Jacob Watts: Some lies on public school funding

A new report reveals that funding independent school systems such as the Catholic system, benefits students in all schools by saving taxpayers billions and leaving more resources for students in the public school system. This contradicts claims from the opponents of independent schools that millions of taxpayer dollars are being diverted from state education into the private sector which favours the ‘top end of town.’ In truth, promoting competition and parental freedom benefits all of us.

Milton Friedman once said that ‘One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.’ The intention of well-meaning people on the left to increase funding to public schools on the back of class warfare rhetoric would eradicate competition and hurt the very people they are seeking to help. We all agree education is the bedrock upon which we built a successful nation. But agreeing on the blueprints and building materials is not so simple.

In New South Wales alone, 250,000 students are attending 598 Catholic schools. If these students were suddenly displaced due to funding cuts it would cost taxpayers an extra 500 million dollars annually. Parents contribute an average of $2,000 each year to the Catholic school system bring down the price of taxpayer subsidies from $13,374 to $11,374. This private investment in educating future generations is estimated to be about $8 billion dollars, and supporting a more discriminatory approach to school funding would put it under threat.

Shifting students out of the public school system by encouraging parents who desire the choice of independent schools to pursue these aspirations, frees up significant space within public classrooms, saves taxpayers money, and helps public school students receive a better education as a result. This is especially important in an era of record population growth within our major cities that is already putting our existing school infrastructure and education system’s resources under stress.

As noted by Thomas Sowell, ‘schools are a monopoly and need not be responsive.’ Providing parents with a choice of state and private schools who can compete on an equal footing is the best way to create competition that encourages different schools and different education systems to compete to attract students and therefore, funding. This not only means that private school systems like the Catholic system provide a more suitable and desirable alternative for many children and parents. It means that even public schools are encouraged to lift their performance and outcome benchmarks- thereby benefiting their own students.

After all, if education outcomes were simply the result of funding itself and not also the incentives in place to deploy those funds effectively, then Australia would not lag behind countries like Singapore, China, and even Kazakhstan, who produce students with better Science and Maths scores despite allocating significantly less per-student funding.

The common misconception about seemingly preppy uniformed catholic school students is that they all come from wealthy families. This is also untrue. Many of the students attending Catholic schools are there because their families are willing to make an investment in the type of education they believe will give their children the leg up that they never had.

Independent schooling systems like Catholic schools, are a positive driving force in improving the quality of Australian education overall. As Friedman put it, we can either ‘subsidise the producer or the consumer.’ Right now, we are subsidising the producer: that is schools. According to Friedman’s argument, by subsidising the student instead, you create competition and competition creates a better consumer good: education. Subsidising the individual, instead of corporate teachers’ unions, empowers the smallest and most important of minorities: the individual student.

Moving even further towards supporting school choice through a voucher program that allocates families $13,374, the standard funding rate for government schools in NSW, would give parents even more choice and would ultimately improve the education their children receive. By making independent schooling affordable for many students from less well-off families, it would take more stress off state schools while encouraging these schools to improve their performance benchmarks by offering a better educational produce to attract students.

Education needs to be liberated from the excessive control of state and given back to families and their children who can pursue what works best for them. Freedom is the key to making our education system more lively, competitive and dynamic so we can step forward in the information age to be a strong, successful and agile society that can compete with the globe.

Jacob Watts is a Research Associate with the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance.

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38 Responses to Jacob Watts: Some lies on public school funding

  1. Roger

    We all agree education is the bedrock upon which we built a successful nation.

    No, the family is the bedrock of a nation.

    If we don’t have stable families in which children are raised properly with love and discipline the best education system in the world will struggle to be effective.

  2. Beachcomber

    The intention of well-meaning people on the left to …………

    These people on the left are not ‘well-meaning people’. They want to destroy the middle class and family structures in society through state-controlled education that indoctrinates children in Marxism. That is why they are so desperate to shut down independent schools.

  3. 2dogs

    Rafe, please be careful. You’re going to provoke Numbers into posting links to hilariously racist research.

  4. That is why they are so desperate to shut down independent schools.

    I was about to suggest something along the same lines. Put everyone in public schools and everyone comes out at the same, indistinguishable bricks in the wall.

  5. Ellen of Tasmania

    Education needs to be liberated from the excessive control of state

    Actually, education needs to be liberated from the control of the state.

    Question: How much educational/curriculum freedom do so-called ‘independent’ schools have?

  6. Karabar

    On “The Outsiders” this morning one of the guests was Riccardo Bosi.
    His analysis of nearly any situation appears to be “strategy, operations, tactics”.
    Whether in a military context or not, this is common sense.
    In the context of government corruption, his philosophy is that a well educated public is the key to responsible government, since the voters yield a tactical advantage. That is also common sense if you think about it. How can optimal “for the people, by the people” occur unless the citizenry is trained to think critically, and take an interest in the way in which they are governed.
    Where that leads, I believe, is that many if not all of the problems we face result from indoctrination provided by government, in the form of “education”. If government can’t build autos or refrigerators, how can we expect government to provide education and healthcare?
    The solution to which Rafe alludes; private education funded through a voucher program is still Socialism, but at least it would be a good step towards specialists in the education of children competing on a fair and level playing field.

  7. stackja

    IN July 1962, Catholic schools in Goulburn in southwestern NSW closed their doors, leaving about 2000 students out in the cold.
    Government health inspectors had told the staff at Our Lady of Mercy Preparatory School to replace the toilets.

    Instead, the Auxiliary Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, John Cullinane, decided to close the school, telling the government to build the toilets; he did not have the money. The parishioners decided it was unfair that parents of one school bear the burden and voted to close all the schools in the parish. Of the 2000 students affected, about 640 enrolled in local government schools but most were left with nowhere to go.

    The Goulburn school strike lasted barely a week, but its consequences in the debate about school funding resonate to this day. It was a stark illustration of the load carried by non-government schools, particularly the Catholic schools, which received no government funding.

    Yet, as the strike proved once and for all, without the Catholic schools, the government school system could not cope.

    The strike was one of the key factors in ensuring private schools received their first chunk of government funding in a century, when the Menzies government embarked on its program building science laboratories in high schools. By 1970, the federal government was providing a flat rate of $35 for each primary student and $50 for each secondary student to non-government schools.

  8. Beertruk

    stackja
    #3038262, posted on June 9, 2019 at 2:10 pm

    Than you Stakja. I was just about to go looking for that specific article. 🙂

  9. duncanm

    The intention of well-meaning people on the left to …………

    nope.

    Witness the outcry from the teacher’s federation when Berejiklian recently announced a much-needed selective public high school in SW Sydney.

  10. Fisky

    The next big battleline in education will be the Morrison government’s national phonics check, an excellent initiative that will be opposed by the unions and education academics.

  11. Tel

    In the context of government corruption, his philosophy is that a well educated public is the key to responsible government, since the voters yield a tactical advantage. That is also common sense if you think about it.

    No that’s Bass Ackwards. The individual bureaucrat has huge tactical advantage over any individual voter.

    Voters have a strategic advantage only if they can coordinate their efforts and even then most bureaucrats are immune to any single election.

  12. Arky

    Shifting students out of the public school system by encouraging parents who desire the choice of independent schools to pursue these aspirations, frees up significant space within public classrooms, saves taxpayers money, and helps public school students receive a better education as a result.

    ..
    I want an end to state run education.
    The argument above doesn’t fly.
    You have not taught in a government school that had a catholic one open in the neighbourhod.
    Strips out all the aspirational students.
    Standards plunge.
    A student may have been in a class with two disruptive dickheads is now in a class with 5 disruptive dickheads.
    Make the argument for private schools, but the premise of this post don’t fly.

  13. John A

    stackja #3038262, posted on June 9, 2019, at 2:10 pm

    By 1970, the federal government was providing a flat rate of $35 for each primary student and $50 for each secondary student to non-government schools.

    And the “independent” school systems have been progressively undermined ever since by larger and larger levels of funding, usually in response to enforced increases in costs (like parity in salaries, common curriculum “standards” and the like).

    Home education is the way to go, and then a totally private education system such as pertained prior to the 1870s in each of the colonies.

  14. stackja

    John A
    #3038355, posted on June 9, 2019 at 4:42 pm

    Teachers union would create many obstacles.

  15. Muddy

    People are confusing schooling with education. They are not the same. The former exists primarily to mould a socially conformist population which all other forms of state authority depend upon.

    Fisky mentioned education academics: a class which has great power, but no skin in the game (aside from their continuing careers). The edudemic class depends on the state retaining control of schooling (posing as ‘education’), and will do anything to maintain their grip.

    Tel wrote that: Voters have a strategic advantage only if they can coordinate their efforts, which I agree with and have long bemoaned the lack of. However the coordination need not be centralised: This may not be a relevant analogy, but look at the so-called ‘Resistance’ against President Trump. The enmity towards him may be shared, however there seems to be no single puppeteer, but rather a myriad of loose networks.

  16. Muddy

    Karabar
    #3038240, posted on June 9, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    On “The Outsiders” this morning one of the guests was Riccardo Bosi.
    His analysis of nearly any situation appears to be “strategy, operations, tactics”.

    I’ve tried to point out previously that this is what our ideological enemies have long done, (even if on the surface it is not obvious), and what we ourselves need to embrace if we are serious about saving our society and culture, rather than meekly blowing bubbles.

    I am not familiar with Mr. Bosi, and would not presume to place myself in the same league in terms of experience and professionalism, however I have long suggested we need to view the challenges we face through a more formal and predictive, rather than reactive and ad hoc, lens.

  17. Ian of Brisbane

    The big step to universal mediocrity has already been taken, Gillard’s dumbing down of the entire school system with the National Curriculum. This has denied new teachers the education they need so the rot is taking hold.

  18. Diogenes

    As Arky alluded to, public schools are the schools of last resort for many parents. Private schools can encourage ‘bad’ students to leave. For us when we expel a student, we have to take in an expellee from another school.

  19. Arky

    I would like to see the following:
    A voucher system where all parents receive a voucher for approx. $8000 per annum to be used to educate their child as they see fit.
    An end to all compulsion in schooling.
    Closure of all government education departments and sale of all assets.
    An end to government funding of universities.
    An increase in home schooling and alternatives such as net schooling.
    More specialist schools of every kind. More scholarships.
    Employers taking more responsibility for training standards.

  20. Muddy

    Ian of Brisbane
    #3038379, posted on June 9, 2019 at 5:56 pm

    The big step to universal mediocrity…

    Mediocrity is the new ‘gifted.’

  21. Arky

    A voucher system where all parents receive a voucher for approx. $8000 per annum to be used to educate their child as they see fit.

    ..
    It is important that this remains a flat rate, without special rates for disabled / different races / different circumstances / locations or any of the other bullshit that enables governments to stick their damn noses in an start empire building. A simple admin through tax department. Have a kid under 18? Here is $8000 voucher. Now F off.

  22. Arky

    The voucher thing should only be a stopgap measure on the way to a fully user pays system to prevent rorting.
    Ten years max.

  23. The big step to universal mediocrity has already been taken, Gillard’s dumbing down of the entire school system with the National Curriculum.

    You have no idea what Kirner was attempting to do in Victoria. The idea of dumbing things down was being taken to levels previously unheard of in the western world. The intent ostensibly was to bring education down to a level where no one was more successful than anyone else. It was the classic case of making every school child equal, equally limited in education, knowledge and skills.

  24. Arky

    Close the skilled migration scheme too.
    Watch employers start funding scholarships and offering student loans etc etc.
    Want skilled employees? Pay up bastards.

  25. Arky

    My way is the only way here.
    It would strip out all the waste in the system, completely defund the Marxists in the home and is the only way to save the country and rebuild a functioning middle class, with social movement possible through merit.

  26. Arky

    Without all the government funding and bloat, universities would be forced to compete on academic reputation.
    The first thing they would do is institute a rigorous university entrance examination system.
    Without government interference.

  27. Arky

    With universities now forced to have a rigorous academic standard, secondary schools would have to compete on being able to prepare students for the university entrance exams.
    Standards at secondary level would rapidly increase.

  28. Arky

    With an education costing parents upwards of $200 000 those students who have no chance of academic success would quickly be encouraged by parents to enter the workforce.
    Governments would no longer be able to mask underlying unemployment figures with useless warehousing of numpties in useless courses.
    Governments would be forced to adopt sensible immigration, energy and industry policies.

  29. bespoke

    I would add to Arky list an end to all government mandated accreditation and tell industry to sort it own house out.

  30. Turtle of WA

    I know for a fact that student teachers in Universities are being propagandised with the belief that private schools get more money than government schools. This is taught as fact. How are the universities accountable for teaching these lies? (Rhetorical question)

  31. John Stankevicius

    Arky – skilled labour pay up you bastards – this is coming down while low skilled labour is up.
    I am involved in a job at the moment and I cannot emphasise the importance of manufacturing and hands on jobs. The skills through the business are at the highest level and this industry is laughed at by the modern left.
    Kids get expelled get them a job. They grow up fast and stop this garbage I am only 25. In the past 2 years I have met 2 Asian 2nd generationers. Both left school at 15 to help their parents. Both financially independent and working in high skilled areas with no training.

  32. duncanm

    Turtle of WA
    #3038521, posted on June 9, 2019 at 8:25 pm

    I know for a fact that student teachers in Universities are being propagandised with the belief that private schools get more money than government schools. This is taught as fact. How are the universities accountable for teaching these lies? (Rhetorical question)

    What’s more frightening is they typically can’t do 5min of research to disprove this themselves.

    That’s what really scares me… the lack of critical thought or independent verification.

  33. Dr Fred Lenin

    Non state schools may encourage free thinking ,this is actively discouraged in decromatic socialist states ,,people with ideas may embarass the incompetent inadeuate type of people socialist leaders come from they are definately not encouraged to think for themselves ,fifth rate career politicians find this comforting .
    Thinking hurts their tiny brains .

  34. In truth, promoting competition and parental freedom benefits all of us.

    It would, if the private (subsidised) system actually catered for parental choice.
    Unfortunately, the current system doesn’t.
    It doesn’t matter if you can afford the fees, you’ll be lucky to find a private school which will enroll your child if he/she is on the Autism spectrum, has Down Syndrome, or an intellectual impairment.

  35. The Chilean experience of implementing vouchers has been comprehensively evaluated.
    It shows –
    1. All private schools are not created equal, and the provision of vouchers doesn’t change that.
    2. There is no consistent evidence that vouchers lead to gains in academic achievement.
    3. There is not much evidence that the small differences between public and non-religious voucher schools are the result of market competition.
    4. There is consistent evidence that non religious voucher schools produced achievement at lower cost than public schools.
    5. Despite 20 years of voucher reform, public schools are still the only option for a large fraction of primary students, particularly in rural areas.
    6. Competition appears not to have improved the achievement of the poor public school students outside of Santiago.
    In other words, vouchers are probably not the magic bullet, but they might, in the long run, save a few dollars.

    (Citation – Does Privatisation Improve Education? – The Case of Chile’s National Voucher Plan – Martin Carnoy & Patrick J McEwan – Teachers’ College Press, Columbia University, 2003)

    Read if for yourself.

  36. Tel

    The Chilean government claims that their voucher system works, and that the recent expansion of the voucher system (which does involve spending more) has been working even better.

    https://www.weeklystandard.com/dario-paya/an-odd-way-to-discredit-devos

    They probably would say that, I suppose … always difficult to find a source both knowledgeable and unbiased.

    He does provide some empirical support, Chile has shown some improvement in PISA scores (you can search PISA separately) although I can’t find any online scores earlier than year 2000 and their trend of improvement has only been mediocre. In comparison Australia has been trending DOWN in PISA scores (age 15 years mathematics, reading, and science, by All students).

    This statement is the key part from my perspective:

    Then there are the criticisms that are in fact endorsements of the system: The Washington Post article presents as problematic the fact that “since vouchers were introduced, public school enrollment has continued to decline.” You bet. Given a choice and a voucher, people left the public system and stayed away.

    That’s an almost universal feature of voucher systems: the parents vote with their feet and move the kids away from public schools. This must surely be telling you something. The OECD report came up with this conclusion as well, but then downplayed it. To me this says much more than any standardized test scores, although in most cases the privately managed schools do tend to do better than the public when it comes to test scores as well (that’s in the OECD report see “School choice and school vouchers: An OECD perspective, OECD 2017” then go to Figure 4 and of course look at the non-adjusted figures instead of the massaged data … you all knew that.

  37. Tel

    I checked out Martin Carnoy & co with their assessment and they agree that parents voted with their feet moving from public schools to private schools, where they could afford it. They also agree that the private schools get better test score results, but hey they then adjust those results based on “SES” which is their assessment of “Socioeconomic Status”, presumably that means income as far as I can tell. Status could mean a lot of things, but in measurable terms income is more tangible, although claiming that income is equivalent to status sounds “problematic” to me on many levels.

    Anyway, clearly if people know the private schools give better education, and people who can afford it go there then you are adjusting one variable by using another highly correlated dependent variable. Your results will be noise. This is statistics 101, and it’s kind of unforgivable to make that you research methodology. Unless they are claiming that the parents really do most of the teaching, in which case do away with the schools entirely.

  38. max

    School Vouchers: The Double Tax

    Professor Milton Friedman PSEUDO-MARKET SCHEMES

    By failing to demand that parents be the source of funding for their own children’s education, the promoters of the voucher scheme have abdicated their responsibility in extending the principle of voluntarism and its concomitant, personal responsibility.
    In the voucher system, the source of the funding is still the taxation system.
    The financing is based on the principle that it is legitimate to use political power in order to grant benefits to one group at the expense of the other. Money spent by the state can never be on a “no strings attached” basis. There is always more demand for government money than there is money available to meet the demand (unless the purchasing power of government money falls to zero). There is no escape from the rules of bureaucracy in a voucher system.
    If vouchers are to be stopped, they will have to be stopped by parents who recognize the double taxation nature of the voucher scheme. Those who truly want independent schools and are willing to pay for them must not seek after vouchers, for vouchers are the very seal of doom for the independent school system. Pseudo-market schemes generally lead to anti-market results. The opposition to vouchers must be made on principle and in opposition to the superficial logic of the pseudo-market. He who is morally responsible must pay. Abandon this principle, and you abandon your authority as a free man. Good results stem from good principles. Vouchers are an intellectual, moral, and educational disaster. They will not work to expand the realm of freedom.
    https://www.garynorth.com/public/12990.cfm

    Vouchers are a welfare program.
    A voucher system entails the government taxing people and then using the money to provide vouchers to people, which they can then redeem at government-approved private schools.
    Does that sound like a system that is free from government control or interference? In reality, it’s no different in principle from food stamps, farm subsidies, Social Security, or any other welfare-state program. The government is using force to take money from Peter and giving it to Paul. That’s not “free enterprise.” That’s the opposite of free enterprise.
    https://mises.org/blog/milton-friedman-and-conservatives-wrong-education

    Ludwig von Mises: “There is, in fact, only one solution: the state, the government, the laws must not in any way concern themselves with schooling or education. Public funds must not be used for such purposes. The rearing and instruction of youth must be left entirely to parents and to private association and institutions.”

    https://mises.org/library/vouchers-another-income-redistribution-scheme

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