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Teachers' union launches assault on private schools

Catholic education offices are carefully monitoring an Australian Education Union advertising campaign that accuses the Federal Government of overfunding wealthy private schools at the expense of state schools.

Unveiling a national television advertising campaign in the lead-up to this year's federal election, the union said that the "favouritism of the wealthy and well-connected must stop and the majority of Australian students must get a better deal".

"The Federal Government's own figures reveal the brutal truth that South Australian private schools are raking in millions, while public schools are forced to beg," union South Australian president Andrew Gohl said.

Federal Opposition education spokeswoman Jenny Macklin says the ALP believes a base level of funding should be provided for each student, regardless of whether they are in public or private education.

"Need has to be the driving force for how much goes to each school, and there's no way you can justify an extra $2 million going to a very wealthy school, Geelong Grammar, against $145,000 going to a very needy Catholic school - that is just not fair," she said.

Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson said parents of private school students paid their taxes and were entitled to some public contribution towards their education.

He said every child in a Catholic or independent school received less total taxpayer funding than they would in a public school.

While there has been no reported reaction yet from the Catholic system, Association of Independent Schools of SA executive director Garry Le Duff also attacked the campaign as "a gross distortion" and a "divisive hoax".

Meanwhile in New Zealand, the Government wants to bring Catholic schools under the authority of the Education Act so it can exercise more control over them, according to opposition National Party education spokesman Bill English.

Mr English said he believes the Catholic community would need to be more active in protecting the independence of Catholic schools.

Attention has been on the Government in the past several months as it carries out its "network reviews", which are resulting in the closure of scores of schools.

Mr English said he had been heavily involved in those reviews. "It's become clear from discussions I have had . . . that they want the Minister [of Education] to be able to include [Government funded Catholic] schools in his schools closure program."

He advised the Catholic community to launch a campaign to promote positive reasons for the existence of Catholic schools.

And a report in today's West Australian reveals that one in three new State schoolteachers quits within five years due to lack of support and heavy workloads. According to the Catholic Education Office in Perth, 22% of graduate teachers left within their first five years and 27% left within eight years.

`Obscene' funds for top schools (The Advertiser 16/2/04)
Labor backs education union's campaign against Govt (ABC 15/2/04)
Federal minister fuels school debate (The Advertiser 14/2/04)
English sees Government threat to schools (NZ Catholic 8-21/2/04)
Many new teachers last only five years (The West Australian 16/2/04)

School ads rile minister (Herald-Sun 16/2/04)
Teachers launch funding blitz (Courier-Mail 15/2/04)
Australian Education Union

16 Feb 2004