We pay taxes to fund public servants and then we pay again to educate their kids

Telopea Park School is a bilingual (English-French) school in Canberra established by an agreement between the French and Australian Governments in 1983. It is a public school, hence parents do not pay tuition fees.

Telopea Park School is rated as one of the best schools in Canberra, if not the best.

Naturally with a free high quality school, parents are desperate to enrol their children. The priority placement areas for Telopea Park School are Barton, Forrest, Fyshwick, Griffith, Kingston, Narrabundah, Oaks Estate, Red Hill, Symonston, and a small corner of  Deakin.

I know of parents who deliberately move to these suburbs (renting or buying) to maximise the chances of their children being able to go to Telopea Park. Schools such as Telopea (and others such as Narrabundah) should charge significant tuition fees.

From a national perspective it is rather bizarre that well off Canberra public servants can enjoy a high quality fully taxpayer-funded education while less well off parents need to scrimp and save to pay tuition fees to private schools because of an absence of high quality public schools in their area.

Surely it is time for some form of means test to access education? In conjunction with a voucher scheme, taxpayers would be better off, and parents would have a better and more realistic choice on where to send their children.

About J

J has an economics background and is a part-time consultant
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54 Responses to We pay taxes to fund public servants and then we pay again to educate their kids

  1. stackja

    Surely it is time for some form of means test to access education? In conjunction with a voucher scheme, taxpayers would be better off, and parents would have a better and more realistic choice on where to send their children.

    The public school unions would be horrified. Would public schools be able to compete?

  2. dd

    Many parents would sacrifice a limb or two for their kids to go to Telopea. It really is the ants pants in terms of public schools.

  3. Craig Mc

    It’s the same in every state. I know people who have moved houses to be in the catchment zones for elite government schools.

    You’d think the “elite” would be against “elite” government schools.

  4. Samuel J

    Yes, dd, while willing to sacrifice a limb for their kids, they are apparently unwilling to pay money.

  5. dd

    Actually they do pay money. The cost gets transferred to real estate prices. So instead of paying fees to the school they pay extra to live in the ‘right’ area. This is a pattern right across Australia; people are actually paying, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their children into their school of choice. And they are often completely intentional about this and have their eyes open. I know people in Sydney in particular who will point blank admit to this strategy.

    “We bought a house in X suburb – it’s more expensive but I wanted the kids to go to that school.”

    So realtors end up doing exactly the same thing as rock concert scalpers; they are the middle man who profits from a scarce resource because someone else set their prices too low.

  6. nic

    They presumably pay tax. Therefore, they should be able to get the same level of benefits anyone else might get. The problem lies when such people campaign that private school students should receive less funding.

  7. Samuel J

    DD -indeed, it is capitalised in the house price. But the purchaser can benefit from this excess when selling the home to move to a less expensive place when their kids have left school. Overall it is a very inefficient educational system but as you rightly point out not a surprise.

  8. PoliticoNT

    We used to live in the catchment area, and one of our kids went to the French-Australian Preschool up in Red Hill. A lot of the parents want their kids to go on to Telopea Park but, and this is the key bit Samuel leaves out, it’s all about getting into the French stream.

    I know plenty of parents who screamed blue murder when their kids got into Telopea Park but not into the full-time-everything-in-French program. God, the preciousness. And that’s the thing about Canberra. Public servants are the nouveau riche, and it comes will just about every pretention you can imagine.

    Telopea Park is just part of the show. And to be honest, it ain’t that flash a school.

  9. Rabz

    Never heard of the place, but thankfully, I don’t have kiddies.

    Sounds like an absolute wank. The so-called french are the worst of so-called western peoples.

  10. Docket62

    There are several of these public schools in melbourne. Glen Waverley high the most recent. Where many many Indians bought houses in the catchment area and caused a mini boom in the suburb, just to send their kids to that school. I know of several other areas where the public school has earned a reputation for inspiring brilliant students with great teaching. Sadly it happens so few times that when it does it is sensationalized. I have friends who pay $90,000 a year to keep their kids at private school, and they would get a better education at this one. So much for Gonski, and the ACER research with PISA.

    It’s the teachers (quality not quantity) that make the difference, and last time I check this was not for sale. These schools are the by product of people that have a conviction for what they do, as opposed to the limitless crap of Gonski

  11. Tapdog

    Surely it is time for some form of means test to access education

    Good grief Samuel hush your mouth. The discussion about financial means is ok if and ONLY if it used in connection with ‘unfair’ access to high quality private schooling. If you try to have the same conversation about access to public edcuation, you will find your testicles in a sling quick smart.

  12. Tel

    From a national perspective it is rather bizarre that well off Canberra public servants can enjoy a high quality fully taxpayer-funded education while less well off parents need to scrimp and save to pay tuition fees to private schools because of an absence of high quality public schools in their area.

    It is rather bizarre that people with control of the national purse would come to the conclusion that the money should be spent on their kids first? And you also believe in free market economics, rational agents, all that stuff… are you feeling OK?

  13. Bruce

    The public service should be relocated to somewhere hellish just to see which public servants selflessly wish to serve the public. I recommend Bagdad. Not only could we save money on living costs but they could write lots of reports on the effects of global warming seeing Bagdad commonly gets to 50 C during summer. Also the power is on only about 2 hrs a day so the Greens will approve of their frugal use of air conditioning.

    I’m not sure what the schools are like in Bagdad but I’m sure some public servants kiddies would improve them. Bonus they’d have choice of an impeccably PC second language like Persian or Arabic.

  14. Johno

    Schools, all schools, need to be privatised and striped of taxpayer subsidies. Any money that taxpayers should be required to pay for schooling should be directed at the genuinely poor so their kids can get a decent education.

    Privatising and de-subsidising would have the added advantage that all of the Left’s government cirriculum authorities could be shut down. Cirriculum could be determined by parents and the schools.

    Also, those States that ban for-profit schools should scrap those restrictions.

    Markets provide us with food, housing and clothing and very few people are staving, homeless and naked. It’s Time to let markets provide schooling. Central planning has failed. Time we tried a proven success t delivering services.

  15. Tel

    God, the preciousness. And that’s the thing about Canberra. Public servants are the nouveau riche, and it comes will just about every pretention you can imagine.

    That sounds a lot like signalling theory. Without any genuine talent for anything (nor any ability to recognize talent in others), they need something else to decide who gets the top jobs, might as well be French verbs.

  16. lotocoti

    A quick flick through MySchool finds Cav. Road (a “good” State school people fight to get their kids into) pulls in only $140 per student net recurrent income more than Telopea Park, which has an Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage score on a par with the hoity-toity GPS school, Churchie and nearly two grand per student more than poor old Stretton.
    ICSEA values:
    Cav. Rd ….5%, 20%, 35%, 40%
    Telopea ….2%, 5%, 17%, 77%
    Churchie ..1%, 6%, 23%, 70%
    Stretton ..10%, 25%, 42%, 23%

  17. indeed, it is capitalised in the house price

    Just one more reason for properly constructed land taxes.

  18. mareeS

    dd, schools & postcodes, 2291 and 2300 are the ones here in Newcastle for state, catholic and grammar schools. Property prices reflect the schools.

  19. I know plenty of parents who screamed blue murder when their kids got into Telopea Park but not into the full-time-everything-in-French program. God, the preciousness. And that’s the thing about Canberra. Public servants are the nouveau riche, and it comes will just about every pretention you can imagine.

    Are these the same people who are stopping us eating fois gras when we want to?

  20. Des Deskperson

    Symonston and Oaks Estate may be primary placement areas for Telopia Park but, unlike the other suburbs listed, they are dumps, the former is one vast trailer park and the latter is a sort of yellow brick tenement slum that happens to be in the ACT because, while it abuts Queanbeyan, it’s on the west side of the ACT/ NSW border (the railway line).

    So why don’t these ambitious parents move to these suburbs? Cheap properties and rents and bugger all competition for places, or indeed any interest in secondary education whatever, from the booze and drug addled locals!

  21. I imagine I’m the only one who finds the pube bashing tiresome. But I suppose it’s like bread and circuses. The common man always finds it great sport.

  22. Are these the same people who are stopping us eating fois gras when we want to?

    Now there’s a thought. Let’s have the Ambassaor of the Republic drop in to the school’s cultural open day, and whack on fois gras right in front of him, right when some nanny state harpy is right there with him.

  23. That sounds a lot like signalling theory. Without any genuine talent for anything (nor any ability to recognize talent in others), they need something else to decide who gets the top jobs, might as well be French verbs.

    Yeah mate, that’s exactly how the public service works. The top jobs only go to children of public servants who speak French.

    You monumental fucking oxygen bandit.

  24. wreckage

    I think the point here is that there is, in fact, an education marketplace and it does, in fact, run on money and that the people with the money get the education. Only, because we absurdly insist that there is no market for education or that there should be no market for education, so let’s just pretend, the money gets siphoned off to real-estate agents, instead of being paid to the very talented teachers.

    If those teachers were paid according to the demand for their services, it would immediately make being an excellent teacher prestigious, and those paid extremely well would undoubtedly be paid to consult and train other teachers as part of the overall gravy train that prestige brings.

    I know people who simultaneously believe in Australia’s economic future as an education provider, AND that there must not ever be a market for education, because FAIRNESS. This qualifies for the wreckage “golden batshit” award for fucking insane ideas held by otherwise perfectly normal people.

  25. Jimmy

    Same is true of James Ruse in Sydney and other schools in other capitals.

    I think Samuel needs to calm down and spend some time rent seeking on his own account.

  26. PoliticoNT

    Are these the same people who are stopping us eating fois gras when we want to?

    Philippa, possibly they are. Then again, once upon a time I lived in a house that had incandescent lightbulbs. When you turned the switch on you were immediately bathed in bright rich light. Incredible! Now of course the light takes time to warm up, and only slowly becomes bright. Sometimes I supplement with a candle.

    I imagine I’m the only one who finds the pube bashing tiresome.

    Abu, no, but some bashing is deserved. I used to be a pube, worked very hard and delivered value for the taxpayer in complex policy development and program delivery. Was I well paid? Yes. Was I overpaid? No. Do I think there is something very, very wrong that public service pay & conditions now outstrip the private sector? Absolutely.

    Public servants, especially Canberra public servants live in an existential bubble of taxpayer subsidised comfort. Of course they want their precious children to speak French. It’s not about the practicality of the language (and why bash the French? They are, after all, simply French) it’s the veneer of specialness it gives the holder and his/her parents.

  27. feelthebern

    Most government services should be means tested.
    & the OLDER you are, more government services should be means tested (& your primary place of residence should be included in that means testing).
    Last weeks report from HSBC showed the 69% of Australians leave their family over $500k when they die.
    That’s great, but if you have ample reserves, you shouldn’t have access to free services.
    The state does not exist so one can grow assets whilst sucking at the government teat.
    Death duties are the wrong way to go about it.
    But forcing people to use their own funds (when they have them) is morally & economically correct.

  28. entropy

    Lotocoti,
    Cavendish road isn’t the desirable school in the southern suburbs of Brisbane. It’s The State School. An acedemic specialised state school where if you are outside the catchment you can sit an entrance exam, but if you live in the catchment you get automatic entry.
    But the principle is well acknowledged. People move to Dutton Park, West End, Yeronga while their kids go to school, then move out after.

  29. Tel

    Abu, asside from the hollow sound of wind whistling over an empty cavity, do you have a theory of your own that fits the observation, or you think denial and rudeness will solve this?

    I used to be a pube, worked very hard and delivered value for the taxpayer in complex policy development and program delivery.

    Sounds difficult, sounds important, but how many taxpayers actually want complex programs delivered? This is the heart of the problem, Canberra is full of experts delivering amazingly clever stuff that the rest of Australia has no interest in.

  30. Uber

    Ah, the means test. Yes let’s have another, so that the culture of us-and-them entitlement can extend even further.

  31. Token

    The public school unions would be horrified. Would public schools be able to compete?

    This introduces another angle to this story.

    The members of the Teachers Union are too busy trying to do anything to get to the best schools, leaving the poor students in poor schools coming from disadvantaged families.

    In NSW, the beach side suburbs and towns suck in all the best talent which the poor suburbs and rural schools only can get staff via the points system which reward those teachers move to the choice schools down the track.

    It is time that the way teachers act is discussed when talking about disadvantaged children and improving education.

  32. boy on a bike

    I thought Narrabundah was supposed to be “social blunder”?

    A fair chunk of the suburb consists of kit houses that were erected in the 1950s (I think). They are steel framed boxes that were manufactured and shipped out from the UK to build street after street of identical square lumps. The houses are hideous to look at, and worse to live in. Freezing in winter, hot boxes in summer.

    They now sell for an utter fortune due to their location.

  33. Token

    I imagine I’m the only one who finds the pube bashing tiresome. But I suppose it’s like bread and circuses. The common man always finds it great sport.

    I don’t believe the pubes should be bashed for taking advantage of the system.

    They should be bashed over these facts:

    1. Based upon the polls over the past 30 years in the ACT, their actions with regard to education “equity” run contrary to the way the juristiction votes.

    2. Unlike the rest of us, there are members in this group in a position to reconstruct the system, but they do not.

    Abu, please separate the laughter at the hypocrits from the respect people have to those who know the rules who take advantage of a broken system (which we all do when it comes to tax).

  34. Rabz

    The houses are hideous to look at, and worse to live in.

    They sound perfect for public servants, in that case.

  35. Jimmy

    U people brain dead. Samuel J is a failed tax eater / public servant who aimed to get his kids (assuming he had them ) into Telopea. My guess is failed government economic specialist. His genius wasn’t recognised. Hence his attitude. His cringe is kilometres long.

  36. Jimmy

    Btw bash the pubes, bash m’ hard

  37. Token

    Jimmy, you do not fake values voter well. Time to take off the mask and show us your inner lefty.

  38. Jimmy

    Samuel and Sinclair should speak for themselves.

    Fuck off Token, u r a clown.

  39. Robert O.

    Actually, if they want to learn French wouldn’t it be a better idea to send the children to France on an exchange basis for a year? There are exisitng programmes. Take young Freddie to France and bring back Guillame (Billy). Around the age of 7-10 the children would able to speak without an accent in both languages. It would be a worthwhile international program; the same is true for other countries. After this experience they would be able to continue to learn by watching international TV.

  40. Token

    Actually, if they want to learn French wouldn’t it be a better idea to send the children to France on an exchange basis for a year? There are exisitng programmes.

    Looking at the standard of education in East Asia (and the sliding quality of education in Australia) and the benefits you describe, my wife & I are reviewing whether to do this with our kids during the junior years.

    Our kids attend pre-school with people who are 1st & 2nd generation Japanese and the news I can reveal after dicussions during the weekend Christmas festivities at the school that this seems to be a normal part of an Australian child’s education if they have strong Japanese heritage.

  41. rebel with cause

    I’m not convinced that learning French is really going to help these kids out much anyway, apart from being able to show off a bit at trendy dinner parties I guess. It’s not like Australia does much trade with the French speaking parts of the world.

    If you really want your kids to get ahead of the surve then get them some decent maths tutoring. Australia’s mathematics results are appaling of late, at the very time that returns to mathmatical knowledge are increasing through the ever expanding use of technology. They’ll be no shortage of bilingual lawyers with arts/law in the future, but good engineers and programmers will never be short of work.

  42. rebel with cause

    Should also add computer programming to that mix – moreover if you are a bit of a nerd there are all kinds of fun and awesome projects you can do with your kids nowadays to get them on board – Mindstorms is one. And if you don’t know anything about programming, then learn along with your kids!

  43. Token

    Should also add computer programming to that mix

    Yes, kids can learn code as quickly as they learn another language, and then they can make things with the skills. It is interesting to note how young boys take to the skill.

  44. Rococo Liberal

    My experience is that all but the very top public servants are generally still looked down upon in Toffdom. People in Toffdom don’t need to move suburbs to get their kinder into good public schools. How middle-class is that!?

    The problem is, however, that too many bright people are being attracted into the public service where their talent is being wasted on growing government instead of growing society and the economy. They then get that horrible, second-rate, middle-class, pseudo-bohemian, soft-left attititude to life that so permeates our public discourse. It’s a sort of painful law-rent earnestness that renders so many people on the left such inane fools.

    Sinistra delenda est!

  45. Robert O.

    Unfortunately, education is full of sacred cows and I wouldn’t want to criticise too much. If we give our children a good rounding in the three R’s, essentially English and mathematics, it’s not a bad start and I must accept that knowledge of computing is becoming essential these days. But there are many things that one can learn in later life and the ability to think and reason is important. Let us look at statements made by some of politicians, Ms. Milne and Mr. Shorten graduates in the Arts, that they believe in climate change, so do I, but anyone with a modicum of scientific knowledge knows something about the null hypothesis; if it doesn’t give the answers it’s invalid. I haven’t got a problem with French; j’ en appris un peu il y a longtemps, mais peut etre ce n’est pas la peine d’en apprendre si jeune ici? Je ne sais pas.

  46. Red_John

    Too much fake inverse-snobbery here. Telopea and Narrabundah College are elite schools. Telopea offers the French Baccalaureate and has the same culture as real French schools – hardline in a way most aussies wouldn’t tolerate. Narrabundah offers the International Baccalaureate and has a large number of international students, as well as some pretty average locals. It achieves amazing ATAR results and is intellectually intimidating. There are two key points here. Firstly, offering foreign Baccalaureates offers a much more rounded education with real assessment, not the plethora of options and scaling through the state systems that baffle parents and employers. Secondly, it’s nonsense to say or imply that the state systems should not cater for excellent students; of course they should. Those schools have to be located somewhere.
    The issue of whether high-income families should pay more for education is another story, but usually they do pay more tax.

  47. Token

    …hardline in a way most aussies wouldn’t tolerate.

    In other words, the teachers unions in Australian can not dumb down the curriculem with the local lefty politicians. The children are pushed.

  48. entropy

    That was my understanding. About Telopea when I lived in Canberra. People wanted their kids to go there to do the baccalaureate rather than the poor excuse for a high school education offered by ACT education.
    But the pint still remains, many of the same parents that spend their own money to shift suburbs to get the best public education for their kids rail against those that spend their money on private schools to avoid the public school system altogether.

  49. Tel

    … apart from being able to show off a bit at trendy dinner parties I guess.

    Not what you know, who you know. Those dinner parties open doors.

  50. Abu Chowdah

    Abu, no, but some bashing is deserved. I used to be a pube, worked very hard and delivered value for the taxpayer in complex policy development and program delivery. Was I well paid? Yes. Was I overpaid? No. Do I think there is something very, very wrong that public service pay & conditions now outstrip the private sector? Absolutely.

    I have the same background.

    I just think you can’t blame these idiots for doing the same crap that people in the private sector are doing in other electorates.

    I tend to agree with jimmy. Samuel sounds disgruntled.

  51. Abu Chowdah

    Abu, asside from the hollow sound of wind whistling over an empty cavity, do you have a theory of your own that fits the observation, or you think denial and rudeness will solve this?

    You mean a better theory than your French language theory?

    Twat.

  52. Abu Chowdah

    None of the above changes the fact jimmy is a fuckwit.

  53. samuel j

    Samuel sounds disgruntled.

    Not at all. I don’t live in Canberra, and I’ve never tried to have kids admitted to Telopea Park School. I only despise hypocrisy and wasteful government spending. If Governments put incentives such as this in front of parents, I think the parents are silly not to take advantage. I’m only providing one example of poor government policy (in this case, one that has existed for decades).

  54. I don’t know. You seem to have a thing for DFAT in particular, and Telopea is a magnet for the DFAT types. So that’s how it struck me: another Samuel J gripe about the dips.

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