In Defence of Non-Government Schools

Jennifer Buckingham
02 July 2009 | IA112
In Defence of Non-Government Schools

The Rudd Labor government has so far taken a hands-off approach to the issue of non-government school funding. Rhetoric and policy from the prime minister and education minister have been supportive of school choice and of non-government schools.

On the horizon, however, is a promised review of the major non-government school funding formula, and it is highly likely that reforms will be made to the school funding agreement for the 2013–16 quadrennium.

It is therefore important to reiterate the reasons for public funding of non-government schools, with a rational and ethical defence of non-government schools and their contribution to the public good and society.

  • Non-government schools are educators of the public. They transmit to children the knowledge and skills they need to be active and productive members of society. On the available indicators, non-government schools’ academic and post-school outcomes are at least equal to government schools.
  • Non-government schools play a role in democracy. Australian and US research provides no evidence that non-government school students and graduates are less tolerant or civic-minded. Indeed, the existence of non-government schools is essentially democratic because it empowers citizens. The religious character of non-government schools attracts criticism but much of this is unfounded.
  • Non-government schools contribute to society. As well as the 1,700 systemic Catholic schools, many of which are less well-resourced than government schools, there are also dozens of independent schools serving some of the country’s neediest students—from children with profound disabilities to children in the most remote parts of Australia.
  • Public funding of non-government schools gives parents choice. Without government funding, many non-government schools would not exist, and many children would have no education available to them. Likewise, denying public funding to non-government schools would effectively lock all but the wealthiest families out of school choice.
  • Denying parents a choice in schooling is unjust. School choice is a moral and social equity issue. When schools fail, it is children and families that suffer most. Most people who are opposed to school choice would never accept the same limitations for themselves that they seek to impose on others.
  • Basis for school funding. If parent income is the proper basis for school funding, then this should apply to parents of children in all schools.
  • How to create equity in funding. The only way to create equity in funding, and end the long-running debate that pits sector against sector and shifts blame between levels of government, is to create a single funding source and fund children—not schools.

Jennifer Buckingham is a Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies.

 

Latest Publications

Eight Housing Affordability Myths
Stephen Kirchner
10 July 2014 | IA146

Australians are conflicted in their attitude to this long-run change in real house prices because they are both investors in housing as an asset class and consumers of housing services. This conflicted attitude on the part of the public is reflected in confused public policies followed by Australian governments. Unfortunately, many of the policies pursued by Australian governments in the…

READ MORE
Still Damaging and Disturbing: Australian Child Protection Data and the Need for National Adoption Targets
Jeremy Sammut
16 April 2014 | IA145

In December 2013, the Abbott government announced plans to make it easier for Australian parents to adopt children both locally and from overseas. Acknowledging the official ‘taboo’ on adoption in Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott ordered an inter-departmental committee to recommend ways to take adoption out of the ‘too-hard’ basket. The chief barrier to raising the number of local adoptions…

READ MORE
Why Jaydon Can’t Read: A Forum on Fixing Literacy
Jennifer Buckingham, Justine Ferrari, Tom Alegounarias
18 February 2014 | IA144

Many thousands of Australian students have very low levels of literacy after spending four or more years at school. The Spring 2014 issue of the CIS journal Policy contained an article called ‘Why Jaydon Can’t Read: How Ideology Triumphed Over Evidence in Teaching Reading’, which concluded that students were not being provided with the most effective evidence-based reading instruction in…

READ MORE
Independent Charities, Independent Regulators: The Future of Not-for-Profit Regulation
Helen Andrews
06 February 2014 | IA143

The Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission was established by the Gillard government in 2012 with the intended purpose of cutting the red tape faced by Australia’s charities. So far, the regulator has failed to make any significant progress on this goal or on its two other main goals: increasing public trust in charities and improving the quality of regulatory oversight…

READ MORE
The New Silence: Family Breakdown and Child Sexual Abuse
Jeremy Sammut
30 January 2014 | IA142

Despite family breakdown exposing children to greater risk of sexual abuse, the issue receives scant attention in this country. Child sexual abuse is not fully and frankly discussed because the public discourse is self-censored by politicians, academics, social service organisations, and the media in compliance with politically correct attitudes towards ‘family diversity’—the socially ‘progressive’ and ‘non-judgmental’ fiction that says the…

READ MORE