Monday, June 01, 2009

Feed the rich

What did we learn at school today? Well, we learned that the Tories lied about the tax cuts. Mr English has said and will say again that the proposed cuts were overtaken by unforeseen global economic events, but there was nothing to unforesee: we all knew the global economy was stuffed back in November; it was kind of obvious, what with the Lehman Brothers falling over and all that. But Mr English tolled like a bell throughout the campaign, telling us that the cuts would be coming, and we would all have loadsamoney.

By extrapolation, we learned that a significant proportion of the electorate is (a) greedy and (b) stupid. I refer, of course, to those who believed Mr English's flannel and believed in it; those who thought of their vote as a futures option. These voters must be feeling a little foolish now, unless they are so stupid as to believe that Mr English really must defer those tax cuts until such time as the economy can bear the weight of the stimulation they will bring upon it.

We also learned that, in a crisis, Tories will look after their own and – by extrapolation – bugger the rest of us. We learned of such from the Tories' house journal, under the somewhat misleading headline, Private schools' $35m lifeline wins applause; somewhat misleading because the applause was coming from the private schools who would be sharing the $35 million.

Here is some quoted applause:
Executive director of the Independent Schools of New Zealand Deborah James said she was delighted with the announcement as private schools had been struggling with a "crippling capped funding regime for the past 10 years".

She felt it was important the Government had acknowledged that if it did not help them out, a number of private schools might have been forced to integrate, which would have ultimately lapped up a portion of state funding that could otherwise be diverted towards public schools.

[Independent schools] bring a choice in education, not all schools suit all children so it's wonderful in a democracy that families can choose an education that best suits the needs of their child," Mrs James said.
The reader might notice some anomalies here. This is the head of a body representing Independent schools, also described as private schools, complaining about not having received enough money from the public purse. The reader might also notice the utterly fallacious threat of integration: not only is the Education Ministry under no obligation to accept any school for integration (Mr Mallard saw to that) but many private schools would not qualify, since integrated schools must have a specific "religious character." Finally, the reader will notice the tosh about democracy, needs and choice for what it is: tosh. Some children may well have special needs and choices, such as being allergic to the proletariat or yearning to wear tartan, but it is not a requirement of democracy that these be met at public expense.

Worse still is the headmaster of King's School crowing about the money he will be getting. This funding would "greatly assist the school's parents as it would allow him to keep cost increases at a minimum." This is the head of the most expensive school in the country speaking, the school which nice Mr Key's own son attends. This funding will assist rich people to retain more of their wealth.

It is all about freedom and choice, of course. As the Ministry says:
The additional funding achieves the Government’s manifesto commitment to increase families’ education choices so they have more freedom to select schooling options that best meet their children’s needs.

It is also designed to make private schools more affordable to more parents. By increasing the overall subsidy, the desired outcome is for private schools to reduce their fees resulting in increased enrolments.
And how, you might ask, will the Ministry ensure that this outcome is achieved? It is funny that you should ask, because the amazing truth is that the Ministry will do nothing. It will not be setting objectives, asking for commitments or assigning Key Performance Indicators; it will simply hand over the money. And will the schools be reducing their fees? The Minister does not know. She cannot or will not demand a reduction in fees.

So what difference does it make? It makes none, none at all, other than to increase inequality: a student in a private school will be funded by $15K of public money, while a student in a public school receives $5K. All of a sudden, the dreaded voucher scheme, which libertarians have been demanding for years, seems quite attractive: at least the public school students would be entitled to an equal amount to those in private schools, rather than a third of the amount paid to schools which select children from the wealthiest families in the country.

So, how will the Government fund this largesse? By cutting the spending on public education, of course. The professional development of teachers in public schools is being cut, as are school and curriculum support programmes. Other programmes which benefit those in lower social-economic groups, such as the one to combat youth obesity, will also be gone.

This is pre-wasted public funding of private institutions, money that is being transferred from the public to the private sector, without any guarantee of any benefit. It will be accepted gleefully by the schools which educate the children of the rich, who will be not be required to account for the money. These schools already receive large amounts of public funding, equivalent to half the salary of each teacher, as well as enjoying tax-free status as educational charities. Meanwhile, funding which benefits the vast majority of school students will be cut. Three percent of schools students will benefit from the disadvantage of ninety-seven percent.

Finally, let us not forget that parents of children in public schools will continue to face demands for "donations" or "voluntary contributions," funds which often are raised by stigmatising or penalising those children whose parents cannot afford to pay. Shortfalls in public funding, as well the expansionist plans of ego-driven heads, will continue to be addressed by making parents pay for education which, by law, should be free.

So what did we learn? We learned that the Government has a developed a programme of wealth redistribution, one which will help the well-bred and the well-fed, to the detriment of every other child.


Heather said...

She felt it was important the Government had acknowledged that if it did not help them out, a number of private schools might have been forced to integrate, which would have ultimately lapped up a portion of state funding that could otherwise be diverted towards public schools.

"It's good that the government's given us money, because if they hadn't, they'd have had to give us money (that would otherwise go to state schools)"

Vincent Warner said...

Great post, all it needs is a clip of "Kill the poor" by the Dead Kennedy's to make it purrrrfect. Most of the people I know who went to private school said it was similar to going to an asylum as most students were heavily medicated with uppers, downers, and very strong pain killers. Apparently one of the first questions you get asked when applying for the school is, "what medication are you on?"

Paul said...

Heather, private schools are like dependent relatives; they keep coming round, asking for more.

Vincent, the next post is perfect.

Tom Semmens said...

Fantastic post.

Tim said...

I concur!!!