Greens leader Adam Bandt has called for school fees to be scrapped for public schools as families face costs of up to $5000 a year for ‘free’ education.
In a speech to be delivered on Friday, Mr Bandt will call for a debate about ‘genuinely free’ education.
“We all accept that public education is in the broad sense free, but over the decades there has been a creeping cost shift from the states, pushing it back onto parents,’’ the Member for Melbourne said.
“Sure, buying a book pack at the beginning of the school year might not seem like much to many, but for a single parent who was pushed from the pension rate onto Newstart, a book pack is a big whack to your weekly budget.
“If you have two or three kids, you will probably have to borrow that money off someone at the beginning of the school year, just when the family budget is still reeling after Christmas.
“Excursions, incursions, student passes for public transport, sports programs, letters asking for voluntary contributions or building funds, books, stationery, uniforms, school camps – these are all little costs that all add up.
“Then there are specialist programs like music lessons, where if the public school can’t afford to offer it, parents have to organise and pay for it themselves.”
Mr Bandt said most public schools also charge what are essentially tuition fees.
The ABC has reported that parents are paying between $1000 and $2000 per child in so-called voluntary fees.
“This is hard proof that the Liberals’ school funding model is failing public schools,” he said.
“Even teachers don’t escape, with your research showing one in five teachers dipping into their own pockets to buy classroom essentials and 45 per cent spending their own money helping kids who needed food, clothing or toiletries.
“I believe it is time to start talking about genuinely free public education again, where all the social and essential aspects of our children’s education is covered by our collective taxes.”
Mr Bandt said he saw no reason why all these costs should not be covered by the federal government, given that it spends $12.6 billion on private schools and just $8.3 billion on public schools that teach two out of every three students.
“I want to abolish fees at public schools by properly funding public schools and making public education genuinely free,” Mr Bandt said.
“We can do this by funding public schools – without conditions – to reach the schooling resource standard by 2023, boost capital funding for school works to $400 million a year, restore the loading formula for students with a disability and lift funding for Foodbank to expand the school breakfast program.”
The Greens are also calling for the scrapping of the arbitrary 20 per cent cap on the federal government’s funding of public schools.
“It is a broken system where private schools have guaranteed funding, while public schools are left to the whims and financial pressures of state governments,” he said.
“There is no reason it should be like this, except for the political ideology that has contempt for public services.”