Letters that didn’t make it to the press!

February 1, 2011 at 7:36 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

In the piece, (“Catholics need more than ads to come home”, January 28), Fr Hodgens puts his finger on a major problem in the Church. In my words, Catholicism’s obsession with the bedroom has hardly served the institution or its members well in the past or indeed in the present!  If only the Church would become more like Dorothy Sayers and “…care less and less who goes to bed with whom.”

The return of the ‘Golden Tonsils’ (“A big day for John Laws”, February 1) to 2SM has been compared to the Second Coming, but a more apt theological comparison would have been the Rapture, where he and his admirers are etherized and wafted into eternity.

Stop public aid to private schools

Richard Ackland’s (“Religiously follow the rules, or catch church in bed with state”, February 4), raises the still contentious issue of state aid to non-government schools.

Since the early 1960s the Commonwealth has poured massive amounts of money into non-government schools. To question the wisdom of this in terms of national policy is legitimate. Most would agree that this has had disastrous financial implications on state schools, to say nothing about the abandonment of the principle of equity in government education policy.

The ideological rationale for the existence of non-government schools ranges from the religious to mundane considerations like class values. The raison d’etre for establishment of Catholic schools was and continues to be, to pass on the faith. By any measure today they are most unsuccessful in doing this. The vast majority of Catholics leaving school don’t practise the faith.

With the present openness of Australia to the world and its beliefs, it’s not beyond anyone’s imagination that the state could end up financing schools that are ideologically opposed to our secular liberal society.

How can anyone justify state aid to schools like Riverview and Kings after looking at some of our high schools in the Western suburbs?

The state should provide a first class education in its own schools that are open to all, and if some parents want to send their children to non-government schools that is their right, but it is not their right to expect the state to finance these schools.

An article published in Eureka Street and copied to add a balance to my comments above:

Home » Vol 21 No 2 > Why private schools need more money
EDUCATION

Why private schools need more money

CHRIS MIDDLETON FEBRUARY 07, 2011

At this time of year, there is normally a raft of stories about private school fees and government funding. Now, there seems to be a swing in public sentiment towards questioning the level of financial support given to private schools.

A recent poll shows 70 per cent of people think the Federal Government gives too much money to private schools. The Australian Education Union, representing state school teachers, is campaigning on the issue, and a number of newspapers and commentators arepushing the same agenda.

Such commentary is significant because the Gonski review into Federal funding of schools isunderway. The review may shape the funding of non-government schools for many years to come. 

But headlines about rising school fees and claims that the majority of funding goes to private schools are full of misinformation and bias, and amount to a campaign against non-government schools.

Two images are being projected: the majority of government funding is going to a minority of students in private schools; and that ‘private schools’ refers to wealthy independent schools. 

In reality, non-government schools educate about one in three of all Australian students, most of whom are educated in Catholic schools and various low fee-paying religious and community schools. The rhetoric hardly acknowledges this.

And all schools do not get the same funding. The Socio-Economic Status (SES) score determines whether a school will have as much as 70 per cent of the estimated cost of educating a student in a government school or as little as 13.7 per cent.

The AEU and others talk of non-government schools receiving more government funding than state schools. They ignore the fact that state schools receive most of their funding (88 per cent) from state governments.

The fact is that if you combine federal and state funding, only 20 per cent of government funding goes to non-government schools that educate one in three Australian students. If critics argue that federal funding of non-government schools should reflect the percentage of students in the two sectors, why does the same argument not apply to the level of state funding?

Students at government schools receive about twice as much government funding as students at non-government schools. Also, contrary to perceptions of ever-increasing funding of non-government schools, Productivity Commission data shows a 1.2 per cent increase in funding to government schools in recent years, compared to a 1.6 per cent decrease in non-government schools.

Critics claim that private school fees have risen by about 100 per cent in the past ten years against an inflation rate of 37 per cent. It is implied that this gap between inflation and the rise in fees is because private schools are greedy.

However, inflation in the area of education is much higher than average. The Government’s Average Government School Recurrent Cost (AGSRC) index measures inflation in the educational sector and determines the per capita increases each year. Every year this is higher than the inflation rate.

The biggest educational expenses are salaries which have consistently (and rightly) gone up by more than the inflation rate each year. Other fast increasing costs include the heavy technology component which has climbed dramatically over the past decade.

Additionally, normally non-government schools do not get any funding for capital works such as new buildings. Therefore independent private schools have to factor building expenses into their fees, and many rely largely on fundraising to minimise the impact on fees.

In the government sector the construction of new buildings is met by the Department of Education.

Aside from the specific issues of funding and fees, Catholic schools can claim to have contributed enormously to the Australian community, and thus make a claim for some funding on the basis of the common good.

The historic success of immigration and multiculturalism in Australia owes something to Catholic schools that played a role in the integration and advancement of significant migrant groups: Irish, Italian, Maltese, East European, Lebanese, Vietnamese, Filipino.

In recent years, Catholic schools have contributed to the education of refugee groups such as those from East Timor. Every unaccompanied minor among the asylum seekers at Woomera and Baxter (all Muslims) was given a place in South Australia’s Catholic schools.

Indirectly also, Catholic schools, as a backbone of the Catholic community, underpin a Church that is the largest non-Government provider of welfare, healthcare and aged care services in Australia.

In countless other areas of Australian life (the arts, sport, healthcare, to name a few), governments subsidise private endeavour — and the fabric of Australian life would be the poorer without it. It would be ironic if government funding of the non-government sector was seen to be under threat because its investment in our young had proved to be too successful.


Chris MiddletonFr Chris Middleton SJ is the Principal of St Aloysius College, Milson’s Point, in Sydney. This article is an edited extract from his comment in a recent edition of the college’s newsletter The Gonzagan.

PUBLISHED 12/02/2011

Education for all

Jessica Irvine is so right (”It’s time to cut payments to the well off”, February 11). And with the money saved we could re-create the free tertiary education scheme that Gough Whitlam gave us many years ago.

David Wall Newtown

George Brandis (“Politicians must defend the multicultural project”, February
23) makes a timely reminder to Australians, particularly those of Irish Catholic
descent of just how a religion and race were discriminated against in our past.

Australians today of this heritage would do well to consider this when being
tempted to utter anti-Muslim sentiments against Australians of this persuasion.

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