Saturday, September 06, 2008

What the hell is wrong with school choice?

If you're a parent, and your local state school doesn't deliver the education you want, and of course, you're a taxpayer, why is it unreasonable to expect that you should be able to send your child to another school - and for your taxes to follow where you send your child?

Now I'd argue that the parent should get the money back and pay the fees. Many would say "what if it isn't enough", which becomes another argument. I would say that YOU should help that family if you are so concerned, but also that private schools elsewhere often provide scholarships for kids from poorer backgrounds to attend. In the UK some private schools have up to 20% of pupils attending with fees part paid by such scholarships - and that is without anyone getting their taxes back. Imagine if parents had their taxes back, could choose the schools and those who could not afford would be helped by those schools, charities and their families. Yes, that's where Libertarianz aim for things to be.

Far too much for the Nats to contemplate, which is understandable - it couldn't convince people that most are quit generous.

However, there are steps along that path. ACT advocates school choice through vouchers, similar to what Sweden has implemented. The vouchers aren't actual pieces of paper, but each child has taxpayer funding that follows him or her, and the school receives that money, whether the school be state or private. The private schools can even be profit making (I know, and they don't even use the children for slave labour or their organs!).

It would be a simple step forward, schools would need to be attractive to parents - which is predicated on parents knowing what's best for their kids. Schools that succeeded would be funded on a per student basis, those that didn't would need to change or fail or face takeover.

National once had this policy, in 1987. Ancient history now. Parents choosing, schools accountable? Not any more.

A very modest step forward would be bulk funding. Schools funded on a per student basis, but only state schools. At least some accountability for performance. No. National can't even argue that schools should get money per student.

It's going to "plan talks on zoning", you know the law that means schools can only target students from local areas, with some exceptions. According to The Press, Education spokeswoman Anne Tolley said that "zoning "certainly won't go altogether" under National, but "I think there is some tweaking we can do"." So glad your political career is ambitious Anne.

PPTA President Robin Duff, (the PPTA being defenders of the right of teachers to get unified pay increases without any measure of performance or accountability), said "If you juggle things around with zoning, there are winner and loser schools". There already are.

The PPTA has long fought the right of funding to follow pupils, it has long fought teachers being paid according to performance, it fought vouchers and bulk funding. Nothing substantive will change in education until this bastion of old fashioned union monopoly dominance is smashed.

It is time for education to be about what parents want, not what teachers think is good for them.

National's ambitions for education are woeful. It is depressing that it can't even argue for funding for students to go to the school parents choose. Centrally planned education funded Soviet style is the status quo - and that's the education system you will keep getting under National.

Unless you are wealthy and can afford to opt out - which is perhaps why plenty of Nats don't care, why should they give a damn about children from middle class homes?

2 comments:

Mr Dennis said...

"If you're a parent, and your local state school doesn't deliver the education you want, and of course, you're a taxpayer, why is it unreasonable to expect that you should be able to send your child to another school - and for your taxes to follow where you send your child?"

That is completely reasonable, which is why it is Family Party policy - we would have funding following the child, and equivalent funding available for state, state-integrated, private and home-schooling - putting control of the education of their children back into the hands of parents. It would also allow poorer families to afford private schooling, letting families send their children to schools that are doing well and increasing the overall quality of education.

This goes further than Act's policy, which does not mention home-schooling. It doesn't go as far as Libertarianz policy of course. Family Party policy is about as far as you can go to ensure parental choice while still retaining state funding of education.

Blatant policy advertising sorry, just pointing out that it isn't just Act and Libertarianz thinking in this general, sensible direction.

john-ston said...

"Imagine if parents had their taxes back, could choose the schools and those who could not afford would be helped by those schools, charities and their families. Yes, that's where Libertarianz aim for things to be."

Would this happen though? Would those who cannot afford to give their children an education be helped by the schools, charities and families? I wouldn't want to see children end up uneducated and unable to improve themselves because their parents couldn't afford to take them to school. Prior to having "free" education in Western societies, only half of children went to school; the other half didn't and so became part of the uneducated mass.

Also, I don't have a fortune to donate to these sort of things; the vast majority of the population don't either. So saying, if we are so concerned about it, we should do something, most of us cannot do it - even with the tax cuts that would happen under the ideal 'libertarian' system. We would be just trying to survive. Of course, the other alternative would be a mass migration from New Zealand to countries where they still would have a "free" education system.

Of course, I do believe in ideas such as funding following the child, and school vouchers, I just wouldn't want to have a system where parents would have to pay thousands a year just to allow their children to get an education.