Communist Party of Australia

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Issue #1621      December 4, 2013

Public education dealt another blow

On August 29, Opposition spokesperson for Education, Christopher Pyne was adamant: “Every single school in Australia will receive, dollar for dollar, the same federal funding over the next four years whether there is a Liberal or Labor government after September 7.”

A few months on, the now Education Minister, Pyne says he will scrap the so-called Gonski reforms (Labor’s Better Schools package) and replace them with a “new model” that will in effect slash spending on public schools and feed the richest private schools millions of dollars more in funding.

The Gonski reforms will operate in 2014 as it requires legislation to dismantle them. The plan is to replace them in 2015.

The major difference between Pyne and the ALP is over the amount of funding and how it will be distributed between public and private schools. There is no sign that Pyne wants to abandon the privatisation agenda which is integral to the Gonski package. (See Guardian #1590, 24-04-2013 “Education privatisation agenda”)

Labor’s model attaches a base amount of funding to each primary or secondary student (a voucher system), regardless of whether their school is public or private. The full amount would be paid to public schools but private schools (including Catholic) would receive a reduced rate according that particular school’s ability to raise fees. In other words schools charging $25,000 a year in fees would receive less than those charging $12,000 or $6,000.

Public and private schools alike, would also receive additional funding based on various measures of disadvantage such as Indigenous students, number low socio-economic status, non-English speaking backgrounds, etc. So if a rich school took in Indigenous students, it would receive extra on the same basis as public schools would for the same students.

Pyne is set to cut funding and rob public schools. He plans to punish those states that signed up to Labor’s package by ripping money off them to hand over to those who held back – Queensland, Western Australia and the ACT.

Not surprisingly, Liberal and Labor Premiers who signed up are furious. NSW alone stands to lose more than $2.4 billion – around $2 billion from public schools and the remainder from private.

Pyne plans to fund all schools – public and private – the base amount for each student, regardless of the wealth of the school or parents. He also wants to return to Howard’s model of “socio-economic status” loadings based on the postcode of students instead of socio-disadvantage. In effect Pyne plans to bleed public education and pump private schools with taxpayers’ money which will only result in a widening of the education gap.

Some private schools would receive more in government funding than they do now from fees! Private schools would still be free to charge fees over and above the government contribution with so-called parental “choice” continuing to be limited by ability to pay. This is a class-based system. And religious schools would be free to continue with their non-inclusive, non-secular programs. This would also set the scene for the for-profit corporate sector to move in.

Social disadvantage will never be overcome by pouring more money into private schools and slashing the income of the already under-funded public system.

Our future depends on providing all children with a quality education, one which promotes democratic and collective values, multiculturalism, and science as a means of understanding the world around us. To achieve this goal, state and federal governments should begin phasing out funding of private schools and provide public schools with the resources they require to provide free, quality secular education for all.

Next article – Don’t send Latifar and Ferouz to Nauru

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