Tuesday, April 15, 2008

National’s welfare for the rich

National Party Leader John Key has announced that if his party wins the elections later this year they will double taxpayer funds given to private schools. Critics have called it a tax break for the rich—and it is.

The government already gives money to private schools, but its main emphasis, of course, is on state schools. As a government, that’s its main function.

Unlike America, where this debate would be about giving taxpayer money to religious schools, most New Zealand private schools aren’t necessarily religious. Instead, this debate is whether taxpayer funds for education should go to schools attended by the children of rich people (like John Key, for example).

In the 2005 election campaign, the neoconservatives running the National Party campaign planned to privatise education, at first by giving taxpayer money to private schools. Already the current version of National wants the private sector to own school buildings. Does their announcement mean that they still plan on privatising education in New Zealand?

So far, National still sounds like it could be the same old National.


Anonymous said...

Well there are certainly a few flaws in this theory.
My daughter goes to a private school and we certainly aren't rich. We live in a low economic area of Christchurch and our local schools lack resorces are over crowded and lack a caring safe environment. We made the decision to invest in our childs future and send her to a private school. Both my husband and I work and recieve working for families as we are entilted to it.
It is very narrow minded indeed and wrong to state that its only for the rich and best to get your facts right as here in Christchurch there is only two private non religious school one is for primary school girls and the other a montessori, compared to the other 9 schools being religious. Almost all the children in my daughters class have 2 working parents with only one or two children trying to give their children a safe and nurturing education, a good number in similar situations as us.
And as for "tax payers" money.... Well we certainly pay our fair share of tax and think the private sector deserves some breaks too as we pay high school fees (by choice)and deserve a share of the governments funding also.
I have always been a Labour voter but have taken an interest in Nationals policies... Will make my decision by polling date.

Arthur Schenck said...

Thank you for your comment. I welcome all viewpoints, including those of people who don't agree with me.

First, I applaud your decision to put your child's education first. But I think there are better ways to assist you than by transferring funding from state schools to private schools, since that's what would happen.

Key's scheme, as announced in April, would have meant that the poorest working people would be paying taxes to support the local public schools, whose funding would be cut to provide more taxpayer funds to private schools which are statistically more likely to have better-off (yes, including rich) parents sending their children there. I honestly have no idea if National's policy now is the same as it was back in April; maybe it's better now.

I never said that private schools are only for the rich, nor did the critics in the article I linked to. The point was that rich people like Key himself would stand to benefit financially by transferring funding from state schools to private schools.

As for most private schools being non-religious, I was speaking nationally; there are many regional differences, of course. That reference was really for my American readers, for whom the idea of giving taxpayer funds to private schools can be shocking, since that would usually mean giving money to church-run schools.

New Zealand can and should be doing better about education. Poll after poll after poll has shown that New Zealanders would rather have more money spent on health and education than passed out in tax cuts. It seems to me that no one would be arguing about this at all if the state schools were adequately funded in the first place.

I suppose this is a bit obvious to say, but it was a Labour-led government that brought in Working for Families, and although National changed its policy to say it'll keep it for now, most in the National Caucus want it abolished, so it's probably doomed. They've already announced plans to cut-back Kiwisaver, and Bill English said National wants to sell off Kiwibank to foreigners, and KiwiRail can't be far behind (since they opposed both in the first place).

My point is that National's policies are promising a throwback to the days of Ruthanasia and even Rogernomics (Roger Douglas is number 3 on ACT's list, and they want him to be a cabinet minister in a National-led Government).

I believe a way can be found to get the support you and other hard working parents with kids in private schools need without taking the money from state schools and disadvantaging the parents for whom private schools aren't an option for whatever reason. But I believe the best way to find that way forward is with a Labour-led government, and not by transferring wealth from low and moderate income working people to the rich, as most of National's policies would do.