Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Everything but the Truth!!

The Federal Government is currently reviewing the way education, and, ipso facto, schools, are funded. It may well be the first time since 1973 that such a review has been undertaken.

I came across a Face book site the other day called Public Schools for Our Future which is supposedly a call from public school teachers and students for better resources. The site is, though, fairly obviously, part of the Australian Education Union’s malicious, maligning, malevolent, militant and divisive campaign to slash funding to private schools, and to boost resources in public schools.

The campaign though, by any stretch of the imagination, and to one such as me, a committed and very public advocate and participant in public education, is unprofessional, unethical and unacceptable.

The campaign says that “more funding for public schools would mean lower class sizes and more individual attention for students. It’s the best investment we could make for our future.”

But there is no evidence that increasing resources will make any difference to the kids in our schools.

Between 1964 and 2003 there was a 258% increase in spending on schools. But over the same period a 73% drop in productivity, and for productivity read student achievement.

The dishonest, deceptive, deceitful and disproportionate campaign offers some “facts”!

Firstly, that “the federal funding system is broken and needs to be changed”.
This is simply a matter of opinion and one which is divided both within public education ranks and between public and private interests.

Secondly that "the public school share has been falling year after year and millions of dollars are given to private schools each year regardless of the needs of their students or their resources".
This is just rhetorical invective. Nowhere is it made clear that the Federal Government has the task of funding private schools, and the States have the responsibility of funding , you guessed it, State schools.

Thirdly, that "the way federal funding is allocated is unfair".
Consider this say the campaign boffins:
“public schools teach two-thirds of students but only get one-third of the funding”.
But government schools account for 79 percent of government expenditure compared to 66 percent of full time equivalent (FTE) student enrolments. In comparison, non-government schools account for 21 percent of total government expenditure compared to 34 percent of FTE student enrolments. The counting has to be in total taxpayer dollars, not just the unidentified Federal component! And we can see who is advantaged!

“Federal funds are not distributed according to need. The richest private school gets more than the poorest public school”.
Expenditure by all governments on school education was $36.4 billion in 2007-08 (the most recently available figures), with $28.8 billion going to government schools and $7.7 billion to non-government schools, including independent schools.

“Public schools provide quality education to 79% of Australia’s at risk students and 80% of students with disabilities & special needs”.
While government expenditure per student varies between schools, on average, students attending independent schools receive considerably less government funding than their counterparts at government schools. In 2007-08 government expenditure per student in independent schools was in the order of $6,067, some 48 percent of that spent on students in government schools.

Independent school funding varies considerably with schools serving communities with a higher level of need receiving more funding.

All Australian children are entitled to the best possible education and should be entitled to at least a basic grant from governments to meet the cost of their school education. It is reasonable that as taxpayers, parents of students attending independent schools should receive some government assistance in meeting the cost of their child’s school education. Further savings to governments from children attending independent schools are in the order of $3.1 billion per annum.

Schools serving well off communities receive substantially less government funding than those serving less well off communities. Under the new Commonwealth funding scheme, schools serving the most well off communities receive an amount per student equivalent to 13.7 percent of the average recurrent cost of educating a child in a government school. Once State or Territory funding is taken into account this increases to between 20 and 25 percent of the average cost of educating a child in a government school in the relevant State.

“The proportion of Federal funding allocated to public schools has been falling for over a decade”.
The question for the campaigners is rather: “Has the proportion of State Government funding risen?
Because the proportion of State Government funding to private schools has fallen!

“Many public schools currently rely on fundraising to buy key resources”.
Newsflash - all schools, whether public or private, enhance their budgets through fundraising and fees.
The difference between government funding received and the cost of educating a child at an independent school is met by parents from their after tax income.

I have debated this issue with the Federal President of the AEU, Angelo Gavriolatis, and used evidence to back up my line of argument. His response. “Well there are different ways of looking at this”. Deep!

The majority of good, decent and honest folk in the public education sector want all children to get a good education, to receive a return on their tax contributions set aside for that education and to allow families to choose just where they want to educate their children, both within the public sector, and between sectors, public, private and catholic.

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