The Guardian March 21, 2001

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.

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