Money for Jam: An election sweetener with dire consequences

Mar 30, 2023
Source: Getty

Here we go again! In the run-up to the NSW State Election, the Coalition has pledged an extra $50 million dollars to independent and faith-based schools for new classrooms and upgrades.

Those millions are, of course, our money – yours and mine, and if the Coalition is re-elected, they will come straight from the public purse. Does it matter to seniors that independent and faith-based schools are in line to receive a funding boost, which presumably, will not be matched for run-down public schools?  The simple answer is yes. The way we educate our children determines the type of place Australia will become in the coming years.  

When you and I attended school decades ago, things really were different. The vast majority of children attended their local government school. Mostly, we walked there and back. Nowadays, a considerable proportion of children are driven or bussed across Sydney to attend independent and faith-based schools.

These schools, unlike our public schools, are not accessible to all students and the fees they charge range from modest to exorbitant. Our public schools are inclusive, accepting the enrolment of all students living within their catchment areas. Private schools, on the other hand, are exclusive. They accept or reject enrolments as they like. What’s more, while public schools are obliged to put their statistics on suspensions, expulsions, bullying and the like on the public record, independent and faith-based schools are not.     

The NSW Coalition is justifying the mooted funding windfall for independent and faith-based schools on the grounds that their enrolments are rising, but here is the rub. The policies and actions of a succession of Coalition governments, both State and Federal, are responsible for that rise in enrolments.

Years of underfunding public schools and public school teacher-bashing are bearing fruit. Indeed, coalition governments have created their own self-fulfilling prophecy.

Although research assures us that when like is compared with like, public schools achieve equivalent academic results, parents have been convinced by Coalition governments that it is otherwise. They compare the superior learning spaces, resources and generous staffing available at independent and faith-based schools and, if they can afford it, they make the switch from public to private.  

So, why should seniors be concerned about independent and faith-based schools receiving a funding bonus from the NSW Coalition government if it is re-elected?

Perhaps, you see this as a one-off election sweetener, vying for the vote of so-called aspirational parents. However, with its ideological bias for private enterprise, the targeted educational funding policies of Coalition governments are leading us towards – and some would say, we are almost there – public schools becoming the schools of last resort, so-called “sink” schools catering for underprivileged students, whose parents can afford nothing else.

Is that what we want for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren? Do we want to see them locked out of opportunity if their parents cannot afford school fees? For that matter, do we want to see any Australian child receive a lesser education because of an accident of birth?

You see, this pledge of extra millions “for jam” for independent and faith-based schools is not a single or isolated initiative; it is another step towards privatising education. Coalition governments have been applying the death-by-a-thousand cuts to public education for years! We do not want a country divided into haves and have-nots, do we?

Now, of course, the coalition has lost the NSW election to Labor and consequently, there will be no extra money for jam for independent or faith-based schools – or will there? Now is the time to remind the government that it is public education that needs a funding boost.

Public schools must be properly funded!


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