The Guardian November 8, 2000


Stop destruction of public education

The Howard Government is pushing very hard to introduce its new funding 
system for schools. There is very little time left to stop the Bill. 
Guardian readers are urged to contact their Senators and do whatever 
else they can to raise public awareness and opposition to the States Grants 
(Primary and Secondary Education Assistance) Bill.

The new funding system will deliver huge funding increases to private 
schools, including the wealthiest ones.

Public education will be bled to death and it is quite clear from the 
direction that this government is going that public education as such has 
no future in this country.

What we are seeing is a retreat from a national approach to public 
education and the responsibility of the state to provide for the education 
of all citizens.

Education Minister Dr Kemp argues that the Commonwealth's main obligation 
is to private schools. By 2004, private schools will receive $3.9 billion a 
year from the Federal Government, and public schools will receive $2 
billion.

In the early 1980s, the majority of Commonwealth school funding went to 
public schools.

By 2004, 70 per cent of students enrolled in public schools will get just 
34.1 per cent of Federal Government funding. 

The Bill will:

* introduce the so-called socio-economic status (SES) model of funding for 
non-Catholic systemic private schools, but keep the old funding model for 
Catholic systemic schools.

Dr Kemp claims that this method is discredited, yet has allowed the largest 
private school sector (Catholic schools make up 65 per cent of private 
schools) to remain funded under that system;

* guarantee that no private school will be worse off, even if the SES model 
shows it should lose funds;

* introduce establishment grants ($500 per student) for new private 
schools, which will help new schools set up;

* allow for private schools to get funding for distance education students;

* bundle literacy and numeracy programs into a single "bucket" with funding 
for students with special needs and disabilities;

* make it mandatory to sign up for performance targets as a condition for 
funding for all schools and systems, including public education.

Funding could be withheld from public schools "failing" to meet Kemp-
decided performance targets (these are not defined in the Bill), thus 
removing funding from schools in most need of additional funds.

The proposed funding model has caused an outrage in the community, raising 
questions about state (taxpayer) funding of private schools, particularly 
at the expense of public education.

Teachers' unions in every state have alerted parents and the communities 
about the proposed changes to funding.

The Communist Party is strongly behind the public education system, the 
education unions and the campaign to defeat the Bill.

The public education system must be strengthened, with state funding non-
government schools phased out.

As the CPA's Program says, "The guiding principle and aim of the education 
system must be the provision of free, universal and secular public 
education for all children to produce a highly literate and cultured 
society."

"Equal access to education is an important democratic right.... The 
existence of institutions for the elite, for particular religious or ethnic 
groups, creates harmful divisions in society.

"Failure to provide adequate, relevant education for working class 
children, for Aborigines, migrants and the disadvantaged, reflects and 
reinforces their oppressed position in society.

"A high standard of education is vital for the improvement of their overall 
position."

That can only be achieved through a well-funded, public education system.

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