In a back-to-school column, Chris Bonnor and Bernie Shephard question whether we really have private schools in Australia any more.

Years ago we began to widen school choice by increasing public funding of private schools. We were told this … would be a good deal for taxpayers when families paid much of the schooling bill. … And now [that] promise – that publicly subsidised private schools would actually save public funds – is under challenge. The public funding of private schools has risen to the level where the running costs of most private schools are now substantially met by combined state and federal funding. If a private school is defined by who pays then they are rapidly becoming public.

They still collect fees, a hangover from when they needed the money to match the investment in public schools. But for all but the wealthiest schools the fee income seems to be icing on the cake. When we realise that schools enrolling similar students churn out similar results, it becomes harder to justify the icing – especially when governments are such big partners.

(Fair play to Bonnor and Shephard, they’ve managed to blow some fresh wind into the sails of a report they wrote six months ago for the Centre for Policy Development: Uneven Playing Field: The State of Australia’s Schools.)

My very safe prediction for 2017 is that the usual suspects (Simon Birmingham, Kevin Donnelly, the IPA muppets) will again tell us that increased education spending hasn’t improved our academic results, and that it’s more important to consider how the money is spent.

I agree! Let’s ask whether the money pumped into over-resourced private schools couldn’t be better used elsewhere.