A recently released Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) paper titled "Imperatives in Schools Funding: Equity, sustainability and achievement" by Lyndsay Connors and Jim McMorrow is the latest tiresome attack on the parents of the 500,000 plus students who rightly have exercised the choice to educate their children in independent schools.
As research, the work lacks credibility simply because it does not include any analysis of State/Territory Government funding for schooling. As a result, it selectively uses Australian Government funding to reach what can only be described as questionable conclusions. The most unrealistic of these is the claim that increased public recurrent investment in non-government schools has increased overall costs to governments rather than producing overall savings.
To claim that if the additional 634,068 students in non-government schools between 1973 and 2012 were in fact educated in government schools, costs to governments would have been $2 billion less annually just does not make sense when the Productivity Commission's 2015 Report on Government Services showed that average government expenditure in 2012 – 13 was $15,703 a student in a government school compared to $8,812 a student in a non-government school, a saving to the taxpayer of almost $7000 a student, or $8.6 billion annually.
The ACER report also conveniently ignores where these children might be housed in the public system if they didn't attend non-government schools. The capital costs for providing for such a number of students would be at least $18 billion alone – costs that do not have to be met by governments.
Political support for choice in schooling over the past thirty years has opened up diverse schooling opportunities for hundreds of thousands of students and parents, particularly from lower socio-economic areas. Choice and diversity is alive and well in our schooling system and lays the foundations for a vibrant, innovative and "consumer-driven" schooling sector.
The independent sector provides parents from varied socio-economic backgrounds a choice of school based on values, community and culture. The more choice parents have, the better they will be able to select a school that suits their children's needs.
There are more than two million school aged children in Australia and more than one-third attend schools that are not run by State Governments. The increasing number of students being educated at independent schools is a clear indication that parents value independent education and are prepared to meet the associated costs from their after-tax income.
Parents pay close to $1 billion annually (from their after-tax income) in independent school fees in Queensland. Parents make rational decisions when determining value for their investment in schooling. The investment by parents in independent schooling should be valued and supported. Recent surveying by Independent Schools Queensland (What Parents Want 2015) confirms high levels of parent satisfaction with independent schools and further, that many parents aspire to send their children to an independent school.
A robust education system depends on both state and non-state schools and until we place the focus on the needs of parents and students rather than what type of school they attend, we will miss the opportunity to continue to build a world class schooling provision which is essential to our future economic and social prosperity.
State, independent and Catholic schools all have a valuable role to play in educating future generations of young people, and parents have a right to choose a school that best suits their child and their beliefs.
While there are some significant issues that need to be considered about the overall Federal funding framework for schooling post 2017, which school a child attends is not one of them.
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