Stop Taxpayer Funding of Education Inequality!
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A campaign is currently underway to hermetically seal religious schools with an "ethos" based on faith -- binding teachers and staff to school doctrines and further entrenching schools as taxpayer funded "closed shops", free to discriminate in the name of "religious freedom".
This runs counter to the spirit of the OECD Report 2018, "Equity in Education", which shows Australia to be one of the worst OECD nations – 32nd out of 35 – when it comes to perpetuating "socially stratified education systems"; effectively, class-based schooling.
The National Secular Lobby condemns this political campaign by the Australian Christian Lobby, which portrays religious schools as victims of secular Australian law and secular education, needing special "legal protection to safeguard its Christian ethos".
Just 15% of Australians go to church monthly; there is little demand for a so-called "Christian ethos" from most parents of the 40% of secondary students who attend religious schools. A good education is their main focus, and they assume private schools are superior to public education.
Issue 1: Legalised Discrimination
The effect of the ACL's campaign will be to further entrench discrimination against teachers and staff, and would enable schools to hold the constant threat of punishment over employees, simply for holding views that differ from the schools' "Christian ethos".
This is a denial of occupational freedom for teachers who respect the school but reject its prescribed doctrine.
In addition, the majority of Australians do not support it: a Galaxy poll conducted in May 2018, for example, found that 82% of the public oppose legal exemptions that allow the expulsion of LGBTI students, and 79% oppose the ability to fire teachers if they marry their LGBTI partner.
Issue 2: Segregated Education
Segregated education is bad policy – particularly when it's based on religion, discriminates through legal exemptions, and is taxpayer funded.
Andreas Schleicher, Director of Education and Skills at the OECD, stated: "Achieving greater equity in education is not only a social-justice imperative, it is also a way to use resources more efficiently, and to increase the supply of knowledge and skills that fuel economic growth and promote social cohesion."
Australia's 2-tier public/private education system – effectively religion-based and socially segregated – fails to meet the OECD objectives and international standards in learning. Nor does it make sense from an economic perspective.
In addition, UNICEF ranks Australia in the bottom third, against 40 other high income countries – in relation to pre-school, primary and secondary schooling – for being the most unequal in "quality education".
Issue 3: Taxpayer Funding
Non-government schools funding will grow by 55.6 per cent from 2017 — with total funding of $141.4 billion from 2018 to 2027. New research from the ABC shows that 35% of private - and generally religious - schools receive more public funds than similar public schools.
There is already broad public opposition to the excessive taxpayer funding of private religious schools, and we reject the idea that Australian taxpayers should be supporting organisations who demand a special right to discriminate against them.
Accordingly, the National Secular Lobby:
- Calls on the Prime Minister to reject the threats of religious lobbies and ensure that any school, government or private, which receives public funding, remain free of any form of discrimination against students, staff and their families.
- Calls on the Prime Minister and the Minister of Education to accept the full recommendations of the recent review into school funding and ensure that our public schools receive the support required to prevent Australia remaining one of the most stratified and discriminatory education systems in the OECD.
Signed by the NSL, for and on behalf of all signatories to this letter.
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