Public vs Private Education
There is an excellent article in The Age by Morag Fraser on how she & her husband chose schools for their children. The best way, she says, to determine the quality of a school is to actually go out there and have a look, talk to the teachers, the principal and others involved.
We had friends with children the same age. We talked (endlessly, it seemed), gathered as much local gossip as we could. That wasn't difficult, because everyone here has an opinion about the local schools.
Then we went to each school. We saw the principals, walked around, looked in classrooms, watched children in the schoolyards at lunchtime, looked at writing, drawing, paintings pinned to classroom walls, listened to teachers, and then went back to those in charge.
We were given detailed, honest information (no brochures or prospectuses). I don't remember the statistical exactitudes now but I do remember the openness and the professionalism of the teachers and principals involved and a strong sense that we could trust them.
Just quickly, there's an article in the Australian today about Mark Harrison's somewhat radical idea of using vouchers to allow parents to choose where their kids go to school, similar to the United States system, rather than to funding going to the government and it directly funding schools. I don't really want to comment on that idea at the moment, as I don't have enough knowledge on the issue. It may have merit, but I also know that the voucher system in the US has it's detractors, and there may be better ways of doing it.
What did draw my attention was this paragraph:
In 2001-02, the latest year for which figures are available, private schools received $4870 in funding from the state and federal governments per student, while government schools received $8937 or 84per cent more.
While I can't exactly verify those numbers, the budget reports put out by the federal and state departments of education seem to support that statement. Public schools receive far more funding than private schools and the public system's funding has been going up, not down. So can we please stop the misleading comments coming from some places about how the federal government funds private schools more. That is true, but the funds from the state governments far out-weigh that. Also, it should be noted that in Australia it is the state, not federal government, who have the responsibility of running and funding schools.
Labor, the Greens and some Independents are calling for an inquiry into Federal government funding of independent schools.