End state subsidy to private fee paying schools
Speaking during a Seanad debate on education this evening Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty called on the Government to withdraw the €90million annual subsidy to private schools and re-direct the money into the public education sector.
Senator Doherty said while thousands of children spend wintry February in classrooms akin to a Dickens novel their parents’ taxes fund the salaries of teachers of private fee-paying schools to the tune of over €90mil per year. This is almost precisely the amount saved as a result of the Government’s decision to increase class sizes in the public sector’s primary and secondary schools.
Senator Doherty said, “The state spends approximately €90 million on the salaries of 1,450 teachers in more than 50 private fee-paying schools. In effect public monies are subsidising private fee-paying schools. Contrast this figure against Minister Batt O’Keeffe’s Budget 2009 changes in the teachers staffing schedule which will leave Ireland with the most overcrowded classes in Europe which amounted to a saving of €96 million.
“In 2007/2008 the Department of Education paid the salaries of teachers in fee-paying schools. For example it paid €3.9 million to Blackrock College, and St. Andrews College/Belvedere College and Wesley College all received in excess of €3 million. These and other fee paying schools dominate the tables of the feeder schools for the state’s top third level institutions.
“Meanwhile the public sector education system is literally crumbling. Despite government promises prior to Budget 2009 that education would be protected from frontline cuts the government introduced dozens of cuts that will have a devastating impact on children, teachers and parents.
“Primary school funding has seen an attack like no other with increases in class sizes, caps on language support teachers at two per school, abolition of equipment and resource grants, cuts to the school buildings project and deferral of the EPSEN (Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs) Act.
“Secondary schools have been hit with cuts in support for pupils from disadvantaged areas, cuts in investment in information technology, increases in school transport costs, abolition of grants towards the Junior Certificate Schools Programme, Leaving Certificate Applied and transition year programmes to name but a few.
“Attacks on the education sector have also extended as far as third level with an increase in the college registration fee from €900 to €1,500, no provision for increases in student maintenance grants, deferral of planned 2009 increases in medical education places and cuts in adult education grants.
“The practice of public monies subsidising private schools has helped to create an inequitable education system in Ireland. It fosters exclusion and discriminates against those children most vulnerable in society. We as a society must work together to ensure that our children of all faith and indeed no faith receive a first class standard of education with the support of all resources necessary. It is my view and the view of Sinn Féin that educating our children through the public system funded by public monies is the best and fairest way to achieve this goal.
“The practice of subsidising private fee paying schools should brought to an end and the money re-directed into the public system were it is most required and would be best utilised.” ENDS