Education – a vehicle for class division

Yesterday I wrote, in part, about the way in which the term long-run is mis-used by the mainstream economists to assert “natural rate” theories, which essentially deny a role for government macroeconomic policy in stabilising the business cycle and reducing mass unemployment. I also get asked by readers (several times now) to provide some discussion of what were known as the Cambridge capital controversies in the 1960s and 1970s. They are related in fact to the notion of the long-run. These were rather esoteric debates which are now largely ignored by the mainstream despite the fact that the results of the debate showed, beyond any shadow of doubt, that the whole body of neo-classical distribution theory (that is, marginal productivity theory) is plain wrong. MPT was developed to justify the claim that capitalism delivers “fair” income distributions because everybody gets back what they put in. The Cambridge debates killed the legitimacy of those claims. But my profession continued oblivious because the results would have meant that a major part of the mainstream apology to capitalism would have to be jettisoned. Who understood the debates anyway? It was easy to just sweep the results under the carpet. I still plan to provide some commentary in this regard as I used to teach a course in capital theory covering these debates. But in thinking about them I started thinking of prior questions which also feed into a policy debate in Australia at present. It relates to educational outcomes and class.

In this blog – I feel good knowing there are libraries full of books – I discussed the neo-liberal attack on higher education with an emphasis on how universities around the world are being squeezed by the managerial bean-counters (in the face of government cutbacks to education) to eliminate liberal arts/humanities curricula.

The assault on higher education is one of the neo-liberal battlefronts that is justified by the erroneous claim that budget austerity is important and quality education should be more market oriented. There are many areas of social policy that are under attack in this way.

What is the motivation for all this? Answer: some would say it is a way of perpetuating class divisions. Then the accusation comes that class is dead. This is one of those claims has gathered pace in the last two decades to accompany the neo-liberal assault on government provision. It is part of the tool-kit the conservatives designed to buttress their crude appropriation of increasing shares of real income. They invented a number of different strands of argument to justify their real income grab which diverted attention of the public away from what was really going on.

Class is dead! I don’t think so.

In this context, I am referring to class in the way, say, Marx does where class is not only a causal historical change agent but also a defining aspect of the way society and the economy that dominates the society is organised. So a non-Weberian terminology! It still matters whether you are without independent access to the means of production.

I also realise that overlaying the capital-worker dichotomy (the possessor/disposessed) is a rich narrative about class which focuses on social positioning and on human capital (that is, what you can sell capital by way of labour services).

The class is dead argument goes that the former conceptualisation of class is now redundant on post industrial capitalism. The argument is often based on the diversification of share ownership – “we are all capitalists now”.

On November 18, 1997 the Sydney Morning Herald editorial pronounced:

We are all capitalists now, with 1.2 million Australians buying about $8 billion of shares in Telstra.

Another example (around the same period) of this “hurry” to declare class dead was this editorial from the right-wing News Limited daily, The Australian newspaper:

… the implications of a shareholding Australia … [will] … be seen by historians as one of the more important sociological developments in Australia in the last decade of the 20th century….[and] … involve repercussions across the life of the nation, touching the future of the trade union movement, the shape of welfarism and even specific policy outcomes on matters such as the care of the aged and the young.

That was comforting! These remarks were all in the context of the conservative Federal governments decision to sell the publicly-owned telecommunications company (and other companies). The then Prime Minister claimed they were creating a “mums and dads capitalism” where class was dead.

As an aside, I had discussions at the time with so-called progressives who actually bought shares. When I was asked whether I would I said “I already own the company, why would I buy shares in a company I already own” (as a public enterprise). The good news is that its share price has systematically fallen in value since it was privatised. So the “mums and dads” lost and the brokers who helped the government sell off the “silver” gained.

The “class is dead” lobby has berated us with the notion that the old concepts of industrial capital and inequalities that arise from unequal access to this capital are no longer relevant or meaningful. Apparently social mobility has expanded and anyone can be successful in the modern post industrial capitalism.

There is no longer a dominant capitalist class. When it is pointed out that inequalities are actually increasing in advanced societies rather than decreasing, the “class is dead” proponents invoke the sort of explanations that mainstream economists use – motivational differences to invest in human capital; differences in native abilities (intelligence etc). None of these explanations bear empirical scrutiny.

In the 1980s we started to read about how new concepts of “citizenship” destroyed the old class boundaries. Accordingly, with increasingly deregulated markets, individuals were now more empowered and free to make choices in their own self interest – the ultimate mainstream economics con job!

The rise of consumerism – the chimera of liberty – gave all of us the power to influence markets and our material outcomes. It was always ignored that consumer sovereignty is about being able to vote and the ballot box only accepts dollars. If you are unemployed, poor or otherwise disadvantaged then your voting capacity may be zero! This sort of argument is relevant to yesterday’s discussion about what constitutes effective demand – notional demands or actual demands (backed with cash).

But the “class is dead” proponents claimed that in the post-industrial era human capital (knowledge) was the dominant force rather than ownership of physical capital. The reality is that the rise of the service sector has been used in most nations to create a new form of dominance in the form of precarious work (underemployment) which has reinforced the power that the “reserve army of unemployed” gave to capitalists in earlier industrial forms of production.

The identity arguments also play in here with post modernist constructions alleging that we are male-female; black-white; hetero-homo; and whatever – before were are worker and capitalist. The claim is that these social divisions are much more important ways of viewing individual choices (married to the consumer sovereignty arguments) than whether you own or do not own productive capital.

Many progressives have fallen prey to this post modern relativism which ends up going nowhere. It is all relative so what! I am not denying the importance of gender or ethnicity or sexuality in understanding social phenomena but I still would argue that location to capital is a basic driver of social dynamics. Just ask the unemployed!

Clearly, these other stratifications have been exploited by the dominant class to divide and conquer any meaningful questioning of who owns capital? How did they get to own it? How do they perpetuate the ownership and advantages that come with that? Is it desirable that they continue to own it? etc.

These are all issues that I am researching for a book project (one of several). I don’t intend to write in depth about them here. The point is that just as the mainstream economists tried to tell us over the last 10 years prior to the crisis that the business cycle was dead – please read The Great Moderation myth for further information – they also were touting the line that class is dead.

Meanwhile they were ensuring that government policy was rapidly reorientated to making sure that the class divisions were working in their favour. A good example of this is in educational policy.

Education (human capital augmentation) plays a crucial role in the mainstream story of “opportunity” and “freedom” and “social mobility”. However, we know that all around the advanced world, the educational system is an integral part of the way in which class is reproduced. The way in which we organise and fund education ensures that disadvantage is perpetuated and a compliant low-skill workforce is reproduced to match the way in which the owners of capital seek to organise and re-organise production.

There is a bevy of empirical evidence across most countries to show that children from the lower echelons of the working class (so low income families) do not benefit from the educational system and instead soon become subjugated by inferior labour market prospects. The disadvantage permeates the generations (their children “inherit” it) and so the “class” system is maintained.

It is a myth that the period of deregulation has meant more equal outcomes driven by individual self interest and increased opportunity. The opposite is the case.

I read a book when I was a post-graduate student by Dutch economist Jan Pen (Income Distribution, 1971, Penguin). I misquoted him last time when I said he wrote that “Parents are advanced secret agents of the class society”. It was from my memory bank. I have now checked the quote (page 405) and it says:

It is a discouraging thought that we have to go back to the pre-school age. The class system uses the parents as advance secret agents. The government can hardly attach to every mother a teacher and a social worker who help from birth to bring up the child. You can just see this couple entering the front door with the message: ‘Madam, scientific research has shown that, thanks to your efforts, your toddler is bound to lag behind irreparably, especially in command of language; this leads to undesirable social stratification and to unacceptable income inequality. That is why we have come to assist you with the child’s upbringing. Kindly step aside, so that my colleague and I can undertake the elimination of class distinctions.’

The quote was in the context of how government educational policy should be tailored and targetted to reduce the perpetuation of disadvantage that is in-built into our educational systems.

The point is that class is embedded from day one and the pre-school kid learns his/her place quickly. Then this conditioning is reinforced by the structure and operation of the education system.

Last time I wrote about educational policy – I feel good knowing there are libraries full of books – I also referred the 1976 book by Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis – Schooling in Capitalist America.

This was a very important book if you are seeking to understand the role of the educational system in the class system. In that book, several propositions were advanced including:

… that schools prepare people for adult work rules, by socializing people to function well, and without complaint, in the hierarchical structure of the modern corporation …

that parental economic status is passed on to children in part by means of unequal educational opportunity, but that the economic advantages of the offspring of higher social status families go considerably beyond the superior education they receive …

the evolution of the modern school system is not accounted for by the gradual perfection of a democratic or pedagogical ideal. Rather, it was the product of a series of conflicts arising through the transformation of the social organization of work and the distribution of its rewards. In this process, the interests of the owners of the leading businesses tended to predominate but were rarely uncontested.

I referred you to their 2001 reflection – Schooling in Capitalist America Revisited – where they summarise their earlier work and consider their current position.

They say – in relation to the motivation in writing the 1976 book:

We were then, and remain, hopeful that education can contribute to a more productive economy and a more equitable sharing of its benefits and burdens, as well as a society in which all are maximally free to pursue their own ends unimpeded by prejudice, lack of opportunity for learning, or material want. Our distress at how woefully the U.S. educational system was then failing these objectives sparked our initial collaboration. Its continuing failure has prompted our recent return to the subject.

Retrospectively, they say that “the statistical claims of the book have held up remarkably well” and that “recent research … has entirely vindicated our once-controversial estimates of high levels of intergenerational persistence of economic status … the unimportance of the heritability of IQ in this process … and the fact that the contribution of schooling to cognitive development plays little part in explaining why those with more schooling have higher earnings “.

They have some reservations about their earlier work particularly with regard to the lack of scope they gave to individual agency. But they note that the book was a captive of the times when socialisation theory (“the notion that schools socialize students to accept beliefs, values, and forms of behavior on the basis of authority rather than the students’ own critical judgement of their interests”) was popular.

They recognise the limitations of this approach but say that further analysis shows that:

First, schools influence which cultural models children are exposed to. Second schools immerse children in a structure of rewards and sanctions … These propositions show the importance of such oblique cultural institutions as schools, which are necessary to stabilize cultural forms, such as the legitimacy of being subservient in the workplace, that benefit one group, in this case employers, at the expense of another, the employees. In light of this result, our analysis of the capital-labor conflicts of the content and form of schooling become understandable without recourse to the theory of socialization as presented in standard sociology.

This work is very interesting and I will discuss it another day. The point is that the schooling system is a central institution in the perpetuation of class divisions that reinforce the capacity of capital to extract increasing real income from the production process at the expense of the working class overall.

As Bowles and Gintis note, you do not have to invoke a deterministic or functionalist argument to make these associations. In fact, the schooling system is faced with “contradictory pressures … particularly those that emanate on the one hand from the labor market, … and the democratic polity …”

In thinking of these contradictions in the context of the Australian educational system the way in which the neo-liberal agenda has unfolded is important. While it is clear that the democratic polity would want public schools to be first-class the demands from the labour market have required different characteristics to be propogated.

The neo-liberals have successfully indoctrinated us to believe that because the government faces a budget constraint tough choices have to be made and privatised education is the best way forward.

The problem is that while we believe the “private provision model” and think it is part of an overall plan to reduce the “budget deficit” few people really know the extent to which the “class is dead” lobby have been successful in appropriating government support for their “private” educational enterprises.

No better example of this is the way that the Australian government has approached educational funding.

Australian educational funding reinforces class

The discussion above is all background to a major debate at present in Australia about education policy – particularly pre-tertiary. Australia has a very curious structure of primary and secondary education. We have public schools accounting for around 70 per cent of all students and then the traditional “private” Catholic schools (typically poor) and then a raft of other “private” elite schools.

That might not sound very strange and you would conclude that such an organisation allows for a wide array of choices where people with means can choose a “private” education but that a public education is available to all. On the face of it that is true. Except then I tell you that the government funding per capita is greater to those in private schools than it is to public school students.

That is the strange and outrageous aspect of our system and government funding has been increasingly skewed towards the best schools where the “bosses kids” attend.

Save our Schools is an Australian lobby group which aims to defend the public schooling system and they have just released a research paper – Closing the Gaps – which provides updated figures on government educational funding in Australia.

The Report says:

Total expenditure per student in government schools in Australia is much lower than in Independent schools and similar to that in Catholic schools. Average total expenditure in Independent schools in 2007-08 was $15,147 per student compared to $10,723 per student in government schools and $10,399 per student in Catholic schools. The average total expenditure for all private schools was $12,303.

Many elite private schools in Australia have total annual resources of between $24,000 and $30,000 per senior secondary student, which is double or more that available to government secondary schools.

They also show that the “gap in total expenditure between government and Independent schools has more than doubled since 1998-99″ and the “expenditure advantage of Independent schools over government schools increased from $1,971 (in current $’s) in 1998-99 to $4,424 per student in 2007-08″.

The Report says:

Many high fee private schools have total expenditure per student which is two to three times that in government schools, yet they receive $2,000-$4,000 per student in Federal Government funding. For example, the most expensive private school in Australia, Geelong Grammar with Year 12 fees of nearly $28,000, will get $3,456 per student in federal funding in 2010. King’s School, one of the most expensive schools in Sydney with Year 12 fees of nearly $25,000, will get $3,211 per student.

In contrast, the additional federal funding to be provided to disadvantaged schools under the Smarter Schools National Partnership program is less than $500 per student. Thus, Federal Government funding for high fee private schools is 4 to 8 times greater than the additional funding provided to disadvantaged schools.

The Report also shows that this data “under-estimate private school expenditure in comparison with government schools” for various reasons (not germane here).

The other important point is that the degree of “education disadvantage is greater in government schools” so they have to stretch their limited resources more broadly.

Public schools are the “main provider for educationally disadvantaged groups” (low income, Indigenous, disabled, provincial and remote/very remote areas). The achievement gaps between these disadvantaged groups and others are very large.

In 2006, 22-23% of low SES students did not achieve international proficiency standards in reading, mathematics and science compared to only 5% of high SES students. On average, low SES 15 year-old students are 2-2½ years behind high SES students. Low SES students enrolled in low SES schools are nearly four years behind students from high income families in high SES schools.

You might ask how the government can justify their policy that funds the private schools more generously per student despite the disadavantage that is clear among the poorer public schools. Answer: class power.

This graph comes from an excellent overview of government educational funding from the Australian Council of Educational Research. The analysis is from 2007 but not much has changed despite the fact that we elected a so-called progressive government in late 2007 to change all this. They have been as bad as the conservatives who ruled from 1996-2007 and dramatically altered the funding landscape in favour of the rich schools.

The report says that the graph:

… shows the extent to which Commonwealth funding has fluctuated over the years between the two sectors, government and non-government. This is per capita funding and not reflective of any enrolment shift between the sectors; it shows the proportion of Commonwealth funds given to each non-government student compared to those given to each government student. What becomes apparent is that the changing level of Commonwealth support for non-government students decreases or plateaus whenever a federal Labour government is in power (1983-96), and increases whenever a Liberal government is in power (1977-83, and 1996-2007).13 One possible conclusion to be drawn is that school funding, at least at the Federal level, is a highly political exercise.

If we extrapolated that out to 2010 the graph would continue rising despite the Labor government now being in power. It reveals the fact that after 20 years of neo-liberal dominance the “progressive” side of politics has moved to right (significantly) and now act as the conservatives used to act.

The Save our Schools Report says:

Australian government funding policies have favoured privilege over disadvantage for the last decade. Despite the higher level of education disadvantage in government schools, the largest percentage increases in government funding (federal, state and territory) have gone to private schools. Schools serving the wealthiest families in Australia continue to receive large and increasing amounts of government funding …

Supporting privilege is seen by governments as more important than eliminating disadvantage and inequity in education. It is a policy which extends the advantages obtained from a wealthy background rather than reducing them. It effectively places more value on enriching the lives of those from privileged backgrounds than those who are not as well favoured in society.

So it is the same the world over and the findings that Bowles and Gintis provided in Schooling in Capitalist America hold up well.

There is also a close relationship between the wealthiest families and the control of the means of production. It is no coincidence.

As an aside, the deficit terrorists continually push the longer-term arguments that the ageing population will deliver unsustainable budget pressures on the federal government. It is the same claim that are being used to attack the US social security system. As regular readers will appreciate there is no financial basis for the argument.

The national government will always be able to pay pensions and provide first-class health care if there are real resources available. The national government can always buy anything that is available for sale in its own currency.

But what is truly ironic is that the availability of increased real goods and services will be influenced by the dependency ratios.

In this blog – Another intergenerational report – another waste of time – I discuss dependency ratios.

The only reliable measure is the so-called effective dependency ratio which is the ratio of economically active workers to inactive persons, where activity is defined in relation to paid work. Ignoring the biased of neglecting home work etc, the effective dependency ratio recognises that not everyone of working age (15-64 or whatever) are actually producing. There are many people in this age group who are also “dependent”. For example, full-time students, house parents, sick or disabled, the hidden unemployed, and early retirees fit this description.

The unemployed and the underemployed should also be included in this category although the statistician counts them as being economically active.

If we then consider the way the neo-liberal era has allowed mass unemployment to persist and rising underemployment to occur you get a different picture of the dependency ratios.

But also by running an educational policy that deliberately under-funds schools which try to educate children from low socio-economic backgrounds is also reducing the potential productivity of the population and placing more pressure on the system to provide real goods and services to an increasing proportion of “unproductive” retirees.

Not allowing all citizens to reach their potential will be the true source of future angst.

The Save our Schools Report says:

These large achievement gaps are a grave social injustice and a waste of talents and resources. They curb productivity growth and lead to higher expenditure on health, welfare and crime. Closing the gaps is the major challenge and priority for Australian governments. Low SES, Indigenous, and provincial and remote area students should achieve similar outcomes to students from high SES families.

The idea that it is necessary for a sovereign government to stockpile financial resources now to ensure it can provide services required for an ageing population in the years to come has no application. It is not only invalid to construct the problem as one being the subject of a financial constraint but even if such a stockpile was successfully stored away in a vault somewhere there would be still no guarantee that there would be available real resources in the future.

The best thing to do now is to maximise incomes in the economy by ensuring there is full employment and every citizen can maximise their productive potential. This requires a vastly different approach to fiscal and monetary policy than is currently being practised and a vastly different approach to education policy.

Long-run economic growth that is also environmentally sustainable will be the single most important determinant of sustaining real goods and services for the population in the future. Principal determinants of long-term growth include the quality and quantity of capital (which increases productivity and allows for higher incomes to be paid) that workers operate with.

Strong investment underpins capital formation and depends on the amount of real GDP that is privately saved and ploughed back into infrastructure and capital equipment. Public investment is very significant in establishing complementary infrastructure upon which private investment can deliver returns. A policy environment that stimulates high levels of real capital formation in both the public and private sectors will engender strong economic growth.

If we adequately fund our public schools to create highly productive individuals and fund out universities to conduct more research this will help reduce the real resource costs of health care in the future and further improve labour productivity of the workforce. Then the real burden on the economy will not be anything like the scenarios being outlined in the “doomsday” reports. But then these reports are really just smokescreens to justify the neo-liberal pursuit of budget surpluses.

The irony is that the pursuit of budget austerity leads governments to target public education almost universally as one of the first expenditures that are reduced.

Please read my blogs – The US should have universal public health careAnother intergenerational report – another waste of timeThe myths of the ageing society debate – for more discussion on this point.

MySchool.edu.au

The Australian Government has recently introduced a new statistical database – MySchool.edu.au. The government says that MySchool Home Page:

… provides profiles of almost 10,000 Australian schools that can be searched by the school’s location, sector or name. The website provides statistical and contextual information, as well as NAPLAN … results that can be compared with results from statistically similar schools across Australia.

The MySchool site is designed to provide comparisons between schools “using nationally consistent indicators” so that students can seek out “high-performing schools”. The logic is that the WWW site will enhance individual choice and place “market pressure” on schools to perform more effectively.

The initiative has been severely criticised by various vested interests (as measuring things badly; creating unsustainable “league ladders”; etc). I won’t buy into those debates here. In response to the criticisms of the Mark 1 version of MySchool the Government has made some changes, especially in the way it assesses social disadvantage. The newly launched WWW site now assesses disadvantage on the basis of actual enrolments rather than average census district characteristics (I will explain this).

The NAPLAN is the “National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy” tests which is the government’s attempt to introduce national benchmarks via uniform tests of reading, writing, language conventions, and numeracy.

The aim is to develop prediction models to forecast outcomes from the NAPLAN tests which are then used to benchmark and compare schools.

Today’s Sydney Morning Herald article (November 23, 2010) – Index reveals link between poverty and performance – reports that:

THE relationship between student performance and social disadvantage is more closely linked than thought in Australia … The national curriculum authority confirmed yesterday that a preliminary analysis of the index of disadvantage showed this year’s scores of disadvantage “are even more highly correlated with student and school achievement on NAPLAN tests”.

The government has also changed the way they assess social disadvantage. Previously it used average characteristics of areas where the students of a school lived which were derived from census data to derive an index of disadvantage. This created terrible anomalies which were skewed in favour of the rich elite schools.

The new index – Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA) – uses actual enrolment data (that is, the actual characteristics of the families etc) and the result is that scores for many public schools are now lower than previously depicted in the Mark 1 version of the project.

Conversely, the scores for most private schools have risen sharply because the index for schools in a local area no longer assumes that all schools (public/private; rich/poor) draw from the same local community.

The analysis of the relationship between ICSEA score and student performance has exposed the fact that there is:

… gross inequity in the Australian education system. Social advantage continues to be the greatest determiner of a child’s performance at school in this country, more so than many other developed nations.

The following graphic is taken from the Government’s Report on the development of the ICSEA. It speaks for itself. Inequality is alive and well in Australia and being perpetuated by the education system.

Of-course, this change in index has caused a major uproar in the last few days. Who do you think are complaining the most? Answer: the rich elite schools.

Why? Because when the funding models are changed the government will be pressured by the public debate into using the new ICSEA index as the basis of their funding model and the rich elite schools will lose millions of public funding.

This Sydney Morning Herald article (November 23, 2010) – Why are private schools afraid? provides more explanation.

It says that:

Independent schools are screaming the loudest about changes in the way their level of social advantage is measured. And you have to ask why … Perhaps some private schools fear they may lose funding if their true level of social disadvantage is revealed.

The reality is that the Federal government has based its funding formula on the “similar census district measure” to provide public resources to private schools and as I noted above the latter have done very well.

We have seen gross anomalies where the wealthiest boarding schools have received huge public handouts because they have been classified as serving areas of low socio-economic advantage, under the census district formula that is now being scrapped.

As an example:

The use of census district data has meant that wealthy students living in poor areas have attracted inflated levels of funding. Farming families located in poor country areas typically attend city boarding schools. The school’s funding reflects the level of disadvantage in the area in which the student lives. It does not reflect the wealth and social capital of the individual student’s family.

The new ICSEA measure will more realistically reflect social disadvantage and the rich schools will lose funding (as they should).

The irony of the public debate – conditioned by the neo-liberal claims that the Government can no longer afford to fund education as generously because it must run budget surpluses (etc etc) is that the ICSEA and NAPLAN analysis shows that the very wealthy schools do the best. So how can we continue to justify the fact that federal government spending favours the richest schools?

To understand that anomaly you have to introduce class! We will see how the “progressive” Australian government resists the “bosses lobby” in the coming years and rejigs the funding system towards a more equitable position. Don’t hold your breath – the class system is still very much alive in Australia.

Conclusion

A different sort of blog today but they are all inter-related. The justification for the Government’s actions with respect to educational funding has been that it is severely constrained in a financial sense and has to prioritise more carefully. The result has been the public education system has been starved of adequate funding while the class-dominated lobby has commanded a greater per capita funding for the elite schools.

The reduction in resources for the public schools, which provide education to the vast majority of children and almost all those from disadvantaged backgrounds has compromised the public system badly. The strain on the public system has been exacerbated by the actions of so-called progressives who have consistently taken their children out of the public school system.

These “progressives” (the Chardonnay socialists!) decry the lack of resources in the public system and send their children to private schools and thereby abandon their “educated” voice as a means to pressure the government to abandon the state aid for private education. In doing so the high income occupations become agents for capital and reinforce the basic class divisions that underpin our society.

I would be interested in commentary from other countries by comparison. Over to you on that front!

Anyway, all this discussion was all part of the journey being taken as I introduce the Cambridge controversies in capital theory in case you didn’t realise. That story is coming as soon as I can work out how to translate all the mathematical notes I have on the topic into a plain and simple narrative. Not easy in fact.

Tomorrow I am travelling and a guest blog from Victor Quirk is in the offing.

That is enough for today!

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37 Responses to Education – a vehicle for class division

  1. Andrew Wilkins says:

    Capitalism rewards success with greater opportunity.

    That’s why I’ve worked hard to get ahead and I hope to buy a faster pair of shoes for my kids. Guilty as charged your honour.

    It’s important to take a harder look at the handicapping system. The weight needs to increase the faster a person runs.

    I’m willing to accept an extra burden if I can put a reasonable load on the jet powered billionaires.

  2. ds says:

    The latest education fad in America is the Charter School. This is an attempt to apply a market model to public schools — rewarding schools which succeed and punishing those who fail — that has support from a broad-based coalition of pro-business conservatives and the “Chardonnay socialists” of the left that you mention in your post. The first step in the plan has been to subject neighborhood schools to performance tests. Schools must now demonstrate improvements in standardized test scores — if they fail to do so the school is placed on probation and can be shut down.

    The second part of the plan involves the concept of the “Charter School”. Under the Charter School system, essentially anyone can open up a school which operates in the public school system. Charter school operators are typically charitable foundations, and there are some for-profit operators as well. The government pays a fixed amount per-student to the charter school, and the school has more or less complete freedom to set the educational curriculum. The school is then held the same performance standards as the traditional public school — if they do not improve standardized test scores their funding is cut off and they are shut down.

    Unlike in the neighborhood schools, teachers in charter schools are non-unionized. Teachers in charter schools are typically much younger and lower-paid than their unionized counterparts, although some charter schools will pay high salaries to certain teachers as a way of attracting ‘talent’.

    So as you can see, the idea is to create a market-model of education. Like the neo-classical concept of prices in an economy, both enrollment and standardized test scores are designed to serve as the rationing mechanism in the educational system. So if you are running a charter school, you will succeed (and make money) if you can attract a lot of students and improve their test scores — and if you can’t then you fail.

    This concept has been given a big push by the Obama Administration with the ‘Race to the Top’ initiative which has conditioned some federal education aid to the willingness of states and localities to embrace the charter school concept.

    Probably none of this will generate any positive improvements in terms of educational achievement. If anything its most lasting effect will be to weaken the teachers unions, putting pressure on their pay and benefits in addition to reducing the job security public school teachers enjoy.

    Thanks a lot for the interesting post!

  3. Andrew Wilkins says:

    Bill argues that state education should NOT be denied resources to favour elite private schools and create class division. I agree, he is correct. In theory every child should be presented with equal educational opportunity. However, I do find it hard to argue against the need for private education which does engender some inevitable inequality.

    In one extreme we could force all the children into a state system with equal opportunity presented to each child. But where does that leave a parent with the resources and desire to further the childs education beyond the limitations of the state system?

    Granted there will be another parent whose resources do not match the desire to further their childs education. There should be avenue for state education to match the best in private education. That was the intention of the grammar system in the UK. I heard there are good grammar schools in Australia (maybe they are privatised now).

    Grammar schools do open the door for high academic achievers. The key selling point for private schools, is they provide a better than average opportunity for average children. Hard to reconcile that with an equal opportunity state system based on merit. There will always be a section of the population willing to put whatever resources they have into improving their childs lot through private means.

    To quote Alexander Berkman:

    “ equality does not mean an equal amount but equal opportunity… Do not make the mistake of identifying equality in liberty with the forced equality of the convict camp. True anarchist equality implies freedom, not quantity. It does not mean that every one must eat, drink, or wear the same things, do the same work, or live in the same manner. Far from it: the very reverse in fact… Individual needs and tastes differ, as appetites differ. It is equal opportunity to satisfy them that constitutes true equality… Far from levelling, such equality opens the door for the greatest possible variety of activity and development. For human character is diverse.”

  4. @Andrew Wilkins, Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 20:50: However, I do find it hard to argue against the need for private education

    That statement is perplexing. Why would there be a need for private education from the government’s point of view?

    As somebody with a quite liberal attitude I would say this: Surely, if parents are hell-bent to send their kids to private schools, they should be allowed to do that as long as those schools meet some minimum standards. However, it is not the government’s business to provide funding to those schools! If parents want private market forces in their children’s education, then they should be able to provide that under private market pressures, and if it becomes too expensive for them, that is not the government’s problem.

    Let the government fund public schools, and let private parties fund private schools. That would be only fair.

  5. Stephan says:

    I think the German education system is even worse in regard to class reproduction. I’m right now on the look out for a secondary school for my son and have the “pleasure” of seeing a broken system with my own eyes. 5 minutes in a school intro evening for parents are enough to judge what kids from what socio-economic strata attend this school.

    The main problem is the early separation of kids into a three-tier school system. After 4 years primary school the kids are given a binding recommendation for secondary school. Which means most disadvantaged attend tier-1 (Hauptschule) and most privileged kids attend tier-3 (Gymnasium). In Germany your class membership starts with ten years.

    Hamburg made a bold move and started the initiative “One School for All”. The result: ferocious class warfare from the upper echelons of Hamburgs citizens. They started an “Anti One School” citizen initiative and collected 276.304 votes. Enough to revoke the law and for the Senator to step down. So much for the argument “class is dead”.

    Now in regard to the school choice for my son I plead guilty of “Chardonnay Socialism”.

  6. Ray says:

    Andrew Wilkins says:
    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 18:17
    “It’s important to take a harder look at the handicapping system. The weight needs to increase the faster a person runs.
    I’m willing to accept an extra burden if I can put a reasonable load on the jet powered billionaires.”

    AW, we do. UK, US and Australian personal tax is progressive. The more you earn the higher percentage you pay. The higher the ticket of your new home the higher the percentage of stamp duty. The more you have to spend the more GST you pay also.
    And the higher income earners get to subsidise the health system due to the flat medicare levy. Earn a million bucks and you pay 15 grand to subsidise 10 others.

    I have no issues funding education and health as there are plenty of society benefits which I enjoy however the system is working just fine in taxing the successful in multiples of those less well off.

  7. Sergei says:

    The problem with “one school for all” (which is also a running experiment in Austria) is that teaching standards/efforts are notched down to target the average disadvantaged student. This runs at the expense of more “advantaged” students which in turn drags future productivity with it.

    Soviet Union schooling system had “one school for all” which in my opinion was neither good nor bad but it was accompanied by extremely strong social and government pressure on clearly “lagging” parents. School is the wrong place/tool to fix social problems and your quote of Jan Pen fits nicely in this sense.

  8. Ray says:

    “These “progressives” (the Chardonnay socialists!) decry the lack of resources in the public system and send their children to private schools and thereby abandon their “educated” voice as a means to pressure the government to abandon the state aid for private education.”

    This argument is old and been refuted many times. Shouldn’t the public system be happy that people put their kids into private schools and therefore relieve pressure on scarce resources? How would the public system cope if everyone suddenly decided to enjoy free education and go public?

    I really doubt the power of the ‘progressives’ in swaying government policy because when in power all governments understand explicitly the final point I make above.
    Do private schools get too much funding? Maybe, but that is the issue which is always under discussion.

    I suspect when these arguments come up there is a fair share of envy syndrome that occurs from those in the public system of their private counterparts with regards salary and conditions.

  9. Sergei says:

    Ray, how much tax do banks pay compared to a middle-income earner? As a middle-income earner, how can I get to 20% return (savings) on my investments (time)? And why are corporates allowed to tax-deduct any interest costs while I pay tax on interest gains I get from my miserable savings? Otherwise the progressive tax system works just fine and I also have no issues to fund education and health-care. Just would expect slightly more even bill between myself and “possessors”.

  10. Stephan says:

    @Sergei
    “The problem with “one school for all” (which is also a running experiment in Austria) is that teaching standards/efforts are notched down to target the average disadvantaged student.”

    Wrong. Everybody is looking with envy to Finland because of PISA, … Finland is the benchmark. In Finland primary schooling is “one school for all” and kids attend this school for 9 years. Given the results I would immediately trade the botched education system of Austria/Germany with Finlands system.

  11. VJK says:

    Sergei:

    Soviet Union schooling system had “one school for all” which in my opinion was neither good nor bad but it was accompanied by extremely strong social and government pressure on clearly “lagging” parents.

    It is not what my numerous friends and acquaintances from the former Soviet Union invariably tell me. According to them, the uniform school system is what the miss most, and they find the Canadian and American primary through secondary school systems sorely inadequate, especially in sciences and math. Lack of uniformity is their most frequent complaint, and choosing a “good” school, in their new countries, is a challenge both logistically and financially.

  12. Sergei says:

    Stephan, I do not know about Finland and maybe it has a superb system. What I wanted to say is that kids in schools compete with each other. What they choose to compete for defines the output/quality of education regardless of the actual system in place. Choices of kids will be driven by unconscious desires of values/things they adopt from their parents/society. So in our consumeristic society kids compete in consumption: of brute force, of iphones, of facebook friends, noble hobbies and so on. The layered system of schooling naturally allows for segregation of iphones versus classical music. If Finland is successful in steering and instilling “proper” desires then I am glad for them. But just copying-pasting any schooling system from a “successful” country will not do the trick. One has to address the real cause which is *not* the type of schooling system. That is the reason why I said that extremely strong social and public pressure on bad parents and general information flow was instrumental for the quality of schooling in Soviet Union. Not the fact that it was “one school for all” which was a simple consequence of ideology rather then any deep analysis. Please note that I do not defend any system but rather state the facts the way I see them. And I admit a high probability of being plain wrong.

    VJK, the problem is actually in the old mentality of parents which grew up in the different schooling system and have difficulties understanding new “layered” system of western countries. We had the same difficulties (in Austria) and still have no real clue about ways-in and ways-out. We rather rely on opinions of local friends which are based on our input about what we want. And since we obviously have friends of the same layer of society our aspirations in terms of education for kids are not much different from theirs.

  13. Oliver says:

    From what I hear and see (I am no expert, have no children and went to school in another country), the Swiss state actually provides fairly decent schooling to everybody at most levels and in most places. A quick search on the internet brought forth some distinctly Swiss features that may be of interest:

    Being a Federation State, there are actually 26 different school systems in the country. Schooling is free and public universities are highly subsidised in all of them (I paid the equivalent of ca. US$ 500 per term for visiting the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology).

    Switzerland has less pupils in private schools than most OECD countries (5%). Switzerland is one of the few OECD countries in which public school pupils score higher than those from privates schools.

    I found the follwing information about the Kanton of Zurich:

    There is no free choice of primary schools within the public sector. Based on an originally egalitarian principle, children are allocated to the school nearest to where they live. Primary schools are funded by the communities (lowest level of public organisation) but the Kanton subsidises them according to the financial means of the community. The funding amounts to between 3% and 75% of schools costs from wealthy to poor communities respectively. Teachers’ wages are set by the Kanton and, as far as I can tell, are a lot higher than in most other countries. It actually pays being a teacher here (unlike in the UK for example).

    There are similar regulations in place for public secondary schools. Communities with more pupils that move on to secondary education, pay more to fund secondary schools that are run by the Kantons. Kantons without universities pay fees propotional to the amount of students they send to Kantons that run universities, etc. So there is an intricate system of cross subsidies to level disparities between poorer and richer communities and between political entities.

    Private schools are not subsidised.

    From personal experiance / debate / the media:
    Free choice of primary schooling is being debated and there are arguments in favour of it, I would say, as the current system actually encourages ghettoisation. Parents with similar social backgrounds as myself typically move away from where I live in Zurich to more posh or rural parts just to make sure their kids don’t have to share the classroom with too many foreigners, of which there are many (above 50% in some areas). Not that that has any statistical effect on the performance of their kids, but xenophobia and over-protection are hard to beat with rational arguments. From listening to the Mrs., who deals with such issues professionally, I can say that of two children with different backgrounds who go to the same class in the same school, it is statistically still the one from the better educated or wealthier family who will be more successful later on in life. But that’s another issue.

    Conclusion: the inertia that is Swiss direct democracy has managed to salvage some positive features of the education system through the neoliberal era. Bizarrities are mostly products of Swiss Federalism. I hope for my potential kiddies that it stays that way.

    source: http://www.iew.uzh.ch/study/courses/ss04/265/…/Schulkosten.pdf (in German)

  14. Min says:

    ds: “The {charter} school is then held the same performance standards as the traditional public school — if they do not improve standardized test scores their funding is cut off and they are shut down.”

    In practice, the charter school is not held to the same standard as public schools. It does not have to retain poorly performing students.

  15. Stephan says:

    @Sergei
    This claim something is wrong with the next generation is age old. I don’t subscribe to this sort of cultural conservatism. Granted schools are not the perfect way to address general societal problems but they can ameliorate eventual societal failures. The school of my son encourages parents to hold afternoon classes on any subject they deem worthwhile. I thought OK let’s give it a try and see how I’m doing as a teacher. I offered a class in robotics as I’m the proud owner of two Lego Mindstorm robots. The teachers assigned some kids with migration background (Turkey, Russia, Bosnia) to the class. No difference. Marshall proper resources and the kids will engage intellectually.

    Eventually I learned a lot. About the background of these kids. Everything Bill desperately rants about in his blog looks very different if you hear it from 10 year olds. But for sure these kids will end up in Hauptschule, which is nowadays nothing more than a custody for kids until they are legally entitled to precarious jobs or unemployment. This school tier-system is a social disaster. This is also my take on the very laudable speech of the Turkish ambassador to Austria (me applauding him!!!). My translation: What kind of people are you? You lament lacking integration? And then you create ghettos? The educational system in Austria/German is an intellectual ghetto for migrants and socially disadvantaged.

  16. Ray says:

    Sergei says:
    Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 0:16
    “Ray, how much tax do banks pay compared to a middle-income earner? As a middle-income earner, how can I get to 20% return (savings) on my investments (time)?”

    Sergei, this is the point I have made many times before. Governments (of all sides) have created a system permitting the ability for corporates to minimise tax to the point where they pay way below their fair share while the PAYG system crushes the successful.
    If either group illegally rort the system then they should be severely dealt with (Operation Wickenby is an attempt to bring some rorting personal taxpayers down, with limited success).

    A little more political will resulting from protests within the electorate would close many of these loopholes and be more productive rather than just hearing the usual moaning from some that ‘all banks rort the system’ and the ‘wealthy pay no tax’.
    I know I’ve paid more tax in my time than the gdp of some small countries and I’m not trying to boast either. It gets my hackles up when I hear of certain very wealthy people too greedy to do their fair share.

  17. Gary says:

    @Sergei,

    I agree that it would be difficult to copy and paste Soviet school system to a capitalist country (like US) – because Soviet society was much more egalitarian than capitalist one. However, that would still be a just thing to do.
    “Proper” desires have nothing to do with it. Of course – society’s problems are reflected in the relationships between kids – but shared school system also has a fraternizing effect on the children and they would be more civil to people of other social classes. Some of it would remain into adult life as well.

    @Andrew
    I understand the wish to use personal wealth to give advantage to your own child – but the way I view it – the child would be way happier living in a happier and more equal society than in a deeply divided and hate filled one.

    IMO – US society would be way healthier if there was one uniform school system publicly funded and allocated funds by number of students. Instead of current system that varies a lot from location to location (when funded by local taxes) and even more when school is private (not even talking about ideology driven education here – evolution deniers and so on)

  18. Gamma says:

    “Except then I tell you that the government funding per capita is greater to those in private schools than it is to public school students.”

    The report you have quoted does not make this point clear. It states that “total expenditure” per student is greater in private schools than in public schools. Can you confirm that it is actually referring to “total government expenditure”, as you are suggesting?

    Because it is possible that the figures for “total expenditure” include expenditure from all sources, including private school fees.

    I would be extremely surprised if government funding per student were higher in private schools than public schools. It would be astounding if that were true.

  19. Andrew Wilkins says:

    Ray,

    My point about the handicapping system is that income tax increases in brackets up to the top tier rate. Say 40% at 200K and above. Thereafter it flattens, I think this is wrong. It should continue to increase at the higher levels and reduce at lower levels.

    I am taking a pot shot at people who’s annual income exceeds $1+ million. These mega millionaires have a relative tax burden similar to a high level salaried manager. That’s hardly equitable, their income tax rate should increase to 50%, 60%, 70% and beyond. Most of us would prefer a more egalitarian society. We are told we have a society based on equal opportunity and merit. Hardly stands up to the facts does it?

    In the capatilist system, multi millionaires have the lions share of opportunity and a gentle tax burden. It is near impossible for others to catch up as income and opportunity exponentially increases in the top percentiles. They rarely even pay tax at the top rate as they pay lawyers to help them avoid taxes.

    Most billionaires have a monolopy with either: Unique IP, a huge capital barrier to entry or massive capital leverage to ward off or buy competitors. Most of them have intergenerational wealth. Once in a while a few new markets open up (e.g. the internet). The game of monopoly quickly plays out and voila there are a few new billionaires. Don’t expect to see any new billionaires in the search engine business for a few decades. Who is going to create a new worldwide supermarket business from scratch and topple Wallmart in their lifetime? What are the odds?

  20. Ray says:

    AW, some fair points, especially about inherited wealth and maybe some form of death duty is fair business. Nothing worse than some dumbass who never had an original thought or hard day’s work sitting on a billion.
    I don’t agree for the guy earning a million a year. He pays maybe $440k a year in tax which accounts for the taxes of maybe 30 average income earners. How is that unfair to the populace? There is a duty on our politicians to legislate against tax cheating and our courts to prosecute. You are again generalising in saying most are cheats.

    Why exactly does everyone have to earn the same in your view? You get people who are a lot smarter and innovative than others so why tax the crap out of these guys so others get a free ride? There are plenty of dot com stories of uni dropouts becoming world beaters. There will be new opportunities that arise all over the place for those willing to take a risk and put their own capital at risk. Maybe you are not one of those people (this is not an insult) and you seem very vindictive about those who succeed.
    The high profile cheats dominate the press and unfortunately the general population think all people in similar positions are cheats. I wonder what percentage of taxi drivers and tradesmen are tax cheats by not passing on GST to the Govt? 90pc maybe? Don’t you think this is hypocritical when you think how many of those people there are multiplied by the amount they rort individually?

  21. RSJ says:

    “My point about the handicapping system is that income tax increases in brackets up to the top tier rate. Say 40% at 200K and above. Thereafter it flattens, I think this is wrong. It should continue to increase at the higher levels and reduce at lower levels.”

    Excellent point. The rate should go higher than 90%. It did in the past, and we had a better, healthier economy as result. We were more productive, with lower levels of unemployment, and much closer to operating at full capacity. We also had much lower deficits, obviously, and the government supplied us with better public goods and at lower cost.

    People under-estimate the damage that windfall seeking does to an economy. The current financial crisis is a good example. At some point, whatever incentives there are for “working harder” get dwarfed by the incentives to obtain short-term gains at the expense of undermining long term productivity. In that case, we could do with a lot less “hard work” and a lot more equity.

  22. Ray says:

    RSJ says:
    Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 15:04
    “Excellent point. The rate should go higher than 90%. It did in the past, and we had a better, healthier economy as result. We were more productive, with lower levels of unemployment, and much closer to operating at full capacity. We also had much lower deficits, obviously, and the government supplied us with better public goods and at lower cost.”

    Where is the data to support this? How can you honestly think productivity was higher in the 40s or 50s or whenever ‘then’ was? We also had conscription, longer work weeks, smoking in the workplace and a much lower selection of goods and services.

    We are living in the post-GFC so you think the end of the world was nigh but I bet people have felt that over dozens of times since the Great Depression. Always easy to claim ‘things aren’t as good as they were’ without supporting the claims.

  23. Sassi says:

    I agree, but the disadvantage in education extends beyond primary and high school. Look at tertiary education!, students now have a student learning entitlement which will limit the number of years a student can study under a commonwealth supported place, which means once this time is up they must become full-fee paying. This means that low income students will not be able to afford to do professional degrees that require longer at University; such as Engineering and Medicine. The division that exists between a students ability to gain access to certain courses at University remains very evident, and the student from a disadvantaged school is further disadvanted at University because they have not gained the knowledge at school required to complete the courses that depend heavily on knowledge from school.

  24. Matt says:

    If you are interested in the Finnish education system so please find a brief comparison below:

    http://www.minedu.fi/export/sites/default/OPM/Julkaisut/2009/liitteet/pol0209.pdf?lang=en

    And more publications, among which the most important ones are also available in English:

    http://www.minedu.fi/OPM/Julkaisut/?lang=en

  25. Gary says:

    @Ray,

    what is productivity? It is output divided by input. Modern productivity is minimizing input to still produce the same. Who wins from that? Definitely not “input” producers. Output owners win. So it is only fair that they would share what is earned – especially so that it is earned at the expense of others.

    It is all fine when smart guy becomes “successful” – but after that the reasonable limit is quickly reached what to do with the money that he gets. While others that are enabling his success get close to nothing (otherwise where will productivity come from?).

    So larger taxes on big incomes is a reasonable thing, I think. Successful guy still gets more than enough to reward him.
    You see what happens when they get too much. Excess money are just floating around the world wreaking havoc – while sizable proportion of population starves.

  26. RSJ says:

    Ray,

    Yes, for any period in the past, we were less productive in terms of the level of productivity and we had less output in terms of the level of output.

    That is a vacuous observation.

    What you want to look at is the growth rate of productivity and GDP, not the level. The level will pretty much always go up across time due to technology, but the growth rate is what you care about in terms of determining whether one regulatory/taxation environment is better for the economy than another.

    Here, I’ve put together some data on the growth rate of output, productivity and other factors, so you can determine for yourself whether a high tax environment encourages or discourages growth, productivity, employment, and income growth, etc.

    That is not to say that socially we were better off — i.e. smoking in the workplace and discrimination, etc. But seriously, those things are economic headwinds, so the fact that we had more economic growth even though we were hampered by discrimination and other obstacles tells you how much better the high tax regime was than our current regime.

  27. RSJ says:

    …And in response to Bill, here is data on marginal tax rates, deficits, and unemployment. We had lower unemployment with lower deficits (but higher marginal rates). There are two ways to skin the demand cat — one is to add demand from outside the system, and the other is to prevent the system from leaking so much demand in the first place.

    Also note the “bubble” occurring in the late Clinton/Early Bush era, which to my mind was due to the current account. The flood of cheap intermediate inputs from China allowed an ephemeral productivity boost on the part of U.S. business, which was of course funded by household debt growth.

  28. Andrew Wilkins says:

    The root cause of our current economic and societal ailment is becoming more and more obvious.

    Income inequality.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gini_since_WWII.svg

    The Gini coefficient (which measures income dispersion) clearly shows the trend. The neo-liberal heartland of the US and UK have been trending in the wrong direction since 1980, which concurs with my intuitive sense of when the wheels started falling off.

    Although the last few years are missing it shows France has made great improvement, no wonder they sniff a rat with Sarkosy. Germans, Japanese and Aussies seem to be plotting a steady course.

    My personal view is that ever increasing profits feed directly into dormant savings account of the wealthy. Not sure if I’m using the right economic terms, but it creates an ever greater drag on aggregate demand reducing the velocity of money.

    Solution: More aggressive progressive taxation. Increase demand at the low end of town. Worlds problems solved. QED.

  29. Neil Wilson says:

    The solution is a ‘bubble up’ economy now that we have conclusively proved a ‘trickle down’ one doesn’t work. I have no problem with people getting stinking rich, as long as they do that by pulling people out of relative poverty, not pushing them back into it.

  30. Andrew Wikins says:

    Where does critical thinking go whenever the subject of wealth tax or redistribution of wealth crop up. I’m moving beyond the stale libertarian ideology and illusion of equal opportunity that has been hammered into me since birth. I can have a serious problem with people getting stinking rich, depending on the circumstances.

    It’s a matter of degree how much wealth in the hands of an individual is seriously detrimental to the opportunities of others in society.

    To what degree should individuals be allowed to profit from the legal protection afforded to them for intellectual property?

    Business wealth is built leveraged on the work of the employees. To what extent should the owners and capitalists be allowed to exploit the efforts of labour. What fundamental moral rights do they have?

    Gambling wealth? I’m kind of ambivalent to if no cheating is involved. Winners and losers. Gambling causes great social distress and should be controlled.

    Rich getting richer and poor getting poorer is one problem.

    Power accumulation in the hands of ultra wealthy is another problem.

  31. Tom Hickey says:

    Andrew Wilkins @ 19:38

    According to Michael Hudson, the problem stems chiefly from economic rent-seeking, and yes, Thatcher-Reagan was the onset in force of the massive deregulation, lax oversight and regulatory capture that led to it.

    Schemes of the Rich and Greedy

  32. Malcolm says:

    Bill, I think it’s incorrect to describe the Australian situation as “[a] policy that funds the private schools more generously per student [than public schools]“, even if the level of government support to rich private schools is (in my opinion) scandalous.

    As far as I can tell from reading the “Closing the Gaps” report, the expenditure figures of ~$10k per student for public schools and ~$12k per student for private schools, refers to *total* expenditure by the schools/education system and includes the schools’ private incomes. According to the “National Report on Schooling in Australia” (which is the source of the figures in “Closing the Gaps”), the level of per capita total government support for the three types of schools is: Catholic, $7685; Independent, $6288; Public, $12639

    Also confusing the issue is the fact that most public education funding in Australia is through the States. On the other hand, Commonwealth education funding does go mostly to private schools.

    Of course, the fact that students in private schools have more resources at their disposal than public schools remains a problem for all the reasons you describe.

  33. Dave says:

    “government funding per capita is greater to those in private schools than it is to public school students.”

    You missed the state government funding, simplified break down below.

    Cost of Public school kid: $10,723 state gov, $0 federal gov
    Cost of Private school kid: $0 state gov, $$4,424 federal gov

    The government saves 6 grand for every student that goes to a private school essentially halving their costs.

    It does not take a PhD in economics to work out why that is attractive.

    I am not saying private/public schooling is good or bad but I cannot understand how you can have a conversation about it without bringing up this simple point.

  34. bill says:

    Dear Dave (at 2010/12/01 at 15:37)

    You said:

    You missed the state government funding

    No I didn’t – I just chose to ignore it. I was wanting to focus on the federal contribution and the question remains – why does the Federal Government provide any funding to private education much less the unequal funding?

    best wishes
    bill

  35. Jon says:

    The last time I looked at the statistics was for Victoria and old data at that.
    20% of private school students came from low socioeconomic backgrounds….20% did not go to university.
    60% of state school students came from low socioeconomic backgrounds ….60% did not go on to university.
    State school graduates tended to outperform private school students at university.
    The 40% of state school students at university far outnumbered private school students…makes sense… 40% of a greater total.

    Conclusions…there is no higher education advantage to either a state or private education for low socioeconomic students and no disadvantage to a state or private education for high/middle socioeconomic students.

    They knew this two decades ago.

    This sort of data is hard to find…but I\’d like more up-to-date figures and comparative research rather than just one study and I\’d like to see it on MySchool. I\’m an optimist…maybe things have changed a little….but perhaps not.

    The U.S.A has already been down this path of higher funding for disadvantaged students….nothing seems to have changed there. But they did it through schooling….not social change….and that doesn\’t seem to work.

    I\’d be more likely to look towards Finland to see how they are doing it…macro NOT micro.

  36. Dave says:

    I would say the Federal Government provides funding because the state government does not and if neither governments provided funding a large number of private schools would have to close. The cost the government would then have to pick up and the public outcry is unthinkable for politicians.

    I think it would be a completely different story if the private schools did not already exist and were not already educating a decent chunk of the population. That being said if the private schools were removed from the equation, I would not for a moment think the inequality in education would be removed. The majority of funding is spent on wages and so the removal of privates schools would simply see a musical chairs round of teacher movement. There is already clear inequality in different public school’s ability to educate. These would simply be further exasberated as the best teachers got the pick of the best schools.

    I for one will be investing in a strategically located house which will provide my kids with access to a public school (education) as good as most private schools for “free”.

  37. Andrew Wilkins says:

    There’s a good chance you’ll be living in an Asian community then. Because it’s the attitudes of the parents as much as the ability of the teachers that determines the results of a school.

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