SCRAPPING the education department and making wealthy families pay for sending their children to public schools are two ideas being floated to help balance the country’s budget.
The Centre for Independent Studies, a libertarian think tank, wants the government to rethink the way it funds schools, arguing that more cash doesn’t mean smarter students.
Getting rid of low-quality teachers, however, will help, as will better targeted funding.
Charging high-income families to send their children to public school, for example, would save $250 million annually if a fee of $1000 is imposed for each child.
Research fellow Jennifer Buckingham says it’s unreasonable for rich families to have access to high-quality education without making any contribution.
Granting bursaries to low-income students to use at non-government schools would reduce budget spending, as each private school student incurs less funding than equivalent public school students.
That would give low-income students an opportunity to access a previously inaccessible education and the move would also create a more diverse school sector, Dr Buckingham says.
A $100 million saving would flow from the abolition of the federal education department, whose main functions are already outsourced to external bodies such as the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority and NAPLAN.
“You have to wonder what those thousand people are doing,” she says of the department’s workforce.
Dr Buckingham says the department will not be immune from future funding cuts, with its budget set to double over a decade if there is no intervention soon.
Now is the time to be realistic rather than having a lot of pain down the track, she said.