Rob Buckingham's Blog

Scrap Private School Funding?

There seems to be a regular attack on government funding of private schools.  Recently I read these letters to the editor in the Herald Sun:

“I resent paying for private schools through my taxes.  We need to better fund public schools first.”

“Get rid of the funding for private schools, build the new hospital (or two) and put the rest into public schools.  Simple.”

Simple?  Is it really?  The ongoing political and media debate about government funding of private schools is full of misconceptions and distortion of facts.   In 2007, comedienne and well-known atheist Catherine Deveny stated it bluntly when she wrote, “private schools should not receive funding.”
What is often not mentioned – or understood – is that the existence of private schools actually saves the taxpayer money.  For example, one local private school receives almost $3,000 of government funding annually per primary student and about $3,800 per secondary student.  The average cost of educating a student in a government school in Australia is over $7,000 (primary) and over $9,000 (secondary).

In other words, every primary student at this private school saves the taxpayer over $4,000 a year and every secondary student saves the taxpayer over $5,000. The combined 2008 savings to taxpayers from families attending this particular school were over $13 million.  Undoubtedly this saving has increased over the past three years.

What needs to be made clear is that scrapping – or reducing – government funding to private schools will increase fees, thus forcing some families to send their children to public schools instead.  This will inevitably put extra stress on the public school system, which in turn will cost the taxpayer more.  It would also reduce the education options for families and penalise people of many faiths who desire their children to have an education that is consistent with their religious beliefs.

I believe it is the right of every parent to send their children to a school of their choice – be it public or private, but please let’s not buy in to some of the tripe that is regularly served up by some politicians, media commentators and members of the general public.

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