Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Labor's Education Madness

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has  released a new Education Policy that includes the following:
  • the present funding formula for schools will remain, at least until 2013. That would be an election year, so she won't change it then, either! the funding is applied selectively, so that public schools, especially those with many children from lower socio-economic areas are excluded. If applied uniformly, public schools would receive massive increases in funding.
  • tax deductions for school uniforms. Yes, I know they can be expensive, especially when you have several children. Just ask my wallet. But this policy is designed to appeal most to those who choose to send their children to private schools. Parents make that choice, knowing they will have to pay for uniforms. This policy will direct tax-payer money mostly to people who have more money. It will not help the families on welfare, or low-income earners sending their children to public schools. It's a policy to buy votes; it's tawdry. [OK - the Liberals policy is worse: they will give about $10,000 of taxpayer money back to a person who pays $24,000 for 1 child to attend 1 private school. Yes, I know some families make sacrifices to send children to some private schools. However, the rich of Sydney & Melbourne will certainly benefit from that redistribution to the wealthy!]
  • performance assessment and bonuses for 10% of teachers, and schools. In NSW there are about 50,000 public school teachers with an estimated 15,000 private school teachers. With a "top" bonus of $8100 multiplied by 10% of 65,000 teachers, that equates to more than $52 Million in NSW. The issue of bonuses is divisive: NSW Principals Association doesn't believe they are good policy; nor do public and private teacher unions. Many say that money would be better spent on lower class sizes, more support staff, better resources. But bonuses appeal to Julia Gillard, and some "dry" economists. They want to reduce education to a factory output of numbers.
  • Labor also wants to reward the "better" schools, schools whose results improve, but penalize schools that do need help. This policy has not worked in Britain, and it has not worked in the US. There is no indication it would be educationally effective in Australia.
Ms Gillard's education policy would contribute nothing to the social infrastructure of education, and would cause division among teachers, between schools, and between school systems. The reality is, it is bad policy; and bad economics. Aside: the Liberals education policy isn't any better.