I imagine some in the private school system are getting a little worried, noticing that of the generation coming through now, very few will be able to own their own house, let alone afford to send their kids to “independent” schools. But they can hardly champion socially equitable policies to try to redress that growing gap. After all – it’s their current clients who are benefiting from it. So what to do? What to do?
I know! Let’s attack those parents wealthy enough to be potential clients but who refuse to be part of our special elitist system! Let’s demand that they pay a levy unless they join us. That’ll learn ’em (sorry, we’re grammar schools: that’ll teach them):
Dr Tim Hawkes, the principal of The King’s School in Sydney, has told a review of school funding that wealthy parents who send their children to public schools should pay a levy.
“There is a source of funds that has not yet been tapped and that is high-income families who are currently benefiting from ‘free’ state education,” Dr Hawkes has been quoted as saying in Fairfax newspapers.
(The ABC then says that this would “reportedly” also apply to families who send their kids to private schools, but that seems to completely contradict both Hawkes’ remarks and the Australian Education Union’s response, and other reports: I suspect they’ve got it wrong.)
There are some who think that the rich using public health and public education systems is something to be discouraged – that they’ve got the ability to pay for themselves, and by god they should. I disagree. The problem with that approach is that when they do, when they remove themselves from the public systems, then those systems wither. Without the patronage of the wealthy and powerful, they become second-class systems: whereas when all people, no matter the wealth, use the same hospitals, the same doctors, those people make damn sure they’re of a decent quality.
Naturally Dr Hawkes is in favour of a two-tier system – it’s how the King’s School is so absurdly luxurious. But it’s hardly something anyone with a sense of social justice would want to see entrenched further.
He’s quite right that the rich should be paying more – but it should be to general taxation revenue, and to fund the same services that are available to everyone.