Tags: massive debt

18 Mar 2007, Comments Off on Three Dollars

Three Dollars

Author: Helen

He walked up to me yesterday with a book of raffle tickets. That’s to be expected. Parents of school age children will be familiar with the dance that’s played out almost weekly in every office in Australia. I’ll buy a chocolate bar from your cardboard carrier if you buy one of the tickets from my book.

Usually, I’m always happy to cough up, muttering under my breath the school fundraiser’s creed (“it’ll be a fine thing when the Defence department has to put on a cake stall to buy a fighter jet”). I know that even if I don’t want that raffle ticket and I’m never going to come within cooee of that BMW or Gold Coast holiday, he’ll buy my chocolate when it comes around. But this time, I couldn’t bring myself to fork that $3 over, because of the school name printed on the book of raffle tickets: Haileybury.

I explained politely to my workmate that I couldn’t in all conscience support a school which had been reported to be deliberately poaching surrounding schools’ top students. Sure, it’s legal– but in a world where how much money you have increasingly determines your school experience, that kind of behaviour just hollows out the public system even further until it becomes a safety net for the desperate. That’s what the private schools want, because then people wanting a decent education won’t have a choice (and the fact that the marketers and Federal government always say that their promotion of private education is about “choice” is deeply ironic). Then they’ll put their fees up again, secure in the knowledge that parents will be spooked into going into debt or taking second jobs to support the private system.

Incidentally, since the answer to this is always “I know taxi drivers who put their kids through private, so you can too!”, have any studies been done on the effect on children and their families where Mum or Dad has had to take a night job to pay the school fees, or the family is overloaded with a massive debt which could tip them into losing the house in a recession? Is there anything out there on that? I’d like to know.

But back to the topic: why should I cough up for a raffle for a private school which, to all accounts, I’m already unwillingly supporting with my taxes, on top of the fees they collect? Haileybury is already “(a) major beneficiary of increased funding from the Federal government“, and I don’t think it should be. The public system needs a mighty injection of funds right now to bring its resources up to scratch and pay teachers properly. Instead, my taxes get spent on making Liberal mates private businesses wealthier.

Later that night, I sat around a table with parents from Girlchild’s public High school, ScarySuburb City College. Some of them swapped stories about hurtful comments and unresearched assumptions people had made about ScarySuburb City. The Friends of ScarySuburb City are trying to help the school in a practical way — fundraising for some of the extras that the students at Haileybury and other private schools take for granted. And the parents in those schools, who disparage our child’s school, want people like me to send even more money their way? At least with the raffle tickets, I can say no.

In this crazy world where we have abandoned the right of all children to a decent public education and are diverting my taxes so that schools like Haileybury can spend on marketing and extra sporting facilities, I’ll be damned if I’ll give a further voluntary donation to a school which already has so much. I’d rather give it to the Friends of ScarySuburb City. I know – it’s ridiculous, it’s petty, it’s ultimately futile – but it’s my little protest.

I’ll be at ScarySuburb City open day today, sausage sizzling. For a wiser and more mature analysis of the problem, looky here.