Parents Deserve Recognition for Investing in their Child’s Education
In Australia, there is a long accepted choice for parents – send your child to a public school where you will be fully subsidised by government for the costs, or choose a non-state school where you will receive significantly less subsidy from the public purse and will have to contribute to the costs yourself.
In Queensland, parents who send their children to independent schools contribute $1 billion annually (from their after-tax income) to school education. Across Australia, fee-paying parents of independent school students save governments $4.3 billion each year.
For more than 50 years, Australian Governments have supported parental choice by providing financial support to both public and independent schools. On average governments spend $16,180 in recurrent funding on each child in a public school, yet the cost to government for a child in an independent school on average is $7,940.
It is also apparent that high-fee independent schools receive lower levels of government support. As little as $4,000 per student in many cases. In contrast, academically selective state schools are fully funded by the public purse. Government support varies according to need, as it should, with both state and non-state schools that serve disadvantaged communities receiving higher levels of government funding.
The increasing number of students being educated at independent schools is a clear indication that parents value independent education and are prepared to meet the costs from their after-tax incomes, some at great sacrifice.
Governments benefit by receiving a strong return on their lower investment in independent schools. Non-government schools consistently outperform government schools in all NAPLAN assessment domains and studies show that independent and Catholic schools outperform state schools in academic outcomes, even after adjusting for student background.
Recent commentary calling for the defunding of non-state schools is a false economy and poor public policy. Because independent schools receive less public funding per student the overall cost to taxpayers in a mixed system is less than it would be in a purely public system.
Any move to strip government funding from students attending independent schools would disrupt a long accepted and important principle that every parent is entitled to receive government support for the education of their children, a principle supported by both sides of politics. It would also see a significant transfer of students from the non-government sector to the already at-capacity state system, at great expense to taxpayers.
Limiting education opportunities for students and school choice for families would be a disastrous outcome from any future funding changes. We should support and encourage parents to invest in their child’s education and work to maintain a strong and diverse education system that offers families real choice.
By Independent Schools Queensland Executive Director David Robertson
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