AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL FOR THE DEFENCE OF GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS
PRESS RELEASE 403
PUBLIC PROVISION OF PUBIC EDUCATION
UNDERMINED BY PRIVATE SUBSIDISATION
28 October 2010
The public provision of public education is being undermined as governments abdicate their responsibility and follow the ‘private is better than public’ ideology. Although the neo-liberal ideology is leading the Western countries into grave economic problems, Australian governments appear unable to anything other than slavishly follow its tenets. The losers are the students, teachers and parents of the next generation.
In recent years creeping privatisation in Australian education has been apparent in three areas:
i. The contracting out of education at enormous public expense to sectarian and/or private institutions
ii. The demands placed upon public school parents to pay ‘levies ’ and raise private funds for basic public facilities
iii. The encouragement of business and industry interests to fund basic educational provision.
The DOGS have consistently opposed the first evidence of privatisation listed above, namely the billions of dollars of taxpayer funding provided to sectarian schools.
DOGS also oppose No. ii and iii above for the same reason: in a democratic society government have an obligation to spend public money on public facilities which are public in purpose, outcome, access, ownership, control, funding and accountability. The privatisation of profits and public responsibility for losses is economic madness and leads to corrupt practices.
The burdens placed upon parents to tax themselves and others in order to raise funds for basic public facilities is outrageous.
i. The evidence that Australian governments are planning to continue the contracting out of their responsibility for educational provision to sectarian institutions is found in the budget predictions to 2016 which grossly favour the private sectarian sector. By 2013-14 federal government funding of schools is estimated to be almost double that of public schools. In dollar terms it is estimated to be $8.892 billion for private sectarian schools and $4.510 billion for public schools. Private education will in that year be receiving 66% of the federal funding cake while public schools will come a poor second with 34%. The determination of governments to force middle class parents out of the free secular and universal public and into the private fee paying sector which obeys ‘market forces’ is costing the taxpayers ever increasing billions of dollars. Meanwhile, only the public sector is prepared to provide education to the poor, the disadvantaged, the disabled and those in geographically remote communities. This is bad economic policy. As public policy it is disastrous.
ii. By starving the public system of funds and pouring those funds through the leaky sieve into the private system, Australian governments are forcing parents into fundraising for basic educational resources. The AEU has recently placed a document entitled State of Our Schools Survey 2010 on their website at http://www.aeufederal.org.au/
On pages 8-10 of this document evidence is presented of the type and nature of parents taxing themselves for public facilities. The vast majority of parents in all States ( 81%- 100%) stated that they had engaged in fundraising in the past year. 61% said that their fundraising was very important, 33% said that it was important and only 6% said that it was not important. Of the funds raised 21% said it was used on maintenance on existing school infrastructure; 15% said it was used on new buildings and facilities; 71% said that it was used on basic classroom equipment; and 57% said it was used on ICT hardware/software. The use of parental contributions to basic maintenance on existing school infrastructure was highest in Victoria which reported 31%. One of the figures of most concern is the 12% of Victorian fundraising used on teacher salaries. These figures suggest that even State governments no longer regard themselves as responsible for the provision of public education.
iii. Perhaps the most worrying development in public education in the past few years has been the direct involvement of business corporations in the funding of public education. In Victoria, this has involved the use of public/private partnerships in the building of new schools. This means that, instead of corporations paying a fair share of tax, they are becoming contractors for the leasing, building and maintenance of school infrastructure. They seek to privatize the profits and force the taxpayer to pick up the losses.
This now enables business to contribute to funding education and claim taxation exemptions in the process. Rather than pay their taxes for the common good, corporations can now set up taxation evasion schemes while public education is relegated to a mere ‘charitable’ exercise rather than a right! This is the hallmark of a private sectarian institution, and another nail in the coffin of a child’s right to a free, secular and universal education in this country.
The influence of big business does not stop at buildings. Last month, the Brumby Government in Victoria launched a new foundation to make it easier for businesses to make donations to government schools in Victoria. The Business Working with Education Foundation has been established as a registered charitable company to co-ordinate and facilitate business donations to schools. The chairman of the foundation is Michael Andrew, the chairman of KPMG Australia and member of the Business Council of Australia (BCA) Mr Andrew is also the chairman of the BCA’s Task Force on Education, Skills and Innovation.
As an example of the potential offered by the new foundation, Victorian Education Minister, Bronwyn Pike, highlighted the establishment of a new P-9 school at Doveton, in south-east Melbourne where millionaire poker player, businessman and philanthropist Julius Colman has pledged more than $5 million over eight years to early childhood needs.
The Colman Foundation is donating $1.8 million towards the new school building and an early childhood centre as well as $500,000 a year for at least eight years for early childhood services. It is the first long-term investment by a philanthropic organisation in A single Victorian government school.
An interesting analysis of United States precedents appears on the Save Our Schools website on 26 October 2010 under the heading From Little Things, Big Things Grow: The Creeping Privatisation of Public Education.
See www.saveourschools.com.au/ American educationists are very concerned at the way is which billionaire philanthropists like Bill Gates are perverting the funding of public education and driving education reform in the United States by targeting specific projects that are not backed by sound research.
And what are these projects? Teacher assessment systems based on student standardised test scores; choice, competition and the privatisation of public education through the establishment of charter schools.
As the President of the South Australian Association of Schools Parents Clubs, Jenice Zerna, rightly asks:
‘What sort of influence are businesses going to want and is that going to affect the curriculum and learning? ( Crikey, 30 September, 2010)
There is evidence that Australian governments are continuing i, ii, and iii above unabated . This is bad news. The good news is that public school voters are quietly leaving the major parties that are in thrall to the sectarians and neo-liberal ideologues and looking at voting independent or Green.
DEFEND PUBLIC EDUCATION AND STOP STATE AID TO PRIVATE RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS.
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