Schools offer powerful scope for viewing and comprehending the wider society in which they are produced and replicated. The ways in which schools are structured, positioned, funded, managed, appreciated, critiqued, cared for and neglected, presents us with a means for seeing beyond the rhetoric of a nation state to the lived realities faced by its citizens. In this paper I want to link the development of Australian educational policies to shifts in socio-cultural thought and practice that reflect and reproduce a mobile modernity. I am interested in school funding policies as they relate to the private, or non-government education sector from the late colonial period to these so-called neo-liberal/late modern times. The interrogated scenes shift about amongst a complex of interrelated fields, from the urban to the rural, the public and the private, as well as the primary, secondary and tertiary layers of educational "offerings". The periodization reveals a loosening of commitments to a secular, state-centred, welfare-focused modernity, towards a privatizing, individualizing "second modernity". Drawing from a range of empirical studies of school choice I highlight the shifting ideas and practices of those involved in the re-production of both public and private schools either as professionals/workers in the system, or as "consumers" of the products available in education's "quasi-markets". © 2014 Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden.