Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Expose your Privates!
There has been a significant 'drift' towards private education in Australia. I'm not sure why because there isn't a huge 'class' system here but in my own area, private or 'independent' religious schools outnumber their state run counterparts. Today, a bill is being presented in Parliament that requires Private and Independent (read religious) schools to disclose their fund raising income.
As it stands now and in the true spirit of egalitarianism, every school receives the same amount of Government funding for each pupil. The difference is that Private Schools and Independent schools charge fees . .lots of them. A fully privatised school can demand as much as $5,000 per term per child (there are four terms in the Australian School Year). Independent schools charge around $800 per term then a diminishing amount for each sibling attending school.
Then there are the fundraisers. State Schools struggle with fetes and trivia nights, whilst Private and Independents seem to be better patronised with everything from Fetes, Auctions, Art Shows, Car Washes, Lamington or cake drives or these days, more and more sophisticated methods of raising funds to boost their facilities.
The conundrum here is that Private and Independents have never had to disclose their 'extra' income or where it is spent. Government schools must disclose any income received outside their Government funding.
Now before you label me a socialist ratbag, my two went to Catholic (independent) schools. I married a Catholic man and it was part of the deal that I raise any future children as such. I had no problem with this. Religion was a compulsory HSC subject but I was quite amazed with the diversity of 'religious' instruction they received. Questions in their exam papers were about the treatment of women in non-Christian religions, the comparison of Catholicism with other religions and why the sacraments were important. It was more of a general subject than pure indoctrination (they do that in Primary school).
The fund raising was horrendous. Everything from Chocolate drives, to art fairs, raffle tickets, car rallies, musicals, theatrical productions, cake stalls and language trip fund raisers. There was an incessant trail of 'give us your money' plus a Diocesan fee which went into a pool for various educational improvements for the the entire diocese.
So, my point, why are independent and private schools afraid of disclosing their income? Some fear a 'hidden agenda' by Government to cut their funding and given that we have a Labour Government, that's probably a valid concern. However, one rule for State and another for private seems very hypocritical to my view. I would like to think that the $15,000 - $20,000 per student, per year paid by parents to a private institution is leading to better resources, well stocked libraries, subsidised travel, high tech computer systems, more subject choice . . .but knowing how hard my sister has worked for her kid's Government funded primary school to install electronic white boards and new facilities, the inequality seems unfair.
. . does it really make a difference, I'd be interested to know. I'm a product of the State system . . my kids the product of the religious school system and my friends' kids are products of the expensive private system . . .does it make a difference? Is it money well spent?
Privates . . . expose yourselves! Declare your income and let's know EXACTLY where that cash is being invested. You do the maths. . . .elite school, 500 students, $20,000 a year per student . . plus a Government subsidy and frenetic fund raising on top of that! Where's the money going?
If I'm paying $20,000 a year to educate my kid, I want him to have the very best. I want more than a straw boater and a nice uniform. I want more than a 'good name'. I want the kid to receive a great education and I don't expect to have to buy a ticket in your chook raffle.