A new government proposal in Australia could have wealthy parents paying for their children’s education at public schools, according to a leaked federal government discussion paper.
While one scenario would result in means-testing public education, another option would see the Commonwealth taking away all funding from either all schools or just public schools, leaving states $2 billion short each year. A separate scenario would have the Commonwealth base student funding on needs along with the ability of families to contribute.
Although Education Minister Christopher Pyne has decided against charging wealthy parents, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said public school funding is left entirely up to individual states and territories.
“Charging wealthy parents for their children to attend public schools is not the government’s policy. I don’t support it,” Mr Pyne said on Twitter. “If the states and territories want to charge wealthy parents fees for public schools that’s a matter for them.”
Liberal MP Ken Wyatt agreed with Pyne, saying he does not want to move away from the universal, free public education model currently in use or see a reduction in funding.
The idea to charge wealthy parents for access to public schooling came from the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), a free market think tank which last year recommended charging parents with high incomes $1,000 each year for their children to attend public schools.
Meanwhile, if the Commonwealth were to no longer offer funding for the school system, the responsibility would go to individual states and territories to determine funding sources. While this would cause an additional $2 billion to be spent by states each year, it would mean $15 billion in annual savings for the federal government.
However, the Australian Education Union would like to see a rejection of the means-testing proposal, as well as to the idea of the federal government no longer funding schools, writes Leesa Smith for The Daily Mail Australia.
“It is a fundamental right of every Australian to be able to access public schools free of charge and has been since the 19th century,” federal president Correna Haythorpe said in a statement. She said the proposals were more about privatising education than improving education outcomes for children.”
Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Cassandra Goldie agreed, adding that the proposals had no meaning.
“Socially it’s really important that we have everybody, regardless of your walk of life, in (public) schools,” she told ABC radio.
State and territory governments are currently reviewing the proposal for further consideration.