SCHOOL funding news is the hot topic of the month. Many articles and media releases have been circulated quoting various facts and figures with the limited information that is at hand.
We all have access to the Quality Schools Estimator, but none of us know how these figures have been formulated.
From a parent’s perspective, I can’t help but wonder if we are missing one key factor in these discussions.
The biggest consequence to parents is how school-funding changes affect a family’s financial ability to choose their child’s education setting.
Parents choose their child’s school for a wide range of reasons. Between public education, independent education and Catholic systemic schools we can make a considered choice about which setting is the right fit for our children and families.
A choice of an education setting can be motivated by many different factors. These include religious beliefs, ideological beliefs, connection with a school community, family traditions in education, a child’s strengths and interests. For many it is about finding the right fit for the child. It is not a judgement about a school or which one is the best, it’s a choice.
Paying fees to a child’s school does not guarantee the child will have a better future, that they come from a wealthy family, that they will have a better academic outcome, or that a child in a fee-paying school is entitled to more than any other child.
Choosing to pay fees for your child’s education is a financial commitment of 11 to 13 years, longer if more than one child goes through the system. Some would argue that in choosing to pay fees for schooling in the independent sector or the Catholic system we save the government an enormous amount of money as the government could simply not afford to educate every single child through the public system.
The Australian government’s Quality Schools reforms mean something different for all of us. For some, as it stands now we have some schools in the ACT that will receive more money and others that will lose money.
Any increase in fees will push many families’ finances to their tipping point. Many families will then find themselves in a position where they are forced to reassess their capacity to stay in their school of choice.
The choice to pay for a child’s schooling is not about that child getting something better than a child who is in a school with no fees. Choice is not a judgement about how “good or bad” a school may be. It is simply a choice.
Let’s not turn discussions on school funding into a debate about which system is better. Alternatively, let us respect each other’s freedom to choose the best fit of school setting for each and every child.
Linda Fleming is the executive officer of APFACTS, the peak non-government school parent voice for the ACT.