Election post 3 – Education

There is nothing that Jewish people are more passionate about than education.  As a critical issue in any Federal election campaign, it is even more so for many Jewish families in Perth.

Perth has one Jewish day school.  There are 550 students in the school , and despite the many challenges of managing the institution, it is a very successful and proud facility of the community as a whole. 

The cost of educating a child through the school is about $12,000 a year, inclusive of fees, incidentals, uniform, texts, and extra curricular activities.  For a family with three children in the school the cost is $36,000, about the same as the average income (bearing in mind that this is after-tax dollars, therefore it costs more than the average income to provide private education to three children).

In the lead up to the election both parties pledged money for the support of the unique security needs that Jewish schools sadly require to have in place and independently fund. 

It is a shame that no party has considered the concept of making private school fees tax deductible.  After all families who invest in education (as they do with private health insurance which is rebated), take pressure off the State who would otherwise have to fully fund these students through the same system.

Some would say that those parents who send their children to a private school have the benefit of choice, and are not obliged to choose this option.  It is true that Jewish parents are not compelled to send their kids to a private day school.  However access to extra-curricular Jewish studies is very limited, and the level of activity required cannot be met though a structured program either inbuilt or tagged onto a public school education.  But the issue also extends far beyond this.  The Jewish day school movement provides an ethos, a social and cultural setting in which to grow a Jewish identity.  The whole flavour and feel of the Jewish school is as much an education as is the content of the textbook.  On this basis, there is no real choice for a Jewish family who wishes to promote a Jewish identity for their children.

Jewish schools will face a lot of pressure in the years ahead.  The cost of fees and the financial viability of the school is one problem.  Sourcing suitably qualified and empathetic staff is another.  Building new facilities, and securing the grounds is a further need.  Meeting the diverse and growing list of skills development of the students (particularly relating to ICT) is yet another. 

Throwing vast amounts of money at a social problem won’t solve it, and in this case a massive injection of funds into private education will also not solve all the issues (although it also wouldn’t hurt).  Giving parents the incentive to support a private system for specialist education would however make large inroads. 

So, Jewgle Perth asks the electorate; Where is the fiscal policy to support private education for middle income families?