Kennett plan to privatise Victorian State schools
With the Victorian State election looming, newly-released documents show that the Kennett Government has considered proposals which, if implemented, would see the private sector effectively take over the State school system. The documents were only released after a ruling by the State's Civil and Administrative Tribunal, and in the teeth of opposition from the Kennett Government. The documents, which include a confidential paper and official correspondence, follow the preparation of a Treasury and Finance Department report earlier this year on the restructuring of Victorian State schools. The documents discuss "to what extent industry might wish to build/own/operate schools," and envisage the contracting out to the private sector of existing public schools, as well as the public funding of schools built, owned and operated by the private sector. They also discuss whether the private sector can be involved in owning State school property. With regard to the issue of actual ownership of school property, one document asks: "Is it possible to develop models directly involving private enterprise?". This presumably refers either to the State Government selling off State schools, or else to the private sector buying into the State school property stock on a joint ownership basis. Having maintained complete secrecy about the proposals, and having fought the release of the documents, the Victorian Government has now rushed to deny the implications of the documents. However, Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett has only been able to raise the feeble argument that the initial report was prepared by Treasury and not Education authorities, and that the authors of the correspondence are no longer State employees. He has not denied that the original report was commissioned by his Government, that correspondence on the proposals covers a two and a half year period, and that the entire matter has been kept in total secrecy over that period. It is impossible for the Government to distance itself from the report and be regarded as honest. All States In all States the ongoing subsidisation of private schools continues to shortchange Australia's public school system but the proposed changes to the Victorian system have more serious implications for public education than in any other state at present. If implemented across the board, the Victorian proposals could see the entire state school system privatised, with the role of government restricted to funding private enterprise with public money to ensure its profitability for the companies concerned, and (perhaps) deciding on curricula. Parents would then find their options limited by their ability to pay for their children's education, with those least able to pay receiving minimal education. Victorian ALP leader Steve Bracks last week commented that "if the Kennett Government is re-elected, it will mean the end of the state school system in Victoria." Australian Education Union teachers have let it be known that regardless of which government is elected in Victoria, they will fight tooth and nail any move to privatise the State education system, in whole or in part.