“HUSH MONEY” FOR PRIVATE SCHOOLS?
It always surprises me how little the market forces gurus in our parliaments actually know about market forces and how they work.
Currently we are watching the unedifying spectacle of PM Julia Gillard rushing about, frantically placating the private school sector before (hopefully) introducing the Gonski reforms.
After promising to respond to Gonski this week, our poorest and most vulnerable students have been put on hold again, while she smoothes the ruffled feathers of those who represent the interests of our more advantaged kids.
Not only is she promising that no private school will lose a dollar in public subsidy, she is now promising to raise their funding.
Depressing as this is, I can see the political realities that are motivating her.
The private school lobby, some parts of it anyway, have been frightening parents (and Gillard) with claims that Gonski will take money from some private (even some public) schools and so drive fees up.
Rather than tackling the lack of logic here, Gillard is throwing money at the problem. Money some might be rude enough to call hush money.
Personally, I am tempted not to care if she gives more money to these schools – even if some of them may now be able to paint their walls with gold leaf as a result – as long as she doesn’t take any badly needed funds away from the schools doing the toughest work in education to do so.
But, like many fiscal conservatives, it does annoy me when tax payers’ money is wasted. And there is absolutely no evidence at all that increasing public subsidies to private schools keeps fees down at all. In fact, the evidence seems to suggest it may do the exact opposite.
Let’s just look at a few facts.
Private school fees have been going up above the rate of inflation every year for decades. Here are just a few headlines from recent years saying precisely that; “Parents feel the squeeze as private school fees rocket” The Age, 9/2/09, or “Richest schools add highest fees to funding pool”, The Australian, 20/12/10, “Our richest schools raise fees by 91%”, The Age, 16/1/11 etc. You get the picture.
As Justine Ferrari and Pia Akerman point out in the article from The Australian mentioned above, these schools raised their fees despite increases in Federal government funding of 8.2% to every private primary school student, and 7% to every private secondary school student.
They also point out that an analysis of school fees showed some private schools had almost doubled their fees in a decade.
Economist Adam Rorris, writing in the SMH as far back as 2008 (“The answer to high private fees is public schools”) said ” The previous Federal Government argued… give more money to private schools than they ever dreamed and tuition fees would surely drop. Unfortunately, the reverse happened.”
Why does steadily increasing public funding of private schools appear to have no downward pressure on the fees they charge?
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