School vouchers

There’s a great opinion piece (from Lenore Taylor) in the AFR this weekend about the school vouchers that were snuck into the budget this year. Briefly, $475 million has been budgeted to provide $700 tutoring vouchers to the parents of children who fail national reading and maths tests.

The article goes on to talk about how well the pilot program of this initiative did. The vouchers only got through to 36 percent of the children eligible for them. As the piece says,

“…there’s another way of delivering education spending that gets to close to 100 percent of students in need. They’re called schools.”

But the Liberal government seems to have an ideological scunner against schools, particularly government ones. This is the way in which funding that follows the child can be introduced, as a soft introduction of funding that follows children for all forms of education.

At my son’s school (a state school in a fairly well-off area), the P&C is funding 30% of a reading recovery teacher for the year. The state government funds 10% of one (last year it was 20%, but it worked and our results were good, so we obviously don’t need as much any more).

I imagine that that $700 per failing student could be pretty usefully spent on funding the reading recovery teacher in other parts of the state that weren’t as good at raising money as my school. It’s particularly helpful as the teacher (who works one-on-one and in small groups with the children who need the help) is set up to work with the children during classroom hours, and in conjunction with the child’s main teacher.

Sure, the state government funds the current teacher, and the federal government is a different form of funding. But they managed to interpose themselves by funding chaplains. Surely a teacher is somewhat simpler?

Lenore Taylor ends her piece with a quote from former ALP Senator, now executive director of the Australian Council of State School Organisations Terry Aulich;

The Howard government, he maintains, is putting “ideology before practicality.”

I couldn’t agree more.

  1 comment for “School vouchers

  1. Andrew
    May 25, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    While I can sympathize with the free-enterprise ideal that people should choose where to educate their children, and let the best provider win, the inevitable result of voucher systems is that poor people end up in the safety net and rich people end up with the quality system. The problem with this is that children can’t pick their parents, and your education ends up being a function of your parent’s wealth.

    I find it very hard to get away from the idea that Howard and his ilk think this is a good thing, because it’s their kids who will benefit, relatively speaking. But it’s not so good for the country as a whole. There is a significant social loss in giving bright kids (from wherever) low-grade educations.

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