One of the major criticisms of Catholic and independent schools advanced by those arguing that government funding should be cut is that choice and diversity in education lead to inequality.

Choice, like hairstyles, is a right.

Critics like the Australian Education Union (AEU) and the Canberra-based Save Our Schools pressure group argue that non-government schools should not be funded as, supposedly, they are elitist and privileged and because they promote an education system where state school students from low socioeconomic communities are further disadvantaged.

As argued by the AEU President, Angelo Gavriolatos, “At the heart of the equity problem is the increasing concentration of students from wealthy families in private schools and those from low SES (socioeconomic status) families in public schools – a segregation that is the direct result of the market reforms of successive governments”.

Whether students are destined to failure because of their low socioeconomic status (SES), and whether such students are only concentrated in state schools - given that the Gonski funding review has signalled that equity will be one of the principal factors considered when it makes its recommendations - are vital questions that need to be addressed.

If both contentions are correct then it makes it easier for the federally commissioned review to argue that funding to so-called privileged private schools must be re-directed to less affluent government schools populated by disadvantaged students – an argument put by cultural-left critics like the Greens Party and the AEU.

In relation to the impact of SES on educational achievement Barry McGaw, the head of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority and based on the 2000 and 2006 PISA results, argues that Australia is ‘high quality, low equity’ in that there appears to be a strong correlation between low SES and student underperformance.

Geoff Masters, the head of the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), on the other hand, argues the opposite when he states that the 2006 PISA results prove that Australia is ‘high quality, high equity’.

In an ACER enews release dated December 2007 Masters states, “In the popular jargon, Australia is a ‘high quality/ high equity’ country based on our PISA 2006 performance.  And again, this observation is made not only in relation to scientific literacy, but also for mathematical and reading literacy”.

In its analysis of the 2009 PISA results it should also be noted that the ACER, while describing Australia as a ‘high quality, average equity’ education system places Australia in the ‘high quality, high equity’ quadrant when comparing how the various other countries involved in the PISA test perform.

Additional evidence that is misleading to describe Australia as low equity relates to the fact that Australian Catholic schools, that educate approximately 20% of state and territory students and based on an analysis of the 2009 PISA results, similar to top performing education systems like Finland are rated ‘high quality, high equity’.

Not only does the Australian education system achieve above the OECD average in relation to equity but also, not all agree that a student’s socioeconomic status automatically leads to educational failure or success. It’s wrong to argue that low SES students are condemned to underperform and that schools serving such communities can do little to improve results.

As noted by the Australian researchers responsible for the 2009 PISA analysis, “care should be taken in interpreting the association between achievement and socioeconomic background” on the basis that “the range of result’s is vast, with a large number of low socioeconomic background students achieving high scores and, conversely, students with high socioeconomic backgrounds achieving very low scores”.

The researchers also imply that there are many other factors that contribute to educational failure and success when they note that only, “13 per cent of the explained variance in student performance in Australia was found to be attributable to students’ socioeconomic background”.

Much of the cultural-left’s attack on non-government schools portrays such schools as only serving the top end of town and representative of an inflexible and inequitable class based society.

Stereotyping non-government schools as being the preserve of the wealthy and privileged is simplistic and misleading. Not only are there many government schools only serving those parents who can afford to live in affluent suburbs but, best illustrated by Catholic parish-based primary schools, many non-government schools also serve disadvantaged communities.

Compared to most other OECD countries, it is also the case that Australia has a high degree of social mobility and education provides a ladder of opportunity. The OECD (2008) report Growing Unequal? Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries, describes Australia as “one of the most socially mobile countries in the OECD” and further states that education helps to reduce “overall income inequality by more than most other countries”.

Instead of contributing to inequality, the reality is that having an education system based on choice and diversity and where Catholic and independent schools are properly funded helps promote a fairer and more equitable education system.

As noted by the German researcher, Ludger Wossemann in a 2007 paper analysing autonomy, choice and equity in education, “private school operation is strongly and significantly associated with higher student achievement and with greater equality of educational opportunity”.

“Contrary to the concerns of many critics of private involvement in education, a large sector of privately operated schools does not reduce equality of outcomes for children from different social backgrounds; in fact, the opposite is true”.

One hopes that the members of the Gonski review, on recommending the best way to strengthen equity in education, give the same consideration to researchers like Woessmann as they do to non-government school critics like Angelo Gavrielatos from the AEU.

Dr Kevin Donnelly is Director of Melbourne-based Education Standards Institute and author of Australia’s Education Revolution.

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81 comments

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    • Timmy says:

      06:42am | 12/08/11

      As a teacher who has worked broadly across the various parts of this education debate, I have to say that attitude (the attitude of the students + the attitude of the teachers toward the students) has a higher impact on outcomes than funding.

      Teachers who can instill in their students a positive attitude towards their learning. Teachers who themselves talk about their students in terms of their ability to improve and not how good/bad they are. These teachers and students will do better.

      You cannot buy this with funding or airconditioners or school halls.

      It is harder to achieve in low socio-economic areas, but it is acheivable.

      What we are doing at the moment, in the system as a whole is counter productive to this. The talk in the medi that funding will fix this. The rediculous emphasis on standardised testing. Blaming rather than looking for solutions.

      My first school as a teacher was of the independant low fee paying variety. People were lining up to put their kids into this school. The local state school was a disaster zone. Yet in real terms the state school had around $100 per student less than the independant. Couple with this that the independant school had higher overheads (admin, loan repayments etc) and in real terms there was less money going around.

    • Pete the Parrot says:

      08:25am | 12/08/11

      With spelling like ‘independant’, ‘acheivable’ and ‘rediculous’ I certainly hope you’re not an English teacher. But I understand your point.

    • Aarom says:

      04:18pm | 12/08/11

      Engerish Sheengerish. I’m an engineering student, and while I love correct grammar and such. I still have trouble spelling!

    • Aarom says:

      04:19pm | 12/08/11

      Engerish Sheengerish. I’m an engineering student, and while I love correct grammar and such. I still have trouble spelling!

    • Timmy says:

      05:08pm | 12/08/11

      lol - I have trouble with these words mainly when I am typing. I have a different set of words that I have issues with when I am handwriting.

      Fortunately I am not an English teacher! I teach IT. The head of the English department of my school regularly has a go at my small class sizes (implying I have less to do) my response is that the number of students who actually want to be in my classrooms is ten fold on his.

    • acotrel says:

      06:43am | 13/08/11

      @Aarom
      Poor spelling is a prerequisite for Engineers, but you must learn how to punch numbers into a calculator!

    • acotrel says:

      06:45am | 13/08/11

      @Timmy If you want to learn to spell, read books!

    • Gary Cox says:

      06:42am | 12/08/11

      Parents of kids at private schools pay taxes too

    • KH says:

      07:42am | 12/08/11

      Sure - and taxes pay for public things.  Private school is a private choice.  Like private hospital.  Most people don’t think the ‘government’ should pay for your private room and expensive medical treatments.  I don’t see why private school should be any different.  Its a choice.  If you don’t want to pay for a school, then send your child to a public school.  “Public” implies access by all.  Private clearly does not.

    • Michael says:

      08:43am | 12/08/11

      KH the higher educated person goes on to become (in all probability) a higher paid professional and a higher taxed individual.

      Government taxes supporting private education is a federal or state investment in it’s own future…the citizen

      The higher the quality of citizen you are growing for your country the higher the quality of your civilization/society in all probability.

    • acotrel says:

      08:46am | 12/08/11

      @KH
      Why would you pay for private health cover when the public system delivers the same outcomes?  Why would you pay for private school education when the public system delivers better outcomes, even if it means preparing your kid for an entrance exam?

    • Bomber says:

      09:22am | 12/08/11

      KH - my kids go to a Cathloic school, and that school gets 27% LESS government funding per student than the public school around the corner from where we live (go check out myschool.edu.au and look at St Brigid’s Primary School, Nerang and Mudgeeraba State School if you want to check my figures). If my two kids, and the 500-odd they go to school with, are all pulled out and sent to public schools the government will need to find about $1.5 million dollars more in funding.
      Just like private hospitals, private schools are more efficient with money, and in my experience as both a student and parent, certainly do better with what they have got. And just like private health, pull the rug out from the private school system by removing all their government funding and the whole public system will crach and burn under the weight.

    • Andrew says:

      09:52am | 12/08/11

      Michael, plenty of my private educated friends achieved nothing of the sort. Some were kicked out as they didn’t make the intellectual grade, ended up “working” for daddy’s business. Something like 90% of all new millionaires come from public schools.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      10:43am | 12/08/11

      @Gary Cox- Singles and Childless Couples pay taxes too. They’re paying for a service they don’t use and may never use. Why should they pay for someone else’s lifestyle choices?

    • Michael says:

      11:03am | 12/08/11

      Andrew, do your group of friends represent the average outcome? the lower end of the achievement scale? or the upper end of the achievement scale?

      KH was suggesting that public money is better spent in public schools and hospitals, i was pointing out the logic behind public money supporting private education.

      You have raised the point that your friends are privately educated and are not achieving as i have stated, that means your friends have not realised their potential, they as an example do not invalidate what i was trying to illustrate to K.H. they are the also rans

      The “Daddy’s business” just reeks of class jealousy, go earn your own stash, try not to be bitter ‘cause someone’s daddy was a bigger earner than yours, it’s healthier.

      Peace smile

    • Ryan says:

      11:47am | 12/08/11

      So how about the government pays the same amount per child for their education, regardless of which school they go to. If parents want to top up the amount spent on their children’s education, then they can do that by sending them to a private school.

    • AdamC says:

      11:57am | 12/08/11

      The reason governments fund education for children is the technocratic consensus that having a mass-educated population is a good idea. In this rare case, the conventional wisdom is entirely correct. Education is good, great even, both for the student receiving it and for wider society generally. That is why I think governments should, within reason, help to funds children’s education.

      For those, like me, who see education as an end in itself, it doesn’t much matter whether the education provider is a state government, a church or an independent school. What matters is that the education is of an appropriate standard. The people who are ideologically obsessed with government-run schools are simply not interested in education for its own sake. Rather they cling to outmoded, socialist ideas about how society should work and believe government should promote political indoctrination from a young age.

      Unfortunately, the latter make up a substantial proportion of the edustablishment!

    • Steve says:

      01:50pm | 12/08/11

      The old Tax argument.

      I Pay tax and have NO kids. Should I be subsidising your kids’ private education?

      I want my taxes to be used to provide infrastructure (shelter, electricity, communications), health services, education and police, fire and ambulance services for all in our nation.

      If you want extra, you pay for it yourself.

      What was it again about the tax argument?

    • Andrew says:

      01:52pm | 12/08/11

      Its the continued lie that a private school education is better, which is the problem. Education begins at home, dumb kids are dumb, doesn’t matter what schools they go to.

    • acotrel says:

      06:54am | 13/08/11

      @ Michael
      Your ‘class jealousy’ comment - One of my sons attended Brighton High School where he was bullied because he wouldn’t smoke dope with the other kids, he became a chef.  My second son attended Brighton Grammar on a scholarship, he became an engineer.  Recently at age 43 he had a heart attack, and a quadruple bypass operation.  His peer group at BGS typically ended up working with daddy, or daddy’s friend - heart attacks are quite rare amongst them.

    • acotrel says:

      07:07am | 13/08/11

      @AdamC

      I was educated at Melbourne High School, my wife at a Catholic secondary school.  She has a different way of looking at things to my own, which I find equally valid, and very refreshing.  She has capabilities with language and the social sciences which I envy.  I believe there are benefits from having our education supplied from a variety of sources.  It provides society with intellectual stamina.
      Much as I never liked Mr B.A.Santamaria, his arguments usually stood up, and they were a positive contribution, regardless of how much I might disagree with them.

    • GC says:

      07:19am | 13/08/11

      @Andrew. Doesn’t matter ‘which’ school is the correct grammar. By the way I went to a private school.

    • Peter#1 says:

      06:54am | 12/08/11

      The success or failure of a student is not dependent upon whether he or she attended a private or public school, but upon their motivation and willingness to succeed.
      The fact that more students in the private school system are more successful could be attributed to the discipline and higher moral values demanded in private schools.
      The disruptive behaviour of some students in the public school system, may explain why students from a lower socio economic background are disadvantaged.

    • acotrel says:

      08:57am | 12/08/11

      @Peter#1
      ‘The success or failure of a student is not dependent upon whether he or she attended a private or public school, but upon their motivation and willingness to succeed.’

      You’ve used the word ‘willingness’.  It seens to be the same meaning in ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink’.  I suggest that authoritarianism is one thing which will foment rebellion.  It’s impossible to force anyone to learn.  It’s like implementing democracy, you can only make conditions right for it to happen.  And that’s what happens at Melbourbe High School and MacRob.  Sure the kids come from the top of the preceding institutions, but kids are kids, and there are just as many slackers, perhaps slightly smarter and responsive to their environment, but they’re there all the same!  The competition makes a difference.  The teachers have a large input into developing the ethos! There is a strong cameraderie amongst the students, and a standard of behaviour is maintained by the peer group.

    • DavidW says:

      09:18am | 12/08/11

      I am a grandparent with Infants’ School grandchildren, all of whom attend the public system.  My own children attended a mixture of both public and private.  In my opinion, based on the experience of my own private education, that of my children and now of my grandchildren, I would say that when the school, the teachers and the children are encouraged and actively supported by the parents, then you will get the best outcome.  I believe the funding question is relatively unimportant.  What is important is encouragement and participation by parents, from which you will get motivated teachers and keen students.

    • martinX says:

      01:52pm | 12/08/11

      Agree 100% with DavidW (if I was a rugby commentator, I’d agree 110%). The motivation of the parents is everything. Our kids go to private school (yr 1 and prep) and you can see the differences already: parents who take an active part in learning have kids who take an active part in class. Parents who don’t care or think it’s the school’s responsibility have kids that turn up, but just don’t quite get it academically.

      Our kids aren’t perfect super-geniuses (no, it’s not “genii”) but every day you plod along and do a bit more with them and try and help the teachers turn the little nose miners into decent human beans with some sort of ejamakashun.

    • acotrel says:

      07:12am | 12/08/11

      Asa taxpayer I expect a consistent standard of education in all state schools, of the type offered by MacRobertson Girls High School, and Melbourne Boys High School.  If excellence can be achieved there, why not elsewhere?  It’s not about money, or entrance criteria.  It’s about the dedication and motivation of the teachers, who understand they are there to help the kids of workers get a leg up. It’s a tradition which was strengthened after WW2.  Many teachers were returned servicemen, ewho had sent kids out to be killed.  They wanted to make a difference, and many gave up opportunities to increase their personal wealth by teaching in private schools.

    • KH says:

      07:38am | 12/08/11

      it can’t be achieved elsewhere - these two schools are ‘selective entry’  - i.e. you have to pass an exam to get in.  This basically means only the best and brightest are getting in.  They are likely to be academically focussed, it is assumed they will go on to tertiary study, and thus the schools achieve results.  It is not about the teachers - they can only work with what they have, and if they only have bright kids who want to learn, everyone wins. 

      Regular schools have to take whoever lives in their area - whether it be a smart kid or a slow kid, a kid who wants to go to university or one who would rather skateboard all day.  The slow ones often end up being disruptive and a bad influence on others, classes end up dumbing down so they don’t fall even further behind, and the smarter kids languish in no mans land.  Think about it - if you have one good kid and one bad one, which one is going to sap your energy and take up the most time?

    • Cat says:

      02:56pm | 12/08/11

      KH I’m with you on the first half of your comment but on the second - regular schools are just as capable of pushing kids out that they dont want to be there, they just use different methods, and yes, I know first hand. What do you mean by the “slow” child? Just about every child has an area they are not good at but they have strengths in other areas and it isn’t uncommon for gifted children to be failing in certain subjects, nor is it uncommon that giften children can be disruptive. Kindly stop pidgeon holing kids into being no-hopers or bad influences. Classes do not “dumb down”, they follow the curriculum like every school must and the kids who struggle in key areas have a range of support services, that are designed to bring them up to speed not dumb things down for others. Those children who have a genuine need for a modified curriculum are catered for via individual Education Profiles - which are put together in consult with parents and relevant staff - this has NO effect on what other students are taught and indeed, gifted children are also able to have the curriculum modified so that they are not bored doing work too easy for them. Perhaps you should stop commenting on the state of education since you seem to not actually know how schools function at all? You know what has been shown to lift overall performance of ALL students? Catering to kids as individuals and not saying they are Good or Bad kids, but recognising that all children have something to offer and having an attitude that views such variety as possitive!

    • Demoman says:

      07:48am | 12/08/11

      The most critical factors are the kids attitude and the parents attitude towards education.

      So often I hear people bleating about education needing more funding because the student/teacher ratios are growing and that there are not enough “multimedia” facilities. This is all a bunch of bullshit however as Asian countries have far better outcomes than we do despite having 100 crammed into a class half the size of ours. They then come here and laugh at how easy our curriculum is, which is confirmed by the fact that a lot of what we do in our maths and science subjects in first year university are covered already in European and Asian high schools.

      Most of the attitude that persists in this country stems from entitlement, the idea that being from the West entitles you to a good life automatically. If it doesn’t then it is the fault of others. When as a child you grow up already having the best food, all the electronic gadgets and play video games all day you never learn to work towards anything and do not learn to be responsible for your own life. They get to 20 years old and end up working in a cafe and only worrying about what music festival they’re going to go to, still sucking off the parental teet.

      Parents with good attitudes towards education will likely produce children with similar attitudes. I wish for my children to be surrounded by people who have similar views on the matter as I do so that it is self reinforcing rather than surrounding them with kids who smoke, have missing teeth and say “bro” every sentence. This means that I will have to either send them to a decent private school or to a top ranking public school that is likely full of black haired individuals.

      The education system in this country needs a dramatic revamp and to start focusing on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) subjects if we wish to compete in future. Most of the rest is a bunch of rubbish with very little net benefit and full of ideological indoctrination that creates more clients for the state.

    • acotrel says:

      07:15am | 13/08/11

      @Demoman
      ‘The education system in this country needs a dramatic revamp and to start focusing on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) subjects if we wish to compete in future. Most of the rest is a bunch of rubbish with very little net benefit and full of ideological indoctrination that creates more clients for the state.’

      I’ve worked as a scientist for more than 40 years.  I now see the value in the social sciences, and history and politics are now two of my main interests.  They should be part of the education of all engineers and scientists.  It’s easy to live head down and arse up for years, and never effect any change to a system desperately needing it.

    • Joan Bennett says:

      08:01am | 12/08/11

      My father was a middle income earner with a wife and 5 children to support and we all went to catholic schools.  The fees are lower than other private schools, but the quality of the teaching was as good.  Our folks took education very seriously, too and I think these 2 factors are what matter.  From the stories I’ve heard of people I know who went to public schools, the teachers had the attitude that their parents didn’t care about their education, so why should they.  I grew up learning to think for myself, simply because I went to school in the 70s and 80s where they still taught maths (logic) and science (inquiry).  Religion was a very small part of my time at school and most of us just treated it like a laugh.  Although I am a Rationalist, if I had children, I would probably send them to catholic school as the education they receive will be quality and children can think for themselves on the religion think, just as they did in my day.

    • Matt says:

      08:06am | 12/08/11

      Wow, another hypocritical piece of crap by Kevin Donnelly… You forgot the bit where as you’re trying to justify private school funding by saying there are a diversity of students - rich and poor - neither can be gay if they attend certain private schools.

      Your choice of words are pathetically biased - the ‘cultural left’s attack’?  Please, what attack?  The rational argument that public should not fund private, especially when the private is free to discriminate is not an ‘attack’.. Hysterics will do your poor excuse of an argument no good.

    • Bomber says:

      09:29am | 12/08/11

      Matt: I went to two high schools - one Catholic, one public. There weren’t any openly gay students at the public school, but there were a couple at the Catholic school. We were actively taught about tolerance and love for all, regardless of who they were. The coal face of Catholicism is very different to the public facade that is the Vatican.

    • Matt says:

      12:43pm | 12/08/11

      Then you must have missed Kevin Donnelly’s other piece of crap article Bomber where he seems to think it’s ok to discriminate based on sexuality.. It may be so for you and your school, but it’s not for Kevin.

      http://www.thepunch.com.au/articles/green-with-class-envy-and-bent-on-change/

      Here’s a quote from ol’ Kev “Instead of respecting the right of faith-based schools to operate according to religious beliefs, especially in areas like staffing and enrolments, the Greens argue that such schools must accept its polices in areas like sexuality and gender identity.” 

      The ‘right’ of faith based schools to discriminate while being fed public money..

    • Dean says:

      05:56pm | 12/08/11

      Matt,
      your wrong. I work in a Catholic school and gay parent sent their kids there and I have taught gay students, one came from the local public high school because of the bulling he received.

    • acotrel says:

      07:19am | 13/08/11

      @Bomber
      ‘The coal face of Catholicism is very different to the public facade that is the Vatican. ‘

      I’m married to a catholic.  I’ve only ever had one issue with the catholic church.  It has to do with ‘the authority of christ’.  The catholic church might be better if it was to become democratised?

    • Willie Mac says:

      08:26am | 12/08/11

      Forget the wealth divide or lack thereof, the state should keep out of religious affairs. Any school run for a certain religion is a religious affair and thus should not get any federal funding. It’s the principle.

    • acotrel says:

      09:04am | 12/08/11

      @Willie Mac
      I agree that the state should never sponsor religions.  However the Catholics have a tradition in intellectual pursuits which led to many Oxford and Cambridge professors coming out of Eireland.  Perhaps the benefits of having them educate their kids outweigh our concerns about the ethics about taxpayer funding? Infection by religioness is risk we probably should live with?

    • A Dose of Reality says:

      09:39am | 12/08/11

      acotrel,

      No.  There are no such benefits that outweigh the concern of the State funding a religious organisation (particularly when that organisation has many times the asset base as the Australian Government).

      It is an infection we can do without.

    • dw says:

      11:18am | 12/08/11

      Hi Willie Mac,
      Just wondering if you support government funding for non-religious private schools?

    • acotrel says:

      08:39am | 12/08/11

      @KH
      So the answer must be more ‘selective entry’ schools, so we can avoid sending our kids to schools where the peer group discriminates against the motivated?  Looks like a new industry might be needed to coach kids for admission into ‘selective entry’ secondary schools !

    • Kassandra says:

      11:51am | 12/08/11

      That industry already exists and is thriving.

      When my son began Year 7 maths at a selective school we discovered that 2/3 of the A class had already covered the curriculum for the entire year in advance during their Xmas holiday break at private coaching classes. Only 3 kids in the class had not been coached privately for most or all of primary school.

    • Ryan says:

      11:56am | 12/08/11

      Kids at a selective entry schools find they no longer get picked on for being the ‘square’. They thrive on being with intellectual and motivational peers and not the trash from around the suburb at their local school. There is a coaching industry already. It works.

    • Tubesteak says:

      08:46am | 12/08/11

      No government can provide options that cater to everyone. A government should be solely reponsible for concentrating on one option that has universal access and is the best quality that funding can provide.

      If people choose to eschew that option then they should be the ones to pay for it out of their own pocket.

      Just like hospitals, the government doesn’t splash around money to the private sector. It should be the same for schooling. Ensure our public schools have the best standard realistically possible and people that sdon’t want to partake in that option should fund themselves. Public schools have been going backwards for decades and just because people can’t afford a different option means entrenched socioeconomic disadvantage. This is bad for everyone.

    • acotrel says:

      09:11am | 12/08/11

      @Tubesteak
      ’ Public schools have been going backwards for decades and just because people can’t afford a different option means entrenched socioeconomic disadvantage. This is bad for everyone. ‘

      I believe some people are happy with that.  When I first started work in the 60s, there was graffiti on a railway bridge in Melbourne which said
      ” Menzies hates worker’s kids’ .  I was bemused by that at the time, but I came to understand what it meant, later!

    • A Dose of Reality says:

      09:42am | 12/08/11

      Tubesteak.

      A for more rational post than the original article.

      This is the real question - the article is simply a smoke screen to distort the issue.

    • A Dose of Reality says:

      09:13am | 12/08/11

      Transparent article by a vested interest, ignoring the actual complaint that is levied (public funding of private businesses) and addressing a minor issue (inequality) that can be argued on a subjective basis.  It’s called politics.

      Private schools operate on two platforms.  Almost all operate as religious institutions and receive tax benefits as such.  Almost all charge fees and have substantial assets.

      I think it would be great if my business, in which I charge a fee from people who pay tax, was also subsidised by the government - doubling my fee!!!  I could then lower my fee and pretend that I’m performing a ‘public service’!!!  Then I could ‘affiliate’ my business with a large ‘religious’ organisation and get a tax break on the basis of that ‘public service’ - this tax break providing more profit for me while I send a kick-back to the ‘religious organisation’.

      Kind of gives an advantage - doesn’t it?

    • Bomber says:

      09:33am | 12/08/11

      ‘Almost all… have substantial assets”. Care to justify this generalism with some evidence?

    • A dose of Reality says:

      10:33am | 12/08/11

      Sure Bomber,

      I’m in Adelaide - come here and look at the school grounds of St Peters and Prince Alfred’s, together they comprise the better part of a (rather pricey) suburb (St peter’s occupies more land than the Botanical gardens).  Then there is the fact that in a recent stock market matter (Coopers brewery - not an insignificant company) it was disclosed that a major player in the shareholder vote were these two ‘schools’.

      For that matter, look at any private school and ask yourself “who owns the land this is on, and the buildings?”  Look at any separate leased ovals (sports grounds) on public ground (often re-leased out for profit), christian brothers and pultney grammar to name a couple of schools with this setup (incidentally both schools own and occupy premium city properties) and ask ‘what are the lease payments on this?”

      As a former catholic school student - I know the answers, which I thought to be common knowledge.

      Some ‘generalisations’ are obvious and self evident.  I could ‘generalise’ by making the comment that the sky is blue, for example.

    • roger says:

      10:42am | 12/08/11

      At the very least the land they own is very valuable. Private schools typically are in more wealthy areas and often have large spaces for sports fields and the such. The bigger ones also often have bodies that manage trusts and the such that solicit donations from old boys and parents. They often have large halls that are rented out for functions and other such profitable activities.

    • Bomber says:

      11:49am | 12/08/11

      ADOR - I am not familiar with Adelaide, but these schools seems to be from the privileged end of the private school spectrum. Unsurprisingly, we have those here too – TSS takes up a rather large chunk of prime riverfront in Southport, and its sister school St Hilda’s a large block across from the Gold Coast Hospital. But these schools do not represent the majority of private schools.
      The little parish schools I went to certainly did not have acres of open space on the CBD fringe, or own significant share holdings in listed companies. They had a few buildings and a single oval, on suburban streets. They shared the site and facilities with the local parish church. Two of these schools existed in areas that were then very new. The land might now be worth a substantial amount of money, but to obtain the value the school would need to be moved – away from the community they serve.
      The schools you use as examples are very much in the minority of private schools – and thus your generalisation becomes invalid -  but they are always the examples trotted out by those with an ideological bent against private education.
      And in reference to one of my posts above – St Peter’s receives $3,848 in government funding per student, 45% of what my local state primary school gets – and only 35% of the government funding per student that Adelaide High School gets!

    • Kassandra says:

      12:14pm | 12/08/11

      The equating of independent schools with “religious institutions” really gets up my nose. In the non-Catholic schools sector many, including some of the most prestigious, private schools have no religious affiliation. They receive no “tax benefits as such”, give no “kick-backs to the religious organisation” and nor are they businesses operating to generate profits or pay dividends to shareholders. They operate just like other non-profit organisations to pay their expenses, mostly teacher salaries, and to make provision for future needs including capital for expansion and investment income. And most of their income is derived from parents’  fees and donations not government funding.

      The advantage the kids have is in the values and attitudes of the children, their parents, the teachers and the schools. You can get something similar in selective public schools, but only if your child is smart enough, competitive enough, and coached enough to get in. If they are, the parents get it for free regardless of their income, whereas the private school parents have to pay for it, sometimes a great deal.

    • Cat says:

      03:27pm | 12/08/11

      Kassandra - yes it bugs me too! Amusingly enough, if you happen to be in QLD(possibly elsewhere, I only speak for the state education system I know well) you are able to compair a lot of schools whereby there is more religious teachings and programs within state schools than private schools, but people do so like to forget these inconvenient truths, and others - such as the fact that you can’t look at how much is held in assets and assume that makes a school rich since the vast majority couldn’t be sold to garner funds and still have a functioning school(“hey kids, we are selling off those toilet blocks so we can roll around in money and thumb our noses at the poor folk in state schools who DO have toilets…but can’t roll about in money!”), nor can you judge it by how much money is in the bank account unless you have a real accurate understanding of how much of that is there to cover costs (maintenance for one) which public schools don’t need to put aside money for.

    • acotrel says:

      09:14am | 12/08/11

      Just looking at the photo at the top of this page.  Is Kevin Donelly related to the Ayatollah Khomeiny?

    • Get 'er done says:

      09:58am | 12/08/11

      Well, hopefully when Tony Abbott cuts taxes/ big government in a few years time parents will have more money to pay private school fees and thus less govt funding will be required for private schools. Also more parents of current public schoolers will be able to afford private school fees so fewer public schools will be needed - it would be great to see secular and non-secular organisations buying public schools off the government and transforming them into true houses of excellence. With a private school education, there’s also the added benefit to parents of their child being exposed to values that they agree with.

    • Andrew says:

      10:13am | 12/08/11

      No government dollars for non government schools.

    • James1 says:

      10:41am | 12/08/11

      ‘...on the basis that “the range of result’s is vast, with a large number of low socioeconomic background students achieving high scores and, conversely, students with high socioeconomic backgrounds achieving very low scores”.’

      Clearly, wherever those researchers were educated, their schools failed them.  Why in God’s name would they use an apostrophe in the word “results”, when it clearly refers to a plural, and not a contraction or ownership.

      Why must I get so annoyed by misplaced apostrophes?

    • Sue58 says:

      01:59pm | 15/08/11

      sorry - but the author was misquoted - she would NEVER have put an apostrophe there. And she was educated at a country high school. She also did not say that a LARGE number of low socioeconomic background students achieved high scores, but that SOME achieved high scores just as SOME students from high ses backgrounds achieved low scores.  In the more recent report the same author states that ‘significant levels of educational disadvantage related to socioeconomic background exist in Australia” - despite the ranking by the OECD.  Mr Donnelly as always cherry-picks his findings.

    • john says:

      10:50am | 12/08/11

      Nobody is arguing against choice. Reducing or ending funding to private schools would not deny parents choices. If they are as successful and efficient as supporters claim they will not be disappearing anytime soon. I don’t believe funding should be stopped but phased out over a period of 10 years or so.

    • Dead Poet says:

      12:11pm | 12/08/11

      I agree that government funding should be stopped for private schools. Private education is best defined by the families that can actually afford it. As private school fees are lowered through government assistance, it dilutes the quality of the growing student population and lowers the overall standards of the school.

      Abandoning government funding for private schools will further clarify the distinctions between the two systems. The smaller private school student body will allow for an improved school experience and education while the extra money made available to the public system can be used to address the increase in its student population.

      Public education is a right. Private education is a privilege that has been tainted by government involvement.

    • stephen says:

      10:53pm | 12/08/11

      If Government assistance lowers standards - as you say, (by inference) in the first paragraph - then does that not make your argument silly ?

      By the way, are you still driving a bus…bro ?

    • Illa Wong says:

      03:21pm | 12/08/11

      no kids! no schools! its simple!

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      The more school options, the better it is for all of us | Article | The Punch
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