Last year I suggested that all schools, and not just private schools as now, be funded on the basis of the average socieconomic status of their parents. In today’s Weekend Australian, Julia Gillard is reported as suggesting this as well.
It’s not quite clear, though, what her version would entail. My proposal would have meant that government schools (though I would have privatised their management) serving affluent parents would no longer be free. While this would remove the inequity of rich people sending their kids to state schools getting greater educational subsidies than poor people sending their kids to private schools, needless to say ending the right to have your kids educated fully at the taxpayers’ expense would be very controversial. It’s the kind of idea think-tanks come up with, not Deputy Prime Ministers.
So presumably Gillard means that every school gets a base level of funding, but that schools serving low SES parents get more. So her version would have a much narrower range of subsidies than I was envisaging (from $0 for the richest areas to more than now for the poorest), and greater total cost to taxpayers.
To the extent that currently ‘over-funded’ government schools in affluent areas lost out, it would speed the shift to the private system. I don’t think the public school lobby is going to like the implications of what Gillard is suggesting. But it will be tricky for them to handle. ‘Equity’ is one of their cloaks of respectability, and it will be hard for them to argue against more money for poor schools.
Update: Gillard clarifies that money won’t be taken away from schools in affluent areas, and mentions an alternative index that would help identify students in particular educational need.