Public education the best
Australia's first-ever National Public Education Day was held on March 15 to celebrate the achievements of public education and to defend it from the political attacks of recent years. "We have the best public education system in the world. We aim to keep it that way", said Mr Denis Fitzgerald, Federal President of the Australian Education Union (AEU). "We have experienced an unprecedented period of political antipathy, deliberate underfunding and elitist values emanating from Canberra, but still we have endured. "We are now at the point where the Federal Government now spends only 32 percent of its schools expenditure on the 70 percent of Australia's children whose parents choose public education", said Mr Fitzgerald. The campaign has been endorsed by the Australian Council of State Schools Organisation, the Australian Education Union, local parent organisations, school principal organisations and by some State Departments of Education. As well as student performances, school open days and community morning teas, the AEU has launched a political campaign in the lead up to this year's Federal election. They are distributing information packs to the family of every public school student in Australia, running media advertising campaigns and conducting voter registration drives in an effort to raise awareness of the devastating effects of the Howard Government's policies. "Howard's `strategy' regarding education is clear: privatisation and economic rationalism, full steam ahead", says Class Action, a publication by POPE, a group for the Promotion of Public Education. "His right-wing government's adherence to neo-classical economics means they see education as merely training for the workforce education is only to serve the interest of big industry. "Education for its own sake, or for critical social/political evaluation, or for humanitarian reflection, is to them a waste of money", says POPE. On National Public Education Day, Tasmanian Greens Senator Bob Brown announced his intention to introduce legislation to wind back the Coalition's "destructive education `reforms'". "The plan will ensure that public education receives growth funding until its share is restored to the historical levels of 70 percent of total school funding", said Senator Brown. His Bill would repeal the States Grants Act 2001, return private school funding back to 2000 levels, and freeze it there. The difference in the amount of funding would then be paid to the States as catch up money for public education.