By Christine Cardona:
The USA and the United Kingdom do not fund private schools and yet Australia is one of the very few countries in the OECD whose government funds over $10 billion a year towards private (independent or religious) schools.
According to the Productivity Commission, the average government expenditure was about $15,000 per student in a public school and almost $9,000 per student in a private school. It has also been found that there is no difference in the quality of education between public and private schools except for infrastructure, rules and uniform standards.
Suppose those 600,000 or so students who attend private school were actually educated in public schools, it could have still saved the government $2 billion each year ($7.42 billion compared to $9.47 billion). On the other hand, the government could have saved up to $10 billion a year if those students remained in private education.
Where else could have the $10 billion be spent besides private schools?
The public health system is a national priority facing cuts in funding (the government currently spends about $53 billion a year in public health) an increase in patients and a reduction in staff. It was estimated that patients are still waiting up to five hours in public emergency rooms; some facing critical conditions such as pregnancies, alcohol poisoning, drug overdoses, viruses, personal injuries and violent attacks. If the government were to reinvest that $10 billion into public health instead of handing it to the private school sector, it would make a positive difference (up to 20%) in the public health dilemma; more staff and more beds means less waiting time.
It would make more sense for the government to simply axe the $10 billion funding to private schools and consider investing that money towards public health and medical research.
IMAGE: Angus Kirk