In today’s Courier-Mail, the head of Independent Schools Queensland has come out in support of reforming school funding arrangements, either through a levy on wealthy parents whose children attend state schools or a means-tested voucher scheme. ISQ head David Robertson writes:
DAVID Gillespie’s latest outcry against private schools totally misses the point that the parents of students at independent schools pay their taxes and are entitled to government support for the education of their children.
In fact, these parents in Queensland contribute $1 billion annually (from their after-tax income) to school education. Across Australia, fee-paying parents save governments $4.3 billion each year…
…Perhaps a more useful public policy debate might be whether or not affluent parents who choose a state school for the education of their child might make a contribution to the costs through a Medicare-type levy.
Alternatively, a school voucher system could be considered, with students allocated financial support according to their needs.
This would give all families the opportunity to choose the school, no matter which sector, that best suits their needs and aspirations.
Levies or means-tested vouchers make a lot of economic sense. There are many parents who would be willing to pay (and would be able to pay) to send their children to particular state schools, and this is a revenue source that the State Government could use to help meet the costs of schooling. In a way, many parents are already spending significant sums to send their children to favourable state schools through buying properties in the catchments of top schools such as Brisbane State High. Means-tested vouchers would have the added benefit of encouraging greater choice, as they may allow many parents to send their children to better schools by making small financial contributions in addition to the vouchers.
Obviously, a lot of work would need to go into designing a new funding model. The ideas advanced by ISQ, which have long been supported by economists, deserve further development and consideration by Government. The idea of co-payments for state schools was actually raised in the abandoned draft Economic Action Plan from the Queensland Department of Premier and Cabinet last year, and I have commented previously on the desirability of reforming school funding arrangements along the lines proposed by ISQ: