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Intolerance in schools funding debate

By Stephen O'Doherty - posted Monday, 2 April 2007

What a revealing article. It says more about the author’s world view than it does about education funding in Australia.

Alan Matheson’s article (On Line Opinion) is not a critique or a reasoned argument, it is a polemic. The so called examples he cites are unverified, and there’s no indication as to their source.

Apparently, in Alan Matheson’s world, all public schools have broken toilets, and all Christian schools have “heated swimming pools”. Both ideas are equally absurd.


This author either does not know - or chooses to ignore - that the diversity in the Australian community applies equally to all school settings.

And what exactly does he mean by the term “Christian” school? Does he mean “church” school? Does he mean community based Christian school? Parent-run Christian school? Denominational? Non-denominational? Systemic? Independent?

I represent about 150 Christian schools - members of Christian Schools Australia.

CSA member schools are representative of the very thing Mr Matheson apparently despises: local faith-based schools which have been growing in number and enrolments over the last 20 years as parents increasingly exercise their right to choose a school on the basis of faith, beliefs and values and ethos.

Christian schools in this growing sector have been established by local, individual, churches and parent groups.

They are all not-for-profit organisations. Individuals - mums and dads and community volunteers - took the financial risk of seeing the school established, providing for its growth, and in ensuring it has a sustainable future. The growth of these schools represents a very substantial investment by mums and dads and their local church communities in the education of Australia’s children.


They invest family income to make up the difference between public funding and the cost of providing education services to the community. The amount invested each year by parents of non-government school children as a whole is about $4 billion.

So how much public funding do Christian schools get - those singled out for attack by Mr Matheson?

Well forgive the boring detail, but this is the research that should have done before posting his uninformed opinion. First, federal funding.

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About the Author

Stephen O'Doherty is the inaugural CEO of Christian Schools Australia, Australia’s largest association of Christian schools. He took up this position in 2002, after careers in both broadcast journalism and politics.

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Christians, their schools, and the threat to public education - On Line Opinion

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