Andrew vs. Andrew (continued)

Following on from yesterday, Andrew Norton has his second piece up [A.N., A.L.].  He continues on the early topic of teaching civics, concluding with:

In my view, preserving public education to teach civics is a non-solution to a non-problem.

I’d love to see a longitudinal study looking at what people covered in school and measures of their criminality, understanding of and participation in democratic society one, five and ten years after leaving school.  Until then, this aspect of the debate will continue to be rhetorical.

A.N. then moves on to the topic of financing, acknowledging A.L.’s point that there are economies of scale but arguing that they could be achieved through school associations or chains.  He suggests that the government still be involved, subsidising schools on a per-student basis inversely weighted to the students’ socio-economic backgrounds:

[W]e could fund all schools on a similar basis to private schools now, according to parental SES background. That would lead to reduced rather than greater government expenditure, with tax cuts helping parents finance higher private outlays. Schools servicing the most disadvantaged areas would get the most money, providing what was necessary to make private schools viable. Schools in the most affluent areas could be taken completely out of the public funding system; this if nothing else about my proposal would please the AEU. 

This seems a reasonable and persuasive point to me.  However, since it would amount to the government paying for the schooling of the poor, it seems implausible to assume that they would not want a say in how the money was spent.  It would be, in effect, an Australian education equivalent of Railtrack/Network Rail in the UK – a nominally independent organisation that nevertheless operates with a government-backed guarantee of funding to achieve government-stipulated requirements.  This may well represent an improvement over the status quo (and I suspect it would be, from a financing point of view), but it is not full privitisation.

I was never particularly concerned with financing except insofar as it affects selection.  This sort of scheme, which does keep the government involved, may help ensure that every child gets accepted somewhere, but my concerns about student complimentarities and the need for national education standards remain.

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