The Australian federal government spends more money on private schools than most other wealthy countries, and spends less than most on public education.
A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Education at a Glance 2010, showed Australia gave 16.9% of education money to private schools and 71.9% to government schools.
The US spends 0.2% and 99.8% respectively.
Most money for private school funding comes from the federal government, which argues that “grants” and “subsidies” make private schools more affordable.
But filthy rich private schools use public funding to boost profit while remaining exclusive and elite. The September 12 Melbourne Age said some schools in Victoria made profits of up to $14 million last year and government funding made up a big part of the gains.
The schools whose books were opened included Melbourne's Scotch College, which made $14 million last year. It receives $4.7 million a year from the government. The Age also said Melbourne Grammar made $8.2 million (with $4.5 million public funding) and Geelong Grammar made $10.6 million, $6.3 million of which was from the government.
Many older private institutions also receive millions in donations from their alumni networks and benefactors.
The schools all boast over-the-top facilities and ridiculous privileges. Huge enrolment fees mean access is granted to a limited few.
On top of annual hand-outs, private schools received the same grants (and in some cases even more) as public schools under the federal government's “education revolution”.
The 2008 budget for the Nation Building: Economic Stimulus Plan included $277.5 million for "maintenance and minor building works" across primary and high schools, both private and public in NSW.
Private schools in Sydney received hand-outs of up to $200,000 for various projects, in many cases they were for upgrades to high quality sporting, art and technology facilities.
Public schools received amounts between $50,000 and $200,000 for basic “school refurbishment”, regardless of socio-economic status. The problems faced by many public schools include classrooms in disrepair, oversized classes, impoverished students and poor sporting facilities.
The federal government's MySchool website publicly ranks schools according to standardised test outcomes.
Used to justify increased spending on schools that “do well”, it actually shows the link between socio-economic status and academic performance, where good results can literally be distinguished by postcode.
In the lead-up to the election, Gillard said schools would compete for reward payments of $100,000 for “improvement” in test scores. The plan, effective from 2014, was criticised by educators because it would likely benefit the already wealthy.
Despite a growing need to seriously invest in public education and boost support for disadvantaged schools, the government refuses to change its spending.
The Gillard government has guaranteed billions of dollars to the private education sector until 2013.
In the tertiary education sector, the report also shows spending on universities has risen in most other OECD countries, but Australia's has remained the same.
Australia’s universities are increasingly run for profit. The Labor government’s “Education Revolution”, started under Gillard’s reign as education minister, was designed to make more high fee-paying postgraduate and international student places available.
International students make up Australia’s third largest export earner (behind coal and iron ore) and private investors can decide what research is funded and what courses are run.
As a result, courses, subjects and departments that don’t attract large numbers can be cut. Regional and rural campuses, forced to compete with bigger universities, struggle to remain open.
The OECD report shows Australia is going the wrong way, making decent education a privilege and destroying the public education system.
All of the recent education reforms intend to nationally standardise school performance, regardless of a school’s status or needs, and convert universities into degree factories.
The Australian government must be challenged to reverse its current direction to run Australia’s education system for profit.
Quality education guaranteed for all, not just the obscenely privileged, should be the government's sole aim in education planning and funding.