Should Taxpayers Fund Private Schools?

I learn, from the radio, and The Journal that the Irish minister for education is to look at what, exactly, fee-paying schools do with the fees they are paid. The “potential extent and nature of Exchequer investment” in fee-paying schools will be under review, the Department told The Journal.


There has been a bit of grumbling in the Irish media recently about private schools that are also in receipt of tax-payer’s money.  Some people contend that if a parent wants to send their child/ren to a fee-paying school, then they should foot the bill for all the associated costs.


I disagree. According to our constitution, all children are entitled to an education. Article 42.2 states:


The State shall provide for free primary education and shall endeavour to supplement and give reasonable aid to private and corporate educational initiative,


(In the Sinnott case, the Supreme Court decided that the right to free primary education ends at age 18).


The State has a duty to provide a minimum standard of education, but if a parent desires more for their child and they are willing to find the money to pay for it, then I think fair play to them.  All they are doing is ‘topping up’ the amount provided by the state in order to ensure that their children are educated to a higher than ‘minimum’ standard.  The children of the fee-paying schools are entitled to the minimum standard at the tax-payer’s expense, just the same as the children who attend non-fee-paying schools are entitled to that minimum.


As I have written before the standard of Irish education is not very high. If you have 30 children in a room there isn’t much you can hope to teach any of them.  In many fee-paying schools, the fees go to provide extra teachers to bring down the pupil:teacher ratio. This gives the children in these classes a better chance of reaching their potential. Which, as far as I’m concerned, is what education’s all about.