Means test plan for state schools slammed

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Tanya Phillips

A proposal to means test school fees has been slammed by a pro-school campaigner .

Ambra Fossati, Student reporter

A proposal by the right-leaning thinktank Centre for Independent Studies calling for high income families to be means tested to access traditionally free state education has prompted anger from a schools campaigner.

The CIP has stated that higher income families who send their children to public schools should pay for it if they can afford it. {INSERT SOMETHING FROM CIP HERE ABOUT THE PLAN}

But Trevor Cobbold, the National Convenor from Save Our Schools, fears it would cement educational inequality by giving access to a higher quality of education for those who can pay.

The introduction of means testing income would undermine two fundamental goals of free education: to ensure children could access quality education regardless of background and to have children learn tolerance trough the integration of different social and racial backgrounds.

“Free public education is necessary to ensure non discrimination and non selectivity in access to high quality schooling,” Mr Cobbold said.

“Schools that can pick their clientele, as many of the more popular schools do, would be in the position to choose parents who can afford to pay.”

Dividing people into income brackets now becomes a powerful political tool, making it easier for the Government to increase fees, he said.

“Over the last 30 or 40 years in Australia, other Government services that started as free public services have had fees introduced at low level, and the fees get ever increased,” Mr Cobbold said.

“Once you start charging better-off people, they could easily decided then, ‘well, we might as well go to a private school’. We already have a high degree of social segregation between government and private school in terms of their clientele.

“Parents that have to pay are likely to demand better services just because they pay. In those circumstances parents can get first call on higher quality courses and teachers while the rest would have to make do with second-rate courses and lower quality schooling.”

Mr Cobbold said people who argued children of higher income families were using more taxpayer funds than they need by attending public schools had forgotten that public education was paid for through taxation. Therefore, higher income families would essentially be double-taxed if this proposal passes

Mr Cobbold says that the logical extension of this thought was that higher income families should be means tested for the usage of all public services, such as public parks, play grounds, public libraries, roads, police and fire brigades.