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Monday, February 11, 2008

Public debate on education funding in the public interest

There is no connection but since the post here last week about lack of transparency concerning government allocation of school funding, a leaked document has been the basis of a number of reports in Fairfax papers of an analysis by the Federal Department of Education that shows all sorts of anomalies. Many private schools are getting more than they should even under the Government's generous formula; others, such as the Exclusive Brethren are getting more because of a loophole.

There is no doubt that the leaked report is prompting public debate - Gerard Noonan's open letter to the Minister is just an example - but we may not have been having this debate if Freedom of Information had been left to deliver. Here is a piece from the fine print in today's Sydney Morning Herald:
"The Rudd Government refused to release (the report) to the Herald under a freedom of information request. The leaked report recommends dealing with the extra funding by gradually taking money away from many schools until they receive their correct entitlement".
I'm guessing that the letter of refusal to the FOI request argued that disclosure of this deliberative process document would be contrary to the public interest; that information about the financial affairs of the schools if released would have an unreasonable adverse effect, but gave little if any consideration to the public interest in informed debate about the proper allocation of large amounts of public money.

Let the debate roll on.

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