Let's get a few things straight first of all:
- This report concludes that private schools receive a much greater portion (about 50% more) of government funding, that is before fees are taken into account at all.
- It is folly to suggest that private schools are inherently good for the school system because students achieve better results in the private system
Students in the private system get more money from the government (+50%) and then have fees added on top of this, which in many cases will double the amount of funding from the government. The net effect of that of course is that the private school system is much better resourced than the public school system. The result of that? A much better education. This is of course reflected in NAPLAN and VCE results.
With the emotional arguments aside, it's not hard to imagine why this is a bad thing for the education system at large. Essentially, it encourages a gulf between the two systems and means that students who aren't able to afford private education are condemned to an increasingly second rate education. The flow on effects from this are enormous, having a huge impact on those people's lives. Students from the public school system are less likely to go to university and are less likely to have high paying jobs. With the current system, this is exacerbated (remembering that this kind of funding is only a relatively recent phenomenon). Clearly, the issue with this is that talent is wasted. Rather than having the best students receiving the best education, it is those who can best afford it who receive the best education. This way, a huge amount of ability is wasted as truly brilliant students are held back by an under resourced system that desperately struggles to create an academic environment.
Considering the emotional arguments, this is completely unfair. Even the most ardent conservatives could hardly suggest that a student should be condemned to poverty because their parents were poor before them. With these arrangements, that's what we're effectively doing. Obviously, this is not the case for every person. BUT, this kind of gap between public and private has a huge effect on social mobility. It's a completely untenable idea that the quality of a child's education should be determined by whether or not their parents were successful, not whether they were. In fact, to me this seems like a very Liberal argument. That you get what you put in from life. It seems only fair that we foster an environment where you're able to do that. The system at the moment merely helps to entrench the divide between the elite and the poor, and make sure that the same people stay on each side of the divide.
That's my considered sensible approach. In reality, this really pisses me off (as you may have noticed from the original post). Whilst I was at school, I saw classmates put up with the most incredibly awful circumstances and then having to put up with an awful school was just adding insult to injury. These were kids who had to live through being physically abused by their parents, coming to school with their uniform in tatters because they couldn't afford a new one and not being able to do their homework because their mum and her new boyfriend had decided it was high time they have a root on the couch (I really do wish that were a joke, sadly not). These kids should be able to find solace at school and should be able to work hard to change their lives, as they intend to. Instead, they are met with an unworkable school environment that condemns them to experiencing the same poverty they so desperately want to leave behind for the rest of their lives. It beggars belief then that for some reason, the government finds a greater need in taking money away from already desperate public schools and feeding it into a non-government sector that can hardly decide what to do with their new cash. It's pathetic.