. “If parents choose to leave the free public education system then they must pay for that choice. There is no entitlement to public subsidy."
“The argument that this money is needed to help the rich schools transition to the new funding model is ridiculous. The OECD says Australia's system is failing to meet international standards in learning and if we want to reverse that, then private schools need to learn to fully fund themselves."
"It is extraordinary that while the School Resource Standard for the average high school student is approximately $15K elitist private schools are charging parents over double that amount in fees. And these same schools still receive on average $3K public subsidy per student.”
The National Secular Lobby believes that true equality in education will promote cohesiveness and not separation, something all Australians should want.