WHO DOES JOHN HOWARD REALLY CARE ABOUT?
Share of Commonwealth education expenditure in each sector as a proportion of the sum of the sectors, 1996 - 2005, Relevant Year Prices. Source: Budget Papers, relevant years.
"The Government does not have education policies, it has policies of social engineering".
This is how Rodney Molesworth, President of the Australian Council of State School Organisations, summarised parent reaction to the release of information showing the Howard Government's massive shift of Commonwealth effort from public universities to private schools.
"It is obvious", he went on "that the Government does not consider that the four million students at public schools and TAFE colleges are worthy of any real attention. Private schools, with less than a million students, will absorb around 36% of the Commonwealth's education expenditure.
"Our great universities have, in the Government's view, been grossly over-funded in the past and must be now forced to cut courses and reduce the research effort that is so vital to our competitive future. Only private schools, including those with resource levels that most Australians can only dream about, are singled out for massive increases in federal funding.
"When has the Government ever explained the rationale behind this extraordinary policy? The Coalition goes to the polls standing on a record of increases to the most privileged schools, paid for by equivalent cuts to universities, without ever accounting to the taxpayer for its actions. They have never called on the recipients of this largesse to account for it either. We do not know what benefits the community is supposed to have received in return for the Commonwealth's expenditure of around four billion dollars per year on private schools. The 70% of parents who send their children to our fully accountable public schools would certainly argue that there are higher priorities.
"ACSSO estimates that there are up to 1,500 public schools in Australia where around 30% of families have no-one working. The impact of unemployment on school outcomes and engagement with work and society are well documented. Labor's "Education Priority Zones" are recognition of this connection, but will help less than half of these schools. The Coalition's answer is to pour an average of one million extra public dollars per year into the coffers of each of the wealthiest schools in the country.
"Australia's future as a competitor in the global marketplace depends on the educational attainment of all of its citizens. The Government's strategy of investing most heavily in the areas of least demonstrated need is economic suicide on a national scale. The withdrawal of necessary funds from our universities is denying opportunities to students, crippling our research effort and causing us to fall behind internationally. Our future as a secure, democratic and prosperous nation depends on the maintenance of a high quality public education system, open to all and meeting the needs of all.
"The Government clearly believes that widening the resource gap between government and non-government schools, currently standing at 120%, is their top education priority. We beg to differ!
Further information - Rodney Molesworth - 0402 433 400
Trends in Commonwealth Education Expenditures
The proportion of the Commonwealth education budget* allocated to non-government schools is increasing.
24% of the Commonwealth education budget was allocated to non-government schools in 1996/97. This will increase to 36% by 2004/05.
The proportion of the Commonwealth education budget allocated to government schools has remained relatively unchanged (19%).
Universities will see their share of Commonwealth education expenditure fall from 47% in 1996/97 to 33% by 2004/05
*education budget includes expenditure on government and non-government schools, TAFE and higher education.