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estimate of $8,000 has been made for primary students, of a millionaire, attending James Ruse High School, with the while $10,500 is estimated for secondary students. One longest waiting list in Sydney, should attract to that school concern is that such a figure may not take into account the full payment rather than be means-tested? The majority all sorts of variables that can affect the cost of schooling, of families earning income over $104, 000 send their apart from disadvantage. The cost of schooling in Sydney children to Government schools. A recent investigation by may differ from that in Adelaide. How does it take into Sydney’s Sun Herald, using information on the My School account specialised schools such as the Conservatorium? site, has found that only a small percentage of students at Or Performing Arts’ high schools or Sports’ academies? The Government selective schools come from the bottom quartile fear is that it might lead to the lowest common denominator of their Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage approach to determining what is an efficient education and (ICSEA). thus reflect a reductionist view of education, in Government An important area in this debate is this distinction as well as non-Government schools. Creativity, diversity, between funding as an entitlement and as welfare. experimentation may be hindered in such a regime. Medicare is not means-tested because its proponents saw This may be even more the case with the non-Government the universality of the scheme as an important aspect of sector, where diversity lies at the heart of the appeal. social policy. As against those who would seek to frame Schools with large co-curricular programmes, for example, the debate in terms of middle class welfare, I would argue have quite a different cost per student. Such schools also along similar lines that a basic payment is the right of each have to include capacity for capital works in their fee student, and that additional payments to disadvantaged structure. Beyond such considerations, the Report proposes students/schools are then made on a needs basis. Nearly that Government funding to non-Government schools be 32% of Australian students attend non-Government schools, based on each school's capacity to raise income from and in capital cities this percentage climbs to 50% in Years parents through a measure similar to the existing SES. 11 and 12. Non-Government schools are already funded Two positives in this are that non-Government schools with according to a sliding scale of need, between 13.7% and students with needs will be eligible for extra funding and 70% of the cost of educating a child in the Government the principle that each student has a right to some funding system. is respected. Historically, the Australian Catholic community has The Report suggests a minimum payment to schools with strongly maintained the principle of parental choice to a high SES at 20–25 per cent of the schooling resource educate their children in religious or other non-government standard. For some very high fee-paying schools, this might schools. It is a principle that Catholics made enormous largely preserve the status quo. For other schools in areas sacrifices through almost a century when there was no that attract a high SES, but which have tried to contain fees government funding. It is part of our Australian story. It is to a much more modest level, such a proposal may well a key element in shaping multicultural Australia. It should represent a significant financial loss. The problem rests in not be forgotten that when the free, secular State system determining the amounts for each school. The SES model of education came into being in the second half of the itself has flaws in determining what schools are eligible for. Nineteenth Century, it reflected a viewpoint of imperial The devil will be in the details. Will it be flexible enough Britain that was unacceptable to Catholics who stood in and discriminatory to deal with the particular school and the way of presenting a homogenous narrative of Australia its circumstances? Will it penalise schools that work harder (given the expectation that indigenous Australia would at fund-raising, and, in effect, so discourage more parental wither away). investment? One suspects that there are a significant number Despite the Gonski Report accepting the principle of Catholic schools that might fall into that category, losing that each Australian student should get a base amount of $1-3000 per student in funding. They would face the Government funding (even though it is means-tested in one unpalatable choice of hiking fees up. Some modelling sector and not in the other), there is always a fear that done in Victoria by the Catholic system there warns that some of the funding debate is code for an attack on the Catholic primary school fees could rise between 92 per very existence of a significant non-Government educational cent and 131 per cent by 2016, inevitably forcing out sector. It is important that we remind ourselves on the role lower socio-economic status students from the system. played by Catholic schools in Australian history. How this would also sit with the Government’s repeated Catholic schools can claim to have contributed commitment “it will ensure that the model adopted and the enormously to the Australian community, and thus make a transition arrangements provide that no school loses a dollar claim for some funding on the basis of the common good. per student as a result of this funding review” seems to be The historic success of immigration and multiculturalism one of the mysteries of the Report. in Australia owes something to the Catholic schools that Philosophically, the issue could be raised as to why played such an important role in the integration and one sector is means-tested and another is not. If the size of advancement of significant migrant groups in Australia payments to schools is to be determined on a needs basis, (the Irish, the Italians and Maltese, many East European then it seems to be reasonable to ask why the son or daughter peoples, the Lebanese, the Vietnamese, the Filipino). In St Aloysius’ College A Jesuit School for Boys _ Founded 1879 a l oy s i a d / page 5


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