The news this week that Radford College will soon have a world-class cricket centre as part of a new sports precinct thanks to a $4 million donation must leave public education advocates despairing.
Tech millionaire Greg Boorer, who has four sons enrolled at the school, says his family wanted to lift the standards of sport at the school and encourage students to build resilience.
There is no question that Mr Boorer is entitled to put his hard-earned money wherever he chooses and the motivation is exemplary.
Last year businessman, philanthropist and Canberra Grammar old boy Terry Snow donated $20 million to his former school to fund a 1400-seat underground auditorium as well as a new library and learning centre opening in 2021.
But these sorts of donations highlight an ever-growing divide between public and many private schools and how the latter profit from the largesse of wealthy parents, networks of alumni, and investment portfolios that often exploit their good fortune at being sited in prime property locations.
At the same time, they continue to be the beneficiary of generous government funding which in many ways only tops up their already well-stocked storehouse of riches.
The Gonski education reforms were supposed to realign funding on need and restore some real funding levels to the public sector.
That so-called bipartisan unity ticket disappeared long ago and the Gonski goals have been subverted for political aims.
As if the Liberal Party would ever allow the very schools that nurture it and its constituents to lose some of the funding Gonski’s original recommendations would have meant.
State-of-the-art science laboratories, multi-sports complexes, swimming pools, football and cricket grounds, concert halls and theatres – it is an embarrassment of riches that these schools, many of them church-based, flaunt without a shred of self-consciousness.
This inequity flourishes as public and smaller independent schools struggle with unrealistic budgets and a dearth of resources.
The awful consequence is a self-perpetuating spiral as parents attempt to flee what they see as a public system in decline for a safer world endowed with success.
On the surface the state aid arguments that all parents are taxpayers and all schools deserved to be funded have merit.
But when many of these schools have built-in advantages, are already resource-rich and continue to reap the benefits of their extended communities, is that funding even needed for them to operate?
The counter has been that without government support, fees would increase and lockout more children from the opportunity to have a better education.
But this notion of providing choice has never stood up as fees continue to rise every year and outpace incomes.
These are halls of privilege and have intrinsic value because of it. For many parents, it is the networks and introduction to a world of connections rather than the actual education that matters.
The irony is studies have consistently shown that public school graduates perform better at university than their private school counterparts who struggle without their elaborate support systems.
But this is no argument for the status quo.
Politically, this has always been a thorny issue given the powerful vested interests involved and parental desire to give their children the best they can, but the country is selling itself short by limiting its investment in human capital.
Education has always been a big economic driver and should be a priority for any government, but particularly when it is striving to guide the nation out of recession.
After a year in which we were all supposed to be in it together, the ongoing inequities across our schools rankle.
The integrity of the Gonski process needs to be restored and people need to take another look at how Australia’s schools really operate.