Fighting for Equity in Education

The struggle is long but hope is longer

Private Schools Want to Abolish Free Public Education

Friday March 4, 2011

In an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Geoff Newcombe, Executive Director of the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, moves the debate about school funding into extremist territory.

The article previews the release of My School 2.0, and Newcombe is quoted as saying:

There are more wealthy families attending government schools than independent schools. This is going to raise the issue as to how long as a community can we continue to offer free education to those who can afford to contribute to the education of their children.

In the same vein, Chris Middleton, principal of Sydney’s St Aloysius’ College, argues that “free public education for students of high socio-economic means is the ultimate form of middle class welfare”.

What exactly are these people saying? Allow me to translate.

In establishing a system of free, compulsory and secular education in Australia, Henry Parkes and his contemporaries got it wrong. In fact, every developed nation in the world got it wrong too.

The act of guaranteeing an education for each citizen has no bearing on a nation’s economic prosperity or social cohesion. The education guarantee provides no meaningful support for democracy.

Education is not a right: it is a privilege.

We cannot afford the luxury of a free education any more. The burden to the tax “payer” (a term with which I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable, preferring tax “contributor”) is too great and unsustainable.

Education is best delivered by private institutions who determine the moral and spiritual code for their students. Staff and students will be selected based on belief (or parental belief) as each private school sees fit.

Those who cannot afford to pay for their schooling don’t deserve anything more than a second-rate, bare bones, education “safety net”.

Parents with the means to chose private who send their children to public schools are spongers and parasites who are getting something for nothing. They don’t really love their children because they are not willing to make any sacrifices (or go further into debt) for them. They are asking tax payers to fund their freeloading whilst paying for their own children’s private education.

The call by public school advocacy groups for resourcing to meet student needs, in the context of the Schools Funding Review, promises to produce more and more outlandish statements from the private school lobby. Newcombe and Co. appear not to be content with the fact that Australian governments contribute more public money to private schools than any nation in the world apart from Belgium and South Korea. Do they really want Australia to be the first nation in modern history to do away with public education altogether?

Glenn Fowler
Schools Organiser
AEU ACT Branch

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