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catallaxy in technical exile

Public school funding

with 51 comments

The Australian Education Union has released new “research”  by Jim McMorrow (see also the report ) that purports to show that Government funding of public schools is less than Government funding of private schools. As usual, it looks once again only at Commonwealth Government direct funding – neglecting the fact that public schools are creatures of State and Territory governments and funded by State and Territory governments. Total government (taxpayer) funding of public schools is of course well above that of private schools.  

This is grossly misleading and reflects badly on the credibility of McMorrow who has at once written a hagiography of the Rudd Government while promoting this nonsense. McMorrow writes:  

From the standpoint of public schools, the substantial investment in national education agreements reported in the Budget has begun to turn around some of the funding neglect that characterised the Howard Government’s years.  

The Rudd Government deserves credit for this.  

And hasn’t the media promulgated this misleading report very effectively this morning – effectively acting as an agent of the AEU (listen to the reports on ABC news for example). Yet if (say) the Wine Federal sponsored research into the health benefits of wine consumption the ABC would be either ignoring the research or noting that the sponsor is biased.   

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Written by Samuel J

January 18, 2010 at 7:22 am

Posted in Uncategorized

51 Responses

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  1. I think the real problem is that the government gives funding to “private” schools. Why not privatize most schools, give them no funding, and use a means test for the rest?

    conrad

    January 18, 2010 at 7:42 am

  2. Samuel, this outrageous nonsense has been going on for years. While I am a big supporter of state shooling, the AEU is a national embarrassment and a really bad example to school children. Just as a matter of common sense how could anybody think that the state gives more money to private schools than, er, state schools.

    In NSW, when the current Education minister, Verity Firth (niece of Labor MLC Meredith Burgmann), was first appointed, in a press conference she revealed she thought state schools were a Commonwealth responsibility, and funded by the Commonwealth!

    Even university-educated adults will trot out AEU un-statistics. They will say, “it is an outrage that Kings/Xavier/MLC/Kambala” gets $2 million per year, while little Johnny’s school can’t even afford toilet seats”. Even when you point out that that works out at only $2-3,000 per student, while little Johnny’s school is funded at $12,000 per student,they will still be trotting out the AEU press release read out on ABC radio six months later.

    What the AEU scandal and events such as the current idiocy over alleged racist attacks on Indians tell me is that our school curricula are woefully ignoring teaching probability and statistics. At the senior level, we could do with a reduction in the emphasis on calculus in favor of probability and statistics. Both the AEU crap and the Indian students talking points could both serve as excellent case studies to ground the curriculum!

    Peter Patton

    January 18, 2010 at 7:44 am

  3. I wrote an article for the IPA Review on this in 2007.

    Sinclair Davidson

    January 18, 2010 at 7:48 am

  4. Sinclair

    That sort of sober and concise analysis has been published many times over the years, so how does the AEU and its propagandists such as the ABC get away with the lies they peddle? We had some friends over for a BBQ recently, one of whom has worked at the ABC for 20 years. He said that compared to when he was recruited, raw intelligence and academic excellence have been downgraded as recruitment criteria. To quote him directly “the ABC is now full of thick people”.

    As for Shane Maroney’s claim that

    our children are increasingly divided into educational ghettos that undermine our civil values and reward religious fundamentalism.

    we should inform him of that ‘racist’ violence is greatest around the most multicultural state high schools. 😉

    Peter Patton

    January 18, 2010 at 8:11 am

  5. News Radio did directly put to the AEU president that it was dishonest to leave out state funding, as of course it is.

    Andrew Norton

    January 18, 2010 at 9:02 am

  6. I think the real problem is that the government gives funding to “private” schools. Why not privatize most schools, give them no funding, and use a means test for the rest?

    it would be hard to means test public schooling. the effective marginal tax rates would be enormous.

    drscroogemcduck

    January 18, 2010 at 9:05 am

  7. There would be little support for privatizing state schools. People are already exhausted by the all the choices they have to make. The preferred option would be to provide a convenient way for state school parents to opt out if they wanted to. The current situation where opting out is basically restricted to the well off is unjust. As is directly funding rich non-state schools.

    Peter Patton

    January 18, 2010 at 9:13 am

  8. I’m not surprised that they continue with this dishonesty, it actually works.

    dover_beach

    January 18, 2010 at 9:51 am

  9. The current situation where opting out is basically restricted to the well off is unjust.
    .
    It’s not just for the well-off. Catholic schools are affordable for most families, and there’s one in almost every town and suburb.

    daddy dave

    January 18, 2010 at 9:52 am

  10. People are already exhausted by the all the choices they have to make.
    .
    It’s true, high stakes decisions are exhausting. The same applies to buying a car or a house, or getting a job. Schools have the added emotional load that they impact on your child’s welfare.
    But it’s better to make the decision yourself than have the state make it for you, right?

    daddy dave

    January 18, 2010 at 9:57 am

  11. Your point about Catholic schools is correct, at least as far as the systemic Catholic school system goes. But it is a different matter when we consider Riverview, Rose Bay Convent, St. Aloysius, Joeys, Rose Bay Convent, Xavier, and so on. And the choice has less relevance to those not attracted by religion based schools, or at least not by Catholic schools.

    On the question of choice, it is preferable for it to be there, but not so preferable for it to be compulsory. There is no reason why parents should have to spend too much time thinking about schools if they live in an area where they are comfortable with what the state system offers. For example, where I live, I am actually spoilt for choice among a number of excellent state schools.

    OTOH, I have friends who live in areas where the local state schools are not up to snuff, which has forced them to spend quite a bit of time weighing up all the various alternatives. For people in this position, the system should offer a quick, economical, no-nonsense way to opt out of the state system.

    Peter Patton

    January 18, 2010 at 10:23 am

  12. db, much of the problem is the complicity of the newspapers. Having followed this issue closely for a number of years now, the quality of the people both Fairfax and News appoint as Education reporters is diabolical. They have ALL been innumerate, and quite, well, DUMB. They never fail to get the stats all wrong, and clearly never think about the press releases they get from the AEU. They simply cut and paste them. The AEU must know this, and writes it press releases accordingly.

    The AEU commissions its “research” from equally dumb and innumerate “Education” academics. Just read the report Sinclair linked to above. Given this “research” has Sydney Uni’s name linked to it, the academic should be sacked.

    Peter Patton

    January 18, 2010 at 10:29 am

  13. But it is a different matter when we consider Riverview, Rose Bay Convent, St. Aloysius, Joeys, Rose Bay Convent, Xavier, and so on.
    .
    That’s like saying there’s not enough choice in cars because you can’t afford a Ferrari.
    .
    And the choice has less relevance to those not attracted by religion based schools, or at least not by Catholic schools
    .
    No, that is the choice. Plenty of non-Catholics and non-religious families send their kids to Catholic schools, simply because it is an affordable, local private school.
    If you prefer the local state school to the local Catholic school for whatever reason, then you’ve made a choice. Ain’t freedom grand?

    daddy dave

    January 18, 2010 at 10:34 am

  14. “The preferred option would be to provide a convenient way for state school parents to opt out if they wanted to”
    .
    They already do — i.e., “private” schools.
    .
    “People are already exhausted by the all the choices they have to make”..”..There is no reason why parents should have to spend too much time thinking about schools if they live in an area where they are comfortable with what the state system offers”
    .
    Are you joking? If parents really can’t be bothered spending a fair bit of effort thinking about one of the decisions that has the greatest effect on their kids, then that’s a sad state of affairs.
    .
    “The current situation where opting out is basically restricted to the well off is unjust.”
    .
    No it isn’t. It’s just that many people think that big cars and houses are more important than their kids education. In addition, if some of the money given to private schools and public schools in areas where people are extremely well off was funneled into the bottom end of the system, that would be far more just. What’s fair about subsidizing public schools in zones where the average house price is approaching a million dollars (like the suburb I live in)?

    conrad

    January 18, 2010 at 10:35 am

  15. Just as I do not consider it a “choice” to have a dumpy little Catholic school overflowing with 5 and 6 year olds skipping home to lecture me on the Holy Father, Virgin Mother, and a man who did a midnight flit after several days spent bleeding to death on a cross before transforming into a gas and floating up into the heaven, similarly I think you two got in line twice for the “choice” vaccination when you were undergraduates, and have been mainlining Milton Friedman ever since. While Friedman was a great thinker, some of his junkie clients are sadly far from so.

    Peter Patton

    January 18, 2010 at 11:02 am

  16. oh, and conrad, you really need to drop your presumption of judging other adults’ parenting on the basis of your dictates of how much time they should spend making different decisions. It nullifies any other worthwhile contributions you might make.

    Peter Patton

    January 18, 2010 at 11:08 am

  17. The idea of daddy dave and Conrad ‘mainlining’ Milton Friedman is fantastical. Peter, I’ve enjoyed your commentary since you’ve appeared but occasionally you go off the rails.

    dover_beach

    January 18, 2010 at 11:20 am

  18. Peter,

    who’s judging? You were the one that was making presumptions about others: “People are already exhausted by the all the choices they have to make.”. I’m sure Mao would be impressed by that as an argument. I’m not.

    I was just saying what I *personally* thought of the matter, which is that I think that even those on average wages could afford decent schools if not for other priorities. If you want to live a big house and have a big car, then it’s fine by me, however, if you then can’t afford to send your kids to a good school, am I supposed to be sorry for you when you complain about the underfunded public system?

    conrad

    January 18, 2010 at 11:27 am

  19. Has anyone ever thought of reporting the ABC for propagandizing blatant dishonesty? There are various hearings and although nothing will be done, they do have to investigate it and which pisses the bastards off.

    For instance I’ve asked for all email and phone tab correspondence between Fatty Jones and the sitting Professor of Climate Alarmism at Melbourne Uni. just to see how far you can go. It only costs 30 bucks.

    One can do this with this crowd and anyone you think that is pushing this trolley filled with crap at Our ABC.

    jc

    January 18, 2010 at 11:39 am

  20. In reality the dishonesty on this subject is so bad that the people propagating this vile crap ought to suspended by the ankles for a few days in the town square.

    The state schools in fact get a super deal out of this. The parents sending their little monsters to private school end up forking over 12 grand to those that send their little monsters to state funded schools without getting anything back for it. The subsidy is actually the other way round. In fact if the government were 1/2 smart which when it comes to these critters is a big ask you would want to be to seeing more kids going to private schools as the funding is a lot less.

    jc

    January 18, 2010 at 11:46 am

  21. conrad

    We could nip all your lifestyle judgement issues by simply offering parents who wish to opt out a voucher for the equivalent amount the state spends on their child in the state system. The attitude should be “if you think you can do a better job on the same amount money, be our guest”.

    Peter Patton

    January 18, 2010 at 12:16 pm

  22. The current situation where opting out is basically restricted to the well off is unjust.

    That’s true

    As is directly funding rich non-state schools.

    Huh? “Rich parents” pay a portion of their taxes to fund education irrespective of whether they use the service or not. This money accrues to those that send their kids to state schools.

    The subsidy is actually in reverse as it’s the parents sending their kids to private schools that are paying out the subsidy.

    jc

    January 18, 2010 at 12:25 pm

  23. The attitude should be “if you think you can do a better job on the same amount money, be our guest”.
    .
    That sounds like a very good idea Peter. But Conrad is not judgemental on ‘lifestyle issues.’ He simply thinks people should live with the consequences of their actions, and that includes the action of sinking all your money into a fancy house.
    I’m with Dover – your tendency to sarcasm and condescension undercuts the often good points you make.

    daddy dave

    January 18, 2010 at 12:31 pm

  24. Db, yes perhaps I was a bit enthusiastic. As it so happens, I am one of those parents who does spend a bit of time on this particular issue. And daddy dave, are you certain about non-Catholics being welcomed into Catholic schools? I only have a few data points, and each of them required a reference from a priest, copies of baptism certificates and an interview with the headmistress/master. And this was for kindergarten!

    Peter Patton

    January 18, 2010 at 12:39 pm

  25. “We could nip all your lifestyle judgement issues by simply offering parents who wish to opt out a voucher for the equivalent amount the state spends on their child in the state system”
    .
    I guess it depends if you want to (a) give middle-class and rich people free government vouchers; and (b) allow free government money to subsidize private industry. Since I’m not particularly into middle-class or corporate welfare, I don’t want to see either of those. (incidentally, it wouldn’t bother me to see free vouchers for some that really don’t have the money, but I realize like DD that this causes EMTR problems).
    .
    JC: “The parents sending their little monsters to private school end up forking over 12 grand to those that send their little monsters to state funded schools without getting anything back for it”
    .
    I’m not sure this is framed correctly. The government subsidizes both public and private education, it’s just the extent of the subsidy that differs, so I don’t see it as a private subsidy to public schools.

    conrad

    January 18, 2010 at 1:10 pm

  26. Peter – I’m not catholic and I went to a Catholic school. In fact about half my high school class wasn’t Catholic.

    Sinclair Davidson

    January 18, 2010 at 1:12 pm

  27. Sinclair

    Well, all the data I have about Sydney Catholic schools in 2010 says otherwise. Can you name some Sydney schools?

    Peter Patton

    January 18, 2010 at 1:21 pm

  28. so I don’t see it as a private subsidy to public schools.

    Conrad,

    There are two types of taxpayer forced to fund private ed.

    Single/married without kids

    parents with kids at private schools.

    Both these groups fork out tax dollars for services they don’t use, so people like homer are able to collect all that cash and use it to fund their own kids.

    Parents whose kids go to private schools are not receiving the full extent of the tax dollars they fork out. In fact they receive a small part of it while those that do send their kids to public schools are getting the full benefit in addition to the money from the other two groups.

    So it’s the parents sending their kids to public schools that are really rorting. Suggesting it’s the other way is actually an abomination.

    jc

    January 18, 2010 at 1:21 pm

  29. oops should read.

    There are two types of taxpayer forced to fund private ed. … a service they don’t use and never will.

    jc

    January 18, 2010 at 1:22 pm

  30. Peter – I am unable to name any schools at all in Sydney be they Catholic or otherwise. I can only tell you my own experience at the Christian Brothers.

    Sinclair Davidson

    January 18, 2010 at 1:23 pm

  31. conrad

    We are not talking about “welfare”. And no, I have no problem at all with rich people taking a voucher. My only restriction would be that vouchers could only be used at schools that do not charge fees above the level of the voucher.

    I also think it is unhelpful to focus on some savage binary between “public” and “private” schools. The reality is a lot more complex.

    My other great beef with the current system is the complete lack of flexibility with the curriculum. I am trying to find schools that have a more narrow focus than the current government-mandated dog’s breakfast. Ironically, the school that so far offers the most attractive middle school curriculum for what we are after is St. Ignatius, Riverview.

    Peter Patton

    January 18, 2010 at 1:24 pm

  32. Peter,

    Riverview can afford to be choosy, as because of the numbers wanting their kids to get in.

    If you have demand imbalance don’t blame the school if it makes choices itself…. like being a catholic school it may choose more practicing Catholics than otherwise.

    I’m sure that if you wanted to try out catholic schools of lesser stature you could be a practicing satanist and wouldn’t have much of a problem.

    Here’s my suggestion… Go to a church for a few Sundays. Stick a couple hundi in the tip jar with name attached and tell the priest you’ve just arrived and ask him to write out a reference.

    jc

    January 18, 2010 at 1:32 pm

  33. jc

    I have absolutely no idea what you are trying to say, nor what it has to do with anything I have posted.

    Peter Patton

    January 18, 2010 at 1:39 pm

  34. Conrad

    You sound like that awful toff on the documentary series 7 Up who said the proles could quite easily choose to send their children to the type of grand public boarding school he attended: “I mean look at the huge salaries earned by these Ford factory workers…”

    Peter Patton

    January 18, 2010 at 1:44 pm

  35. Peter:

    1. You suggest that you want to send you kid to what is considered to be the best Catholic school in the city.

    2.Do you think there could be a lot of demand from practicing Catholics to send their kids to the best catholic school in the city?

    3. If that is the case do you think it is possible that a Catholic school may determine that it is in their best interests to offer places to people that are, you know, Catholics?

    jc

    January 18, 2010 at 1:45 pm

  36. Having sat on a school board in my time, I often found myself astonished at how frequently I would run into parents that did not care about the actual quality of the education their little blighters were receiving.

    So forcing them to actually choose might get them interested in their kids’ education. OTOH it might force them to choose the school nearest the golf course or the pokies.

    Entropy

    January 18, 2010 at 2:53 pm

  37. “Conrad. You sound like that awful toff on the documentary series 7 Up who said the proles could quite easily choose to send their children to the type of grand public boarding school he attended”
    .
    Peter, let’s say the average cost of a private school is $15,000 per year (in 2008, it was $14,200). That’s about $300 per week (many people pay this kind of money for childcare before their kids go to school incidentally). According to the ABS, the average full-time earnings per week of an adult in Feb 2009 was $1230. So whilst we’re talking about a reasonable amount of money, we’re not talking about amounts that are entirely out of the reach of the average earner (let alone dual-income families), and that’s not even considering the possibility that people might actually save a bit of money before their kids go to school as is common in many places (East Asia, the US). Hence you’re analogy doesn’t fit reality.

    conrad

    January 18, 2010 at 2:55 pm

  38. conrad, none of that is even remotely relevant to the issue of vouchers.

    Peter Patton

    January 18, 2010 at 3:29 pm

  39. Entropy

    Not necessarily. You would probably just get a chain of private schools called Sydney High Schools Turned Private Academy, with those parents just dumping them there. A voucher system will encourage reflection as the ebb and flow of parents/children leaving a particular state school and the response (if any) of that particular state school to smarten itself up to stop any more opting out. If that particular school doesn’t shape up, and keeps bleeding students, it will close down.

    Peter Patton

    January 18, 2010 at 3:33 pm

  40. jc

    My data points about friends’ experience with Catholic schools was a separate point from my finding Riverview’s middle school curriculum attractive.

    I don’t have any issue whatsoever with Catholic schools requiring (or even preferring) students of the Catholic faith. My point was to daddy dave and Sinclair on how accessible these schools are to non-Catholics. It was merely a request for clarification of data, and in no way a judgement. Is THAT better? 🙂

    Peter Patton

    January 18, 2010 at 3:38 pm

  41. Sinclair

    I just had a check online for the Christian Brothers schools. Applications only require you to indicate your religious affiliation, I couldn’t find any criteria beyond that. So you are probably correct that Sydney Christian Brothers schools are open to all faiths.

    Peter Patton

    January 18, 2010 at 3:40 pm

  42. conrad, none of that is even remotely relevant to the issue of vouchers.
    .
    But Conrad wasn’t talking about vouchers. He was responding to your mockery after he claimed that private schooling was affordable for most families if they are prepared to make financial sacrifices. So he was backing up the claim with numbers and showing that the mockery was unwarranted.

    daddy dave

    January 18, 2010 at 6:24 pm

  43. When I went I had to have an interview with the headmaster and my parents paid a higher fee than did Catholic families. But we didn’t think that was unreasonable; still don’t.

    Sinclair Davidson

    January 18, 2010 at 6:42 pm

  44. Peter:

    I was a little confused as both things seemed to morph as your own experience as this comment suggests 🙂

    Ironically, the school that so far offers the most attractive middle school curriculum for what we are after is St. Ignatius, Riverview.

    jc

    January 18, 2010 at 6:47 pm

  45. The voucher system is clearly the way to go. The Liberals were too dumb to go with that when they had the chance.

    Rafe

    January 18, 2010 at 9:11 pm

  46. Rafe is correct that the voucher system is the way to go. But as part and parcel of that it would be necessary to privatise the schools.

    Public education should not involve the Government owning so much infrastructure that soaks up the funds that could actually be used in providing education.

    I remember reading a few years ago that literacy and numeracy had actually declined slightly since compulsory state education was introduced in Britain and Australia. So Government involvement in education has not been a howling success.

    Rococo Liberal

    January 19, 2010 at 9:59 am

  47. Vouchers plus mutualization of the public schools. Schools, individually or in concert with other schools, could develop their own curriculum. You could have assessments of literacy, numeracy, etc. occurring at years 3, 5, 7 and 9 and schools could adopt whichever school leaving certificate (VCE/ IB/ etc.) they pleased. In the end, the Department would need no more than 50 bureaucrats, parents would have a voucher to which they could deposit at any school they pleased covering themselves whatever balance is necessary, schools would be self-governing, and the curriculum/s would be free of the whims of every education bureaucrat.

    dover_beach

    January 19, 2010 at 12:06 pm

  48. Dover Beach,

    You under estimate the cunning lust for power of bureaucrats.

    The only thing governments need to know about a school is whether or not the students coming out meet a minimum set of standards. You don’t even need 50 bureaucrats for that, you’d be better off letting industry and academia make that determination.

    John H.

    January 19, 2010 at 12:12 pm

  49. “You under estimate the cunning lust for power of bureaucrats.”

    Never; that is one thing I never do.

    “You don’t even need 50 bureaucrats for that,…”

    I was being generous, JohnH. And most of them wouldn’t have anything to do with curriculum or assessment; they’d simply be administering the voucher system or assisting the Minister and the Secretary.

    dover_beach

    January 19, 2010 at 12:21 pm

  50. Bureaucrats are like rabbits, they breed out of control and damned if you can get rid of them.

    I hear a lot about the quality of students coming out of high school, nearly all of it bad. I cannot understand this.

    I suggested to an English teacher that there needs to be a way of introducing senior students to methods of analysis. He replied that is basically covered in English. Remarkable because different subjects require differing methods of analysis. Is it asking too much of senior students to have them study a little philosophy and logic?

    John H.

    January 19, 2010 at 12:30 pm

  51. db

    I understand that at least in NSW, the government has announced that state schools can offer the IB as well as the HSC.

    Peter Patton

    January 19, 2010 at 12:32 pm


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