Why private schools need more money

48 Comments

At this time of year, there is normally a raft of stories about private school fees and government funding. Now, there seems to be a swing in public sentiment towards questioning the level of financial support given to private schools.

A recent poll shows 70 per cent of people think the Federal Government gives too much money to private schools. The Australian Education Union, representing state school teachers, is campaigning on the issue, and a number of newspapers and commentators are pushing the same agenda.

Such commentary is significant because the Gonski review into Federal funding of schools is underway. The review may shape the funding of non-government schools for many years to come.

But headlines about rising school fees and claims that the majority of funding goes to private schools are full of misinformation and bias, and amount to a campaign against non-government schools.


Two images are being projected: the majority of government funding is going to a minority of students in private schools; and that 'private schools' refers to wealthy independent schools.

In reality, non-government schools educate about one in three of all Australian students, most of whom are educated in Catholic schools and various low fee-paying religious and community schools. The rhetoric hardly acknowledges this.

And all schools do not get the same funding. The Socio-Economic Status (SES) score determines whether a school will have as much as 70 per cent of the estimated cost of educating a student in a government school or as little as 13.7 per cent.

The AEU and others talk of non-government schools receiving more government funding than state schools. They ignore the fact that state schools receive most of their funding (88 per cent) from state governments.

The fact is that if you combine federal and state funding, only 20 per cent of government funding goes to non-government schools that educate one in three Australian students. If critics argue that federal funding of non-government schools should reflect the percentage of students in the two sectors, why does the same argument not apply to the level of state funding?

Students at government schools receive about twice as much government funding as students at non-government schools. Also, contrary to perceptions of ever-increasing funding of non-government schools, Productivity Commission data shows a 1.2 per cent increase in funding to government schools in recent years, compared to a 1.6 per cent decrease in non-government schools.

Critics claim that private school fees have risen by about 100 per cent in the past ten years against an inflation rate of 37 per cent. It is implied that this gap between inflation and the rise in fees is because private schools are greedy.

However, inflation in the area of education is much higher than average. The Government's Average Government School Recurrent Cost (AGSRC) index measures inflation in the educational sector and determines the per capita increases each year. Every year this is higher than the inflation rate.

The biggest educational expenses are salaries which have consistently (and rightly) gone up by more than the inflation rate each year. Other fast increasing costs include the heavy technology component which has climbed dramatically over the past decade.

Additionally, normally non-government schools do not get any funding for capital works such as new buildings. Therefore independent private schools have to factor building expenses into their fees, and many rely largely on fundraising to minimise the impact on fees.

In the government sector the construction of new buildings is met by the Department of Education.

Aside from the specific issues of funding and fees, Catholic schools can claim to have contributed enormously to the Australian community, and thus make a claim for some funding on the basis of the common good.

The historic success of immigration and multiculturalism in Australia owes something to Catholic schools that played a role in the integration and advancement of significant migrant groups: Irish, Italian, Maltese, East European, Lebanese, Vietnamese, Filipino.

In recent years, Catholic schools have contributed to the education of refugee groups such as those from East Timor. Every unaccompanied minor among the asylum seekers at Woomera and Baxter (all Muslims) was given a place in South Australia's Catholic schools.

Indirectly also, Catholic schools, as a backbone of the Catholic community, underpin a Church that is the largest non-Government provider of welfare, healthcare and aged care services in Australia.

In countless other areas of Australian life (the arts, sport, healthcare, to name a few), governments subsidise private endeavour — and the fabric of Australian life would be the poorer without it. It would be ironic if government funding of the non-government sector was seen to be under threat because its investment in our young had proved to be too successful.


Chris MiddletonFr Chris Middleton SJ is the Principal of St Aloysius College, Milson's Point, in Sydney. This article is an edited extract from his comment in a recent edition of the college's newsletter The Gonzagan.

Topic tags: Chris Middleton, Wendy Harmer, private schools, catholic schools

 

 

submit a comment

Existing comments

Another thing that distorts the figures supported by the AEU and the more money for government schools lobby is the huge amount payed for the over sized Department of Education bureaucracy. Like so many things, a non-emotional analysis of the funding formula needs to be applied.
Michael Fehon | 08 February 2011


This is a disgrace. You can not defend a 2 or 3 tier education system that treats kids according to the wealth of their parents and claim to be interested in social justice. Why is Eureka St publishing this?
Jason Bryce | 08 February 2011


One can understand the government school unions' reluctance to publicise the real state of government education funding, but why are the private schools' union reps so coy about it? Could it be that political ambition and /or bias silences a significant number of them?
terry oberg | 08 February 2011


I am very pleased to see the differences in Federal and State funding pointed out. I support the local Catholic School system. I also support free education and a well funded State School System. The danger with governments is that because it is cheaper to educate students at independent schools they will reneg on their responsibilities in the hope that more students will flow into the independent system. Parents have a right to a free well funded education system. Catholic schools are rightly fighting to keep their share of funding. To have two parallel education systems is good for education. Both need funding.

The so called wealthy or elite schools have the benefit of tax breaks and I would like to see more transparency in this area. What is the criteria for receiving government funding?


Anne Schmid | 08 February 2011


If people choose to send their children to an "independent" school for reasons of religion or social class then they should pay their own way, hence the word "private". While they bang on about "choice" they are not prepared to accept that they 'choose' to send their children to non-public schools and should pay their own way. I've got no time for these whingers. People, if you want public money, send your kids to a public school.
Lesley | 08 February 2011


While many of Fr Middletons's arguements may be accurate, he has very conveniently neglected to add that for the many good deads done by the catholic church - there are countless others that have done nothing for the greater good and have resulted in utter decimation of entire societies the world over for centuries. He has neglected to mention that if the catholic church didn't have to keep paying out the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of catholic priests the church would have ample funds to maintain self sufficient schools given that it is one of the wealthiest organisations in the world.
Pat | 08 February 2011


Perhaps the catholic system would like to provide an education for all. As a public school teacher of many years (20 +) I have picked up the piecees for many students who have been turned away from the catholic school they attended because they were academically struggling. I say - when the private schools are prepared to provide an education to all and not just the trouble free and problem free students they should get the same level of funding as the public schools. Surely the schools that do not discriminate against students with learning, social and emotional problems need more funding to meet the needs of a much more diverse cohort of students.
Chris | 08 February 2011


To stop the argument forever, all private schools should stop operating for a year and all parents should send all their children to state schools! I am sure every state would go broke within a year. Most children in most state schools can receive a decent basic education because more money is available BECAUSE man people send their children at great personal expense to private schools. We had to send our children to a boarding school over 500 km away because the local state school had an extremely low standard.
Beat Odermatt | 08 February 2011


Chris Middleton's article has merit because it highlights two issues that are neglected by many advocates for public education at the expense of non-government education. Firstly the exclusion of state government contributions to public schooling by the AEU and its supporters in their funding argument, and secondly the helpful distinction that not all non-government schools are wealthy.

Chris Middleton mentions the Catholic schools sector and as many of us can appreciate, it too is an eclectic mix of schools with its system-owned and run schools; system-owned and parish run schools; wealthy religious institute schools and not so wealthy religious institute schools. It is important to distinguish between these schools particularly as public schooling PR agents are happy to throw them all in the same basket as "wealthy" schools.

However, Chris' argument is also not the total picture. Several religious institute owned and operated Catholic schools are very much in the "wealthy" category. Their fee structure is exclusionary to both members of their own faith and to non-Catholics. The argument that teaching salary costs and technology upgrades have justified average increases in their fees of 10 percent for the past decade, omits the argument that these schools have become over indulged by predictable streams of revenue from a wealthy parent base, largely immune from economic vagaries, and by strong flows of Federal Government cash under both the Howard and Rudd-Gillard Governments. Dare I say it, they are overservicing in many non-core areas of education and becoming inefficient and overly corporate in other areas to "keep up with the jones'" in the perception and enrolment "arms race" which is the top end of the private school market in many areas of Australia.

Given these factors, it is not surprising that AEU and other advocates for public education, often highlight these examples of actual wealthy schools to advance their argument.

This situation has to change because the public will demand the Federal Government does something about it. Less wealthy Catholic schools should makes moves to the National Catholic Education Commission to segment their funding approaches to governments to account for the widespread diversity in the Catholic sector. These less wealthy Catholic schools may even consider bargaining outside the current centralised Catholic system or forming a new structure with membership more consistent with their status. Unfortunately the term "Catholic school" no longer has a sense of universality of purpose when it comes to funding.

The ideal is that governments provide more funding to both public and non-government schools. However even in the unlikely event that this argument is accepted, there still needs to be a re-organisation of funding flows within the non-government, and particularly Catholic sector, to prevent further inequalities occurring. Social justice demands it.
Tom Cranitch | 08 February 2011


The fees at St Aloysius are about $12,000 a year, and, in a telling sentence, "Interstate and overseas tours are charged separately". Check out the website. Just enough to exclude the real hoi polloi, methinks. Private education, and I include Catholic schools in that, is about exclusion. This really is a piece of propaganda. A few refugees are admitted and that means all's well. I don't think so.
Penelope | 08 February 2011


Thank you for an opinion from the coalface, Chris MIDDLETON. As a Councillor of the Parents and Friends Federation of Associations of Western Australia Inc. I can wholeheartedly concur with the observations of a Principal in New South Wales. I am saddened by the perennial push to demonise non-government schools and call to reduce their share of government funding. The howls of moral outrage against Chris MIDDLETON and Eureka Street are 'the slings and arrows' we must bear for voicing a public opinion, but bear little weight in the discussion of recurrent funding in education. If people pay taxes, and they choose to send their children to non-government schools, why must they bear the tax burden to educate ALL children, but their own? And for the students who are turned away from non-government schools, the government school is not the final repository, here in Western Australia. Government schools can refer difficult children to home schooling with third-party Registered Training Oreganisation support. That's another tier of education that no one recognises because no one represents them in the public arena.
Bob GROVES | 08 February 2011


I am very surprised that a contribution from a Jesuit refers to apparent disparities in school funding but not to social justice, fairness or need. I can only urge Fr Middleton to do further research. My objection and that of many others is that scarce government money is going to schools patronised by affluent parents at the expense of kids whose learning needs are infinitely greater. A simple swing around government schools in Melbourne would show this. Let's look at my recent letter in The Age to illustrate one of the fiddles to which I and others object: "The current Senate review of funding for schools will yield some interesting if not surprising results. The Government website informs us that funding to non-government schools is on the basis of the Average Government School Recurrent Costs. In 2010, the AGSRC for secondary schools was $11,393. The site also says that payments will be made at the rate of 70% for non-government schools serving the poorest schools to 13.7% (about 1/7th of the AGSRC) for the wealthiest communities. Assuming that year 12 per student fees of $29,220 for one of Victoria’s “top” schools [i.e. Geelong Grammar]are a measure of a school’s wealth, it is surprising that the school charging these fees is scheduled to receive $4,638 in 2011 and not the roughly $1630 that the application of the 13.7% would suggest it should receive. We await the findings of the Senate enquiry with great interest". As far as the impuation that critics have engaged in creative accounting, I can only suggest more research. Bill Hampel PhD
Bill Hampel | 08 February 2011


For my previous comment I omitted to read the replies to Fr Middleton. One old waw, "We pay taxes. Why isn't that recognized in the government funiding of private schools?". Conveniently, this overlooks the situation of the over 2 million poor, many of whom pay taxes to support funding of schools from which they are excluded because they can't afford the fees. One is not arguing that there should not be differentiation in government schools between those serving a more affluent clientels (e.g.Balwyn, Glen Waverely, MacRob, Melb. HS) and many in our western suburbs. The teaching demands of the two groups are vastly different and this should be reflected in funding too.
Bill Hampel | 08 February 2011


Fr. Middleton states facts that should be recognised more often. The comments which have been added also draw attention to further relevant and important facts which need to be acknowledged. In a democracy, education funded by the state and available to all is a crucial element. In Australia today, this may, or may not, be the case. It is certainly not done in a transparent way and, because of this, it remains a matter for debate which is often uninformed. There is a solution but vested interests, both government and other, refuse to consider it. All schools which wish to be funded by taxpayers should be called government or community schools and should be treated as equal both in funding and in requirements. Extra grants for particular needs should be available and administered appropriately. Each school should have autonomy over its own ethos and freedom to develop special interests outside of a basic core curriculum. Schools which wish to remain independent and exclusive because they see themselves as superior should receive no public funding whatsoever. If there is anyone who believes that such a change would dilute the religious nature of the Catholic school as it is today, he or she may well be out of touch with reality.
Sheelah Egan | 08 February 2011


Father Middleton writes: "A recent poll shows 70 per cent of people think the Federal Government gives too much money to private schools. The Australian Education Union, representing state school teachers, is campaigning on the issue, and a number of newspapers and commentators are pushing the same agenda." "Pushing the same agenda"? So when the supporters of independent schools write articles about the funding issue they are just giving the facts; but when supporters of government schools write, they are "pushing an agenda". And it gets worse, according to the unbiased Father "...headlines...are full of misinformation and bias, and amount to a campaign against non-government schools". So his article couldn't possibly be part of a campaign for private schools? Spare us the self-serving hypocrisy please.
Frank Golding | 08 February 2011


The core point is well made in some of the responses: there are two tiers of non-govt schools and (PR-wise) the upper-tier ones are riding on the backs of the poorer ones. It is unfortunate that a parish school with annual fees of about $2000 is put in the same PR basket as an elite school with fees five times greater. Here in Canberra, the Catholic schools have fees of about $5000 at Year Twelve; the others have fees from $12000 upwards. Yet both groups are equally the target of the kind of misuse of figures mentioned by Chris Middleton.
Frank | 08 February 2011


I disagree with Lesley. I am so very glad I sent my children to Catholic Schools. I am so very proud of them both. They have turned into beautiful responsible generous human beings, both now at university in their pHD years; both determined to give back to the whole community as much as possible and to be part of the “glue” holding society together.

On the other hand, their counterparts from public schools still spend much of their time chasing after materialism and “cultural junk”; spending excessive time and effort pursuing money, power, fame, alcohol, etc. They seem like empty shells of humans with an intense "hunger" they just cannot quench.

Perhaps Lesley might like to consider how much more in taxes is Lesley willing to pay to educate ALL Australian students in public schools (keeping in mind that all of the upkeep, like cleaning and repairs, and hand-on toil is done by parent volunteers - and not by Education-Dept-paid tradesmen, as at the public schools. Remember that Catholic parents not only pay for their own children’s education as well as buildings and contents (with their AFTER-tax income) … but must also pay taxes to support the children’s education of all the Lesleys in Australia.

So
1. how much more in taxes is Lesley willing to pay for ALL Australian children to be educated by the State?

2. How does Lesley think that ALL Australian children can be possibly accommodated in Public schools … and without the sheer numbers of students causing the entire education system to collapse?

Despite of the steep cost (and these were very "modest" fees of approx $350.00 per term), I am so grateful for the healthy spiritual atmosphere of the Catholic schools I have had the privilege to attend as a student and later as a parent.

Thank you Jesus for the two most wonderful human beings to whom I have been called to be a parent.
M.Stewart | 08 February 2011


Hear ye, hear ye!
Despite being entirely public-school educated, I for one see the benefits that Catholic education can provide.

I feel frustrated every time I see some of the AEU campaigning about federal funding, knowing that Catholic schools receive such a tiny proportion of government funding.
Another issue of concern: the funding provided to children with special needs being educated in the government sector, was on a per capita basis more than double that going to children in the Catholic or private sector - though I understand this is changing.

I know from personal experience that Catholic schools have also educated many children turned away from government schools, so that argument cuts both ways.
It is apparent to me that systemic Catholic schools are actually more efficient in their education of children, given that a Catholic school can fund a child's education for about two thirds the cost of a government school.

Systemic Catholic schools have a policy of educating children no matter what the wealth of their parents. If so-called Catholic schools are not doing that, then I submit that they are not truly Catholic schools. It is unfortunate that a number of Catholic schools have lost their sense of mission and cater to a others.

Finally, with regard to fears about diminishing Catholic school funding in the face of political backlash, we need only to look back to the Goulburn school strike of 1962. If systemic Catholic schools are serious about their funding, they would be well-advised to take their cue from that action.
Moira Byrne Garton | 08 February 2011


Apologies for some typos in my earlier comment. The second paragraph should not end with 'to a others', but should read 'to a select few'.
Moira Byrne Garton | 08 February 2011


It is alarmimng to see yet another example of Catholics allying themselves with private schools as though there were no distinctions to be made within the non-government school sector. But we should note that this is not Catholics talking. It's Jesuits. Catholics are the ones we see in suburban parish schools and regional colleges belonging to the Catholic system. Jesuits run a handful of schools for the privileged. Of course they belong with the wealthy old protestant establishment that leads the private school lobby.
Bill Hannan | 08 February 2011


We exist on one (pretty low) income and choose to send our son to a Catholic high school - a terrific school - and pay incredibly reasonable school fees.
My friends, double income and pretty well off, choose to send their son to the local high school - also a terrific school - and choose to not pay fees for their son's education.

Does it matter? No. Is it about decent schooling and happy respectful kids, no matter where they go to school? yes.
The hatefulness of some of the posts is disturbing.

The neglect of the AEU to mention state funding in the equation is just a little disingenuous and contributes to the hatefulness.

I agree there should be accountability and funding arrangement, but this Catholic-bashing stuff would be outrageous if it was about any other denomination or cultural group.

Come on guys, let up. You're vilifying many good, kind, generous and committed people.

HB | 08 February 2011


I was a scholarship boy at an underfunded but educationally liberal Congregationalist school and had a splendid, non-snooty education there. As a now-affluent middle-classer, I'd be happy to pay more tax as an education-levy to fund State and non-State places on a per-head basis - with all both forms subject to the same criteria of inspection and published assess- ment. Objectives: a more pluralist provision of education AND an end to the nonsense of subsidising elitism
endee | 08 February 2011


As a gay man and an ex-Catholic, I resent bitterly that my taxes support a system that tells me that I am "intrinsically disordered" (see Problema Homosexalitatis" promulgated by Cardinal Ratfinger( 1986). Why should I support through my taxes a system that invalidates me as a human being. I sincerely hope that the Catholic education system withers on the vine. It is basically a system that promulgates hatred of people that do not toe the catholic line. The apparent decline of the Catholic Church in Europe and Australia, fills me with nothing but delight. I sincerely hope that Benedict XVI dies a painful and hope-depleted death.
Douglas Clifford | 08 February 2011


To Chris, who posted on 08 Feb 2011: "Perhaps the catholic system would like to provide an education for all. As a public school teacher of many years (20 +) I have picked up the piecees for many students who have been turned away from the catholic school they attended because they were academically struggling." That may be your experience, but in Brisbane, mine as a parent of an autistic boy is the opposite. The state schools were just not interested in teaching him. While they have to pay lip service to taking all students, they use words like "he would be better at this other school, there are more resources there for him". There the teacher ignored him or sent him into a babysitting special needs group. The Catholic system in Brisbane provides at least two schools for struggling students like him, and he attends one. The fees are at the lowest tier; the student/teacher ratio is low, and yes I am told that the Catholic Archdiocese heavily subsidises it, which means that other Catholic school parents are helping to support it. I also know that it has a proportion of struggling non-Catholic students. I went through the state system myself because my parents could not afford anything else and were too proud to ask for help from a Catholic school. Catholic schools try to help poor families with fees or even not charge any fees to them. Again, that means that other Catholic school parents are helping to support poor parents. Like another poster here, I believe we need both systems. If I sent my son to the state system, it would not help him and it would burden the state system. I still pay school fees for my children, and I still pay taxes as well. I don't think it is fair and reasonable for Catholic schools to not benefit from the application of some of my taxes.
Frank S | 08 February 2011


The claim that "normally non-government schools do not get any funding for capital works such as new buildings", is an untruth. Donations by parents to School Building Funds are tax deductible. Therefore the government gives a subsidy to the school equivalent to the marginal tax rate of the parent.
Kenneth Cooke | 08 February 2011


Extracts from my 'Designing a School System for Building a More Socially Cohesive Australia', presented at the 2010 IEUA Symposium, Old Parliament House, Canberra, on 17 March 2010 can be found at http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=20164
Frank Brennan SJ | 09 February 2011


The disparity in resources available and public and private schools show how giving more money to private schools is a poor use of public funds. Segregating our children by socio-economic status and religion will produce poor outcomes for a diverse and cohesive society. It is sad that Fr Middleton neglects to look the total funding spent on each student, not just government funding. Why does he believe we should continue a flawed system which allocates significantly more money to students at private schools?
Catherine Turner | 09 February 2011


In my IEUA address, I offered two observations on funding.

First, I am one of those Australians who are not helped when told by one protagonist of an argument that funding is inequitable when one makes reference to the funds provided by only one level of government. In a federation like Australia, the equity of funding arrangements can be judged only by considering the taxpayer funding received from all three levels of government.

Second, funding arrangements need to take in to account the heavy lifting done by different schools and networks of schools in providing education services to the neediest students including those with acute learning difficulties and those from families where parents have both few resources and little motivation for providing for the education of their children. I know there is much talk at the moment about residualisation of some state schools which are left to do the heavy lifting especially for children who just do not fit anywhere else in the education system. Schools which perform this heavy lifting deserve a higher level of funding. I make no attempt to quantify what that level should be.

Frank Brennan SJ | 09 February 2011


I find it very sad that many Christians seem to support a 2 or 3 tiered education system for Australian children.

The reality is that the majority of our poorest and most disadvantaged children attend under-resourced government schools in low socioeconomic areas of Australia.

Surely as Christians we want to see these children receive just as good an education as our own children. Doesn't God call us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves? For me this means that we want the best quality education for all children, not just our own sons and daughters.

Education funding should be based on need.

Low fee paying private schools should also be separated in this debate from wealthy, elite schools that make enormous profits and which educate few if any of the students who need their resources the most.
robert | 09 February 2011


Agree, but the problem in Australia is that the rich largely Protestant private schools have hidden behind the Catholic sector when it comes to lobbying for state aid. In the UK, all parish schools, many Catholic secondary schools and middle schools are largely integrated into the public sector under the control of the local education authority. The nexus between huge fees and resulting social exclusion, and religious adherence is thus non-existent. When a few years ago, Cardinal Pell and the then Anglican leader came out against Labor's plan to introduce a measure of equity on the basis of need, I was disgusted. What is the Church doing propping up privilege and social division? Catholic schools play a great role, this is true and in an increasingly secular and often hostile community, I think all religious groups may well be entitled to cater for some space where children can relate to their own faith tradition. But not at the expense of social equity and inclusiveness.
Ann | 11 February 2011


Why is the Catholic Church in Australia so afraid of the UK/NZ/Canadian funding system for Catholic schools. That is fund Catholic school 100% to the level of govt schools(say $10500pa) but no fees can be charged, the school must take all comers and must operate under the same conditions as govt schools, The religiuos aspects of the school remain. What do Catholic school children think of this proposal.
rr | 11 February 2011


M.Stewart - find your comments re your wonderful altruistic offspring vs students coming from govt schools as being purely concerned with materialism as extremely offensive. Your archaic views are completely consistent with the stifling Catholic ghetto mentality that hopefully many such as myself escaped long ago. My knowledge of inherent bias, homophobia and mysoginism obvious in many Catholic schools tells a very different story. As parents who were both educated in the Catholic system we proudly send both our children to a fantastic state govt school where the values of acceptance, inclusiveness and respect for the environment are instilled every day. There are in fact several students that are at this school which would have to be described as survivors of elite Catholic schools. I am sure you are a regular churchgoer -I rest my case.
rr | 11 February 2011


The whole private/public education debate is a disgrace...and the churches are complicit as we head further and further into a sphere of haves and have nots. How can the wealthy opulent old world schools believe it is fair for state schools to go scratching and yes the argument many catholic schools are deprived...but more and more we see these schools establishing themselves with government money and then excluding local poor catholic students. Wendy Harmer’s article is fantastic, we need more prominent Australians to stand up to this onslaught...if you choose private schooling, then you choose to step outside government funding...or so it should be, the system should be such that if one works for Government or is elected to Government then they should 'provide' their child/children with the opportunity of being schooled in the State system, perhaps then we would see some positive change, no change will come unless there is a vested interest.
Tarn Kruger | 11 February 2011


A somewhat belated comment if I may. What seems to be missing from this debate on school funding is any rigorous analysis of what would happen if government funding to the Catholic systemic system and/or other private or non-government schools were to be eliminated or substantially reduced.

First, it seems not unlikely that some, at least, Catholic schools would be forced to close and their students forced into the government system. The resultant cost to Government would more than outweigh, one suspects, the current subsidies to the Catholic system and hence is unlikely to lead to any significant increase in the per capita funding of the government system.

Secondly, it seems not unlikely that some other non-government schools may be forced to close, with results similar to those resulting from the closure of Catholic schools, that is, no net gain to the public system.

What is certain. however, is that the so called wealthy private schools will not close. What will happen is that some parents who presently struggle to pay the fees may be forced to send their children elsewhere; others will simply dig deeper and the schools will become even more elite (assuming in this context that elite is synonymous with wealthy.)

Whilst the above may be somewhat speculative, it is to be hoped that the forthcoming enquiry will address the issues involved since the personal, not to mention the political costs of reducing funding to schools will not be insubstantial.
kevin cavanagh | 14 February 2011


Reply To D. Clifford First, the Catholic Church has never preached hatred of any person on the planet. Instead it has always taught compassion and understanding and true peace emanating from love of God and neighbour. Second, one’s preferred sexual inclination is not a sin. However, if one fails to apply self-discipline in any activity which may deliver harm to another person or to oneself or may deliver harmful example to others … such a person has divorced him/herself from Christian teaching and therefore can no longer consider him/herself to be a follower of Christ. Third, a person who considers him/herself a member of a civil society realises that every person in that society must pull together and work for the “common good”. Four, for a civil society to function, one cannot casually immerse oneself in every available self-indulgence and “pleasure”. Every member of that society must exercise self-control and self-discipline (yes, some more than others). Five, we must lovingly “teach each other; advise each other”; warning each other of potential pitfalls. That is all Pope Benedict was doing. Your interpretation is very mistaken. Six, the irrational hatred you express only demonstrates how easy it is to fall into the trap of blurting out absurdities without thinking about one’s responsibilities … as well as one’s rights. Please think again about what you are saying.
AD | 18 February 2011


To rr
Why should you be frothing at the mouth at the thought that my altruistic offspring have become highly-ethical and community-minded people wanting to contribute so enthusiastically?

To read that you find such a concept insulting … is indeed most puzzling.
Why do you not want more community leaders with university education?
Why do you not want more well-qualified doctors, nurses, engineers, etc.?

I am completely unconvinced of the description of your own education; because my own experience (in a small Catholic suburban school) differed so completely … and equipped me to easily compete with the best in the State high school and to go forward to tertiary education. I have no complaint whatever … I have only the highest praise for the Catholic education received … as well as an acute sense of ethics and joyful responsibility to the community.
Therefore, I can never thank enough the dedication of the Sisters of Mercy, some of the most magnificent women I have ever had the privilege to know.

If you are indeed a Christian (or ex), why should you criticize the magnificent efforts of the teachers my children?
These teachers (as well as my own) I will always describe in superlative terms.
The hundreds of such teachers and nuns and brothers (which I have had the privilege to come to know) - are also some of the bravest heroes of the nation.
ad | 18 February 2011


AD are you also M.Stewart-if not why are you answering and not M. Stewart?? If you are or are not one in the same my original comment was the righteous tone of superiority that M.Stewart's off spring where morally and intellectually superior to students educated in the State system. The pure delusion evident in this comment is self evident. If the holy orders are self evidently honorable and an extension of God's work why are there so few taking up vows? Why is the Catholic church all over the Western world in terminal decline? Why is its only numbers in the poor and illiterate masses of the developing world? My experience of the clergy and brothers and nuns is apart from a few exceptions was a high level of dysfunction and suppressed homosexuality. Have you read the research of the ex priest in the US who estimates 30-45% of the serving priesthood are gay, many practicing gays?? How does this rest with the open discrimination against gay students and staff in Catholic schools? A faith that condones such breathtaking hypocrisy in decline. Hopefully the Federal funding inquiry makes all further funding to Catholic schools totally dependent on total State control of the way these schools are run.
rr | 18 February 2011


Yesterdays Age, Simon Maggelton, Melb Uni- "Catholic schools used by a broad community spectrum and largely government-funded should be incorporated into the public system as in Britain and New Zealand. Independent private schools, Catholic and non-Catholic, that position themselves as special schools for the "right kind of people" should become truly independent — independent of the public obligation to take all comers, as now, and independent of support from the common pool of taxation." Do the readers of this blog agree with this statement-if not, why not...
rr | 22 February 2011


AD for M.Stewart (during their internet problem:

Dear rr
1. I have only expressed thankfulness - and at no time a “tone of superiority” of any kind.
2. In my personal experience, the State school system rarely produces well-rounded responsible individuals. Instead I find these students to be like rudderless flimsy boats, unreliable, with little self-discipline, almost non-existent moral framework and worryingly little sense of responsibility.
3. Why are there so few taking up vows? You mean you have not even noticed all the irresistible enticements of the materialist world? Even the most sensible humans have fallen into this trap.
4. Re “dysfunctional” clergy - happily all my colleagues and I have only met clergy and teachers of the very highest calibre of humanity. True heroes.
5. Competent (real) research shows that only 0.01% have committed any offences. Of course the figure should be zero.
6. Re funding for all schools: “State schools still enrol about 68% of students and receive 75% of total public funding; while Catholic and independent schools enrol 32% of students and receive 25% of total public funding“. Taxpayers must then ask:
“What are the relevant considerations when it comes to distributing the education dollar? Education for the poorest? Education for those who would most profit by it? Education for those who can afford it?“ (Brennan).
We must also remember that 99% of Catholic schools cannot, in justice, be equated to the “rich private schools” of the elite in society. Catholic schools are very highly academically accredited, on top of having already done so much of their own ‘heavy lifting’ … and this with the AFTER-tax income of struggling parents. Why? Because the State/Federal governments have historically never supplied enough education resources to all Australian children; therefore Catholic parents, having no time to waste, set up their own schools and at their own expense.
Remember, if all students who currently attend Catholic and independent schools enrolled in State schools, then taxpayers would need to contribute an additional $5 Billion per year.
Before you talk of hypocrisy, rr, please consider that my taxes have already paid for your children’s education; I then had to pay for my own children’s education out of my own AFTER-tax income. I have actually then paid twice.
AD for M.Stewart (during their internet problem) | 23 February 2011


AD/M Stewart.
School funding-The $5m extra funding required to fully fund Catholic school students would be made up from not having to fund independent schools at all. High fee schools if they elected to charge fees, would receive no govt funding. This would have the economic benefit of freeing up the large amount spent of private school fees to be returned to the economy.Catholic schools being fully govt funded would be able to exercise their God given task to educate the poorest and most disadvantaged in society.

As they in your words" produce a vastly superior product" this would have the effect of transforming society by highly educating the most disadvantaged. Of course Catholic schools would be required to take all comers, not be able to discriminate against gays, not to discriminate against gay staff and single parents. Would this not be the ideal solution???

Or would you like to continue paying a few thousand dollars a year to continue to maintane an exclusive religious ghetto which is in the main tax payer funded. And AD/M Stewart I love the fact your taxes are paying for my childrens' excellent govt high school education-our household income is $400k per annum and we have assets of approx $5.0M. Thank you very much.
rr | 23 February 2011


I refer to the following statements, 23.2.11:
“ … of course Catholic schools would be required to take all comers, not be able to discriminate…”
“…to continue to maintane an exclusive religious ghetto which is in the main tax payer funded”
“I love the fact your taxes are paying for my childrens' excellent govt high school education-our household income is $400k per annum and we have assets of approx $5.0M.”

1. I reiterate: “State schools still enroll about 68% of students and receive 75% of total public funding; while Catholic and independent schools enroll 32% of students and receive 25% of total public funding“. This cannot be regarded in any way as fair especially as our schools are highly academically accredited by the State - just because our schools, in addition, also teach ethics which is in fact anathema to the “ghetto” mentality you assume.

2. By submitting totally to the control of State or Federal governments, parents with children in Catholic Schools would risk losing the very independence they need to teach their children all the treasured values and moral framework they wish being taught (on top of a disciplined learning environment so necessary for academic progress).

3. We would risk losing control over the choosing of teachers of high callibre and competence and of high moral standard; to be the role models so necessary in a morally-bankrupt society.
We do not discriminate anyway against single parents or parents of other faiths from accessing education in our schools.

3. In total submission to government control there would be a problem: In fairness, there would need to be some measure of reimbursement to parents past and present for the very high personal financial (out-of-pocket) costs (from their AFTER-tax incomes) for the infrastructure the parents have built and the ongoing investment of material and personal “heavy lifting” / labour and intellectual investment - to keep the schools at the level of the highest State accreditation.
… in which case there would many $billions in debt. Serious debt - perhaps an extra $50 billion for every brick bought as well as real blood, sweat and tears of our labours and sacrifices.
How do you propose this reimbursement to take place? And from where? It would send governments broke. So be thankful that our parents have actually saved you the dramatic increase in tax.
How would the government reimburse / return the “out-of-pocket” cost to parents, past and present ?
Are you really prepared to pay a dramatic rise in taxes in order to pay out these debts?

4. Thus there would be no point to such schools. Or am I correct in suspecting that this is your real agenda?

5. Such mercenary, obscene hate-filled statements (above) have no place in any civilised society; and

6. It would be most foolish to ever risk any Catholic school to fall into the control of people who have such a greedy ugly mind-set which is in fact anathema and entirely contradictory to the teachings of Christ.

7. Your statement reveals more than you thought. You have revealed you have nothing to offer in advice. I rest my case. As a responsible human being, I reject your proposition.
M.Stewart | 24 February 2011


M.Stewart Again you assume Catholic teachings /morals have some sort of supremacy within our secular society.(they no longer do no matter how much huffing and puffing George Pell makes). You say Catholic schools do not discriminate against certain sections of the community, they do. I know personally of several gay students being strongly encouraged to leave all boys Catholic schools in Melb. I know personally of a woman who is a very senior manager in a state Catholic education authority who has been pretending she is married to her lifelong partner for many years as she is very afraid of discrimination if her non married status is revealed in her workplace. All govt funding needs to be removed from schools/organisations that discriminate on any basis if they choose to receive govt funding. If they discriminate on any basis in terms of staff or students they loose the right to all govt funding. Are you saying discrimination against people is part of Catholic teaching?? Pandering to the illusion of parental choice has resulted in a multitiered school system which enormously disadvantages students in govt schools in low income areas. Catholic schools are the driver of this educational aparthied in these areas. In many regional centres in NSW and QLD almost all Anglo students are at the Catholic school and all indigeneous students are at the govt high school. Whay is this allowed to happen M.Stewart?? By the way if you look at academic performance for most socioeconomic groups State based schools are producing better academic results than equivalent Catholic schools. With the push for justice in school funding coming from many important areas I believe we are within sight of fundamental change on govt and private school funding. The time for special deals for religious schools is coming to an end.
rr | 24 February 2011


I refer to your statements: 1. “…resulted in a multitiered school system which enormously disadvantages students in govt schools in low income areas”. 1. This is completely untrue. I reiterate: “State schools still enroll about 68% of students and receive 75% of total public funding; while Catholic and independent schools enroll 32% of students and receive 25% of total public funding“. How is this funding in any way favouring Catholic schools. It is the very opposite. You seem to have an incredibly distorted view of fairness and social justice. 2. “…all indigeneous students are at the govt high school. W” Again, another distortion of the facts: several Catholic schools in fact have in place many scholarships for indigenous pupils, and cover fully all their academic needs and personal needs. 3. And yes, we Catholic parents will always insist on teachers of the highest calibre and will not accept “teachers” who do not impart this concept and who make their own selfish rules - especially in such a morally-bankrupt society as it has become - and precisely because of so many individuals making their rules, at the expense at the greater good of everyone. 4. “time for special deals for religious schools is coming to an end” And what precisely would these ‘special deals’ be? More of the same demonstrable injustice? Well, then, since Catholic parents have saved you about $50 billions in tax, you might like to get ready for those billions to be returned to them. The debts will be massive. Be careful of what you wish for. And ... be careful of hatred and malice … besides being toxic and corrosive to one's own psyche, it has an unpleasant habit of coming back to haunt you.
m stewart | 25 February 2011


M Stewart you amuse me no end. The likelihood of anyone getting back $50B is very low indeed. You seem to keep arguing from the viewpoint of the current funding situation which everyone including the government believes is broken and results in educational injustice which is corrosive to building a competitive Australian economy. You keep talking about Catholic parents only having the most exemplary of teachers. What you mean is straight, married, practicing Catholics-guess what I could introduce you to several teachers in Catholic schools that are gay, live in 'sin', fornicate and take drugs and would only attend Mass as part of their school based charade. I do not want my taxes spent in organisations that discriminate of the basis of religion, sexuality or marriage status-neither do a very large number of other Australians. What do you mean by "teachers that make their own selfish rules" and " morally bankrupt world"- all seems a bit like someone is so very frightened of that big bad world out there. I find the world in general to be far from morally bankrupt and that with the further levels of education within the general society and people freeing them selves in the main from the delusion and dysfunction of organised religion that we are moving towards much higher understanding of the individual and their relationship to the wider society. M. Stewart I'm sure you'll be praying for me this Sunday.
rr | 25 February 2011


I refer to your comments:
“The likelihood of anyone getting back $50B is very low indeed”
I rest my case. It is not possible to ever compensate parents who had (and still have) the initiative to set up schools (at their own AFTER-tax expense) for their children (because there was never, at any stage - and even at present - enough schools infrastructure to enable all Australian children to be educated).
To compensate all such parents, past and present, would send the country broke. And I am not talking about the very wealthy schools. They are in another category altogether, not likely requiring extra government assistance.
Therefore be eternally thankful that such parents still only want a little assistance.

Your proposition, on the other hand, would in fact create even more turmoil, since we reject your attitude for prescribing a “one size fits all” for all schools which would eventually require Catholic schools to jetison the atmosphere of a necessary cohesion for achieving a civilised society and to jetison the ethical standards that underpin that truly civilised culture.

To demonstrate a unconscionable attitude to social equity and responsibility, I direct you to your own statement: “I love the fact your taxes are paying for my childrens' excellent govt high school education-our household income is $400k per annum and we have assets of approx $5.0M. Thank you very much” - where you still expect even more blood from a stone from other parents on meagre wages and already struggling to make ends meet.
Your unfair attitude needs a complete and urgent overhaul.

We do not want a setting where children are allowed to assume the current (morally bankrupt) attitude of “anything goes” leading to an undoubtedly regressive society: an brain-dead, unthinking dysfunctional “junk-culture” arrogantly making its own rules and definitely in moral retreat; a society that in fact displays no signs of self-starting to a “higher understanding of the individual and their relationship to the wider society” and has no intellectual structure nor starting point for this concept to even take root. Now this is the kind of society that would be truly terrifying. Just open your eyes and read the signs of the times.



m stewart | 28 February 2011


M. Stewart, Our ongoing discussion seems to reveal that you are deeply disappointed with the modern world and believe it to be morally bankrupt, materialistic and godless. I believe however that increased levels of education has allowed most of the Australian population to become independent thinkers. The internet and now almost universal availability of information will allow us to transform large parts of society which will be necessary given the huge challenges we will face due to shrinking resources and climate change. Your quaint view of the supremacy of the historic parochial Catholic school system only confirms its increasing irrelevance to an education system which must prepare students for the very real challenges ahead. Again why should the taxpayer support a narrow ghettoised system that long ago should have been absorbed into the general government school system.
rr | 02 March 2011


Private education is just that, its a private decision to spend your money any way you want. Why should other people support your private consumption be it education or anything else.

The level of Public support to the Private sector in education now exceeds the level of support for tertiary education, which covrs everyone.

Australia is a secular state, so support to any religious schools.

Finally the great melting pot of public education is what created the high level social cohesion we see in Australia today not segregated schools based upon religion.
Tony Collison | 18 March 2011


Rr and Tony Collison

If this is your wish: that all Catholic schools close and that these many thousands of students then attend public schools … then you should be prepared to stump up many billions of extra dollars in tax money. But somehow I think that would elicit howls of protestation from you.

Your howls of protestation would thus confirm the fact that Catholic parents have indeed saved you many many thousands of dollars in tax… directly as a result of the initiative of Catholic parents to quickly set up (as a matter of urgency) their own schools (in this way saving the government of the day the additional expense of building the real number of schools and infrastructure which was actually required).

Your howls of protestation would equally become more shrill if Catholic parents demanded credit for their past efforts …and thus cause an increase in your tax liability.

The recent Gonski Report now reveals that students in public schools (when all sources of income are taken into account eg from both Federal and State governments) actually receive approximately DOUBLE the government assistance compared to that given to Catholic schools (which, by the way, are accredited with no difficulty for academic excellence).


Therefore, why not be content to allow Catholic parents to claim a return of just a portion of credit from their taxes paid, (remembering your child is getting the full portion of benefit and also recognising that this would effect at least some degree of social justice)?

Then there will be no reason at all for you to howl in protest.

M Stewart | 11 April 2011


We've updated our privacy policy.

Click to review