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Greens pursue politics of envy in schooling

By Kevin Donnelly - posted Thursday, 3 January 2013


On reading acting leader Adam Bandt's comments about the Greens Party's new policy platform one could be forgiven for thinking the watermelon party has cast aside its radical fervour and discovered the middle ground in public policy.

Not when it comes to the place of non-government schools in Australia's education system. Contrary to what some argue the revised policy, instead of representing a back down, exhibits a deep seated, pathological dislike of independent and Catholic schools.

Ignoring the fact that 34% of students now attend non-government schools across Australia, with the figure rising to over 50% at Years 11 and 12 in many places, and the reality that parents pay taxes for government schools they don't use, the Greens' policy unfairly discriminates against non-government schools.

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In relation to funding, instead of agreeing that all students, regardless of school attended, deserve to be treated fairly the policy argues that non-government schools have had "an adverse impact on public education" and, as a result, Commonwealth funding must "prioritise the public education system".

Ignored is that the existing funding model is already based on need, with affluent independent schools receiving approximately 13.5% of what state schools receive in terms of recurrent funding and that the existence of non-government schools save governments approximately $6 billion a year.

Repeating the cultural-left mantra of "equity and need", a situation where the focus is on overcoming disadvantage supposedly concentrated only in government schools, the revised policy argues that the level of government funding must "not advantage private education at the expense of public education".

Unlike government schools serving affluent communities, where parents are not penalised because of their wealth, the policy also states that funding to independent and Catholic schools must take into account "the school's capacity to generate income from all sources, including fees and other contributions".

Under the existing socioeconomic status model there is no such requirement on the basis that non-government schools should not suffer because of their ability to raise funds locally via fees, fetes and philanthropic support.

Hearkening back to Mark Latham's hit-list taken to the 2004 election, the Greens Party argues that any new model post 2013 should end funding to "very wealthy non-government schools" and that savings should be "reinvested in public schools".

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In addition to denying non-government schools adequate funding, the Greens' policy is also directed at restricting enrolment growth. Any new funding model should enforce a situation where, "the viability and diversity of existing public schools is not endangered by the development of new private schools".

And its not just funding and enrolments. Similar to the Commonwealth government's proposed anti-discrimination legislation, the Greens Party also wants to enforce its cultural-left view in relation to sex, sexuality and gender identity.

Whereas religious schools are currently exempted from the provisions of various anti-discrimination laws, on the basis of freedom of religion, the Greens' policy argues that such schools must not be allowed to control who they employ or who the enrol.

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About the Author

Dr Kevin Donnelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University and he recently co-chaired the review of the Australian national curriculum. He can be contacted at kevind@netspace.net.au. He is author of Australia’s Education Revolution: How Kevin Rudd Won and Lost the Education Wars available to purchase at www.edstandards.com.au

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