Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Howard me-toos Rudd but gives insufficient support to private schools

Mr Howard’s promise to provide tax deductions for 40% of education expenses up to a maximum of $800 per student matches the promises of the ear-wax muncher but does not significantly help adults sending their children to private schools. Costs of mid-range private schools range between $8,000-$20,000 annually per student and are a crippling cost for those seeking to avoid the public school system. On this issue I am an expert.

It is obvious that since 1996 Australian parents have lost faith in the public school system with their union-ridden closed shop attitudes. Yes, keep the mainly-free public system operating but encourage an alternative.

Making private education costs fully tax deductible would provide a real Australian education revolution driven by private sector incentives. Some of the cost of the proposal would be offset by reduced reliance of private schools on public monies that would leave the dwindling public school system better funded.


Slim said...

Regardless of any merit in blaming loss of faith in the public system on a union-ridden closed shop attitude, it has been made worse by chronic underfunding and an eleven year culture war on the teaching profession, resulting in an under resourced school system expected to also deal with all the private school rejects. Little wonder parents are losing faith.

Under a regime where funding is per capita, and under the prevailing conditions, the flow of cash and students to the private system does not and will not leave the dwindling public school system better funded. It will be a third-rate safety-net at best.

A nation has nothing to lose and everything to gain by investing generously in education of its people, regardless of socio-economic background. Indeed I would argue that it is the only way to create and sustain a prosperous and civil society. Howard's vision is leading us to a society where access to education is determined by economic status. Howard even seems to think that this is desirable and a good thing. Not only do I find this mean-spirited, but also foolish and short-sighted.

hc said...

Parents have lost faith. People who will spend $20,000 a year for paid education when they can get the public variety for $2000 have lost faith.

You are wrong Slim, the private system heavily subsidises the public system. We are all taxpayers but the return to a private school parent via government grants is much less than to a public school system. Were it not for the private schools and their expansion the public schools would be facing collapse.

You say the nation should be generous. I am part of the nation and I am generous in my contributions to education. I pay heavy taxes for the education of other people's kids and absolutely huge costs for the education of my own.

Moreover the parents I meet supporting private schools are not rich. I am not rich. They work in local retail stores, flog their furniture to pay fees and generally make huge sacrifices.

Yes these people are educationally ambitious for their children. So what? It is a good thing.

I see public school parents winging over a couple of thousand a year school costs and I feel ill and sorry for their kids.

conrad said...

Delusions of this post

1) The private system doesn't subsidize the public system. The government simply subsidizes private schools less.

2) You ARE rich. At a guess you are in the top 1% of salary earners (certainly in the top 5%). Does that not qualify as rich?

3) Public schools are union-ridden closed shops and this makes a meaningful difference to anything. If there were no unions at all in teaching, do you think that it would be much different? cf. the universities where you work, where most people aren't members. This doesn't seem to stop Australian universities offering the poor quality education they do.

The fact that Australian schools (and universities) are not of thrilling quality is because too many Australians are anti-education dumb asses, and arn't willing to pay the real costs of their children's or their own education (they'd rather live in big houses). The government therefore has to pick up the pieces, and does its usual shit job.

Is this another good example of game theory for you :) ?. If the government did a good job, then all the people that currently pay wouldn't, but the outcomes are probably better because the individuals do pay. So it might well be the case that under the current cultural conditions, the best overeral outcome that can be had is by the government offering a second rate service.

Mark U said...


The current education system is fundamentally flawed and no amount of tinkering will get around this.

I think an education voucher system to the students and a privatisation of all secondary schooling with funding then based on enrolments would be a better model.

FWIW, this is LDP policy.

My household is in the top 1% of income earners (like yours, I suspect) and live in a catchment area where there is an excellent public school - which I am sending my children to. Interestingly, the school has a big bulge in the number of enrolments in the final two years, as private schools boot out their underperforming students in order to bolster their academic credentials.

hc said...

Conrad, We are all taxpayers. I pay big taxes for public schools but get only a little back as a consequence of my kids going to private schools. It is a cross subsidy.

Mark, Most private schools in Victoria are non-selective as a matter of design. I have never heard of a single instance of 'booting out' here.

The voucher scheme is distributionally different from a private system with a public fringe. Its a tough call to choose between them. I'll think about this one.

Bring Back CL's blog said...

Our Arry wants ,desperately want more middle class welfare.

Our Arry has to pay fees to send his kiddies to a private school. poor ols Arry.

your choice mate.

Why should taxpayers have to subsidise that choice?

Does the word private mean anything to you?

nest thing we will have support for 'private 'health insurance. hold on we do.

Can I get support for private broadband , how about a car.

you mustwonder about those poor struggling families who put their kiddies through 'private' schools.

given your salary why should you be entitled to anything.

howard has well entrenched the welfare society

conrad said...


I'm not convinced that the way you look at tax is a great one (I know its common). Its basically the middle whingers argument (or upper-middle class at least in your case), which is why we have such an appaling perk ridden system. Put simply, the argument boils down to: "I put lots of money in so I should get lots out", which is crazy. Simply because you as an individual don't get the maximum benefit out of every possible government resource isn't an argument against them cf. public libraries, public parks, the police force, the army, nursing homes etc. . You subsidize all of these, but probably don't think that you should somehow be able to get every cent back simply because someone else does. I'm not sure how schools are different in this respect. You should be happy the government gives you anything given your salary and given that I presume you would pay private school fees anyway. (yes, I realize the argument that fewer people would pay private school fees if they had to pay extra because of lack of government subsidies. Of course, alternatives for the government would be just to make public schools so bad that people would pay anyway, or simply use means tested measures that force people to pay some proportion of the cost, which would then start balancing that).

Anonymous said...

private schools entrench class inequality. public funds should not be used to uphold snobbishness.

Slim said...

"You are wrong Slim, the private system heavily subsidises the public system."

This is an argument invariably presented by ardent supporters of private schools, but can you explain by what mechanism this 'heavy subsidisation' works? Where is the evidence?

It's not as though governments allocate a fixed proportion of the budget to education and therefore every private student releases funding for public schools. As I explained - it's a per capita funding model. Every student transferring to the private sector is a net transfer of funds from the public sector.

Australia's emergence as a modern western economy during the 20th century was in no small part due to policies of universal free education. Public funding of private schools is a very recent phenomenon as you would know, Viewed from this perspective, private funding deprives the public education sector of funds.

It cannot be argued that public education hasn't been progressively defunded in comparison to the the private sector under Howard's watch. He has and continues to pursue privatisation of public education by stealth. It impoverishes us all.

Spiros said...

Harry, you are being silly again.

The cost of educating your children isn't a cost to you of earning your income, so there is no case for making it tax deductible. Why not get a tax deduction for your food, clothing and housing expenase while you are at it? If you want more money to pay for your kids' school fees, try getting a better paying job. Or lobby the government simply to cut your income tax.

And as Andrew Leigh points out, tax rebates for school fees will simply result in schools putting up their fees, because the supply of private schools is fixed, if not completely, then certainly over the time period you are interested in, which is when your children are at school.

It's exactly like the First Homw Owner's Grant. Has this improved housing affordability? No it has not. It's just helped push up house prices.

Harry, it's very admirable that you are devoting so much of your meagre professor's salary to provide your children with a private education, which is no doubt better than what it is on offer in the state system. But if you can't afford it, you can't afford it.

Maybe you shouldn't have done that big house renovation you wrote about in another post.

Mark U said...


Perhaps "boot out" was the wrong choice of words. Parents of private school kids who are underperforming are likely to decide not to waste further money and so they switch their kids to a public school. This is done with the blessing of the private school as they know it will improve their school's overall performance.

Slim said...

Media coverage today brings out some highly credentialed criticism of Howard's tax breaks on school fees.

Paul Sheahan, Head of Geelong Grammar: "As the major parties argued, Melbourne Grammar principal Paul Sheahan accused both Labor and the Coalition of wasting large amounts of taxpayers' money in pursuit of votes.

Mr Sheahan said that rather than offering tax cuts and rebates, the nation's political leaders should promise to spend billions improving classrooms and buildings in poorer non-government schools and across the public education system."

And from Richard Teese, professor of post-compulsory education and training in the University of Melbourne:

"Much has changed since the '50s. Today every child attending a private school receives a grant from both the state and the Commonwealth governments. Under John Howard, public largesse has never been greater, and there are no rules on how much private money can be raised or high how fees can be set. Historically, a big public effort has lifted standards in private schools so that other school systems look bad by comparison, bearing in mind that no comparable effort has ever been made on behalf of the families using them. But if direct grants have achieved this revolution in standards, why restore the archaic system of tax credits they replaced?"

"The physical wealth of Australia should be used to harvest its intellectual wealth, but a divided school system cannot achieve this. This is because it disperses rather than accumulates and concentrates resources, and not only funds, but the cultural resources of pupils and the professional know-how of teachers without which favourable pupil-mix and good operating conditions cannot be established. Instead of pooling and sharing resources, our school system does the opposite. It works as a system of unequal opportunities for asserting individual advantage and for competing over scarce goods.

Only in some sectors is there a real accumulation of resources — financial, cultural and professional — and it is the schools in these sectors that are the least accessible and the most protected by fees, and now further by tax breaks. Politicians are loath as a group to tackle the stresses created by this very unequal situation. But a revolution in education requires the courage to do so."