I don’t care whether they call themselves independent schools, private schools, or, as the British call them, public schools -- non-government schools in Australia should not be funded by the government.
We must stop funding non-government schools
As I recall, it was the Whitlam Government that first provided significant funding from the public purse to private schools in Australia. While governments since then have varied the criteria and amount of funding for non-government schools, they continue to do so at significant levels.
While I am a fan of the vision of Gough Whitlam, I believe his policies in this respect were wrong. In my humble view, there should be no government funding of non-government schools. If parents choose to send their children to a non-government school, they should pay the full cost.
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While I am aware this is a controversial stand, it's one I'm absolutely committed to. Taxpayers should not be funding non-government schools -- and I am considering starting a long-term campaign that would lead to this becoming the norm.
My father, a one-time school teacher, once said to me that while the government subsidises public transport (buses, trams and trains) it does not do the same for taxis. Taxis are a private mode of transport and should be fully funded by the user.
I believe this is a valid metaphor for what should happen in the education system.
I am aware that the counter-argument is that if the parents of non-government schoolchildren pay their taxes, they should have their education subsidised as well.
I totally agree, so long as their children access these services in the manner that government provides it to all. All children that attend a government school receive access to roughly the same investment by government.
Catch the bus and you get a subsidy, catch a taxi and you don’t. Attend a government school and receive the subsidy, attend a non-government school and you don’t.
I know there is an argument about choice. Parents should be free to make the choice they believe is best for them and their children.
I agree, so long as they are prepared to pay for it. I have the right to buy a Rolls-Royce and might do so, if I had the money. Up until recently, if you purchased a locally made car you knew it was subsidised, while the imported vehicle was not. That is gone now, as it should be.
I know there will be arguments about religious freedom.
I agree that religious freedom is important, but it is the responsibility of parents to indoctrinate children, not the school system. If parents want the school to do it, they should pay for it, just as they pay for a taxi.
Working for elite non-government schools, I have surveyed many hundreds of parents of non-government schoolchildren, only to find myself disgusted by many of the reasons cited by these parents for sending their children to these schools.
These reasons have included: ‘babysitting’ before and after school hours; providing the discipline that the parents didn't have time to provide; facilitating connections and relationships that will help them in business; religious education; ‘making a man' of their boys; and personal prestige. So many were concerned about prestige.
Education -- and the erroneous view that private schools offer a superior standard of education (look at the statistics) -- were secondary factors. Further, however, I would argue that the factors listed in the previous paragraph are more important to parents and are not the responsibility of the government.
Government has a responsibility to provide the best possible education to the greatest possible number of people, and this obligation is best served by concentrating as much money as possible on larger-scale hubs that can maximise the return on investment.
This will be best achieved by concentrating funds on public centres of excellence. Fragmenting the funding, as occurs now, is far from cost effective.
I know many readers will disagree with me and I would really like to hear from them.