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Posts Tagged ‘education’

Cutting taxes toward more user-pays – the Great Kiwi Con

31 January 2017 4 comments

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Introduction

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The following is the amount spent by Labour, on Vote Education in the 2008 Budget;

Total 2008 Vote Education: $10,775,482,000 (in 2008 dollars)

Total students in 2009: 751,330* 

spend per student: $14,341.88

The following is the amount spent by National, on Vote Education in the 2016 Budget;

Total 2016 Vote Education: $11,044,598,000 (in 2016 dollars)

Total students in 2016: 776,948**

spend per student in 2016 dollars: $14,215.36

Total 2016 Vote Education: $9,608,800,000 (re-calculated in 2008 dollars)

spend per student in 2008 dollars: $12,367.37

Calculated in real terms (2008 dollars), National’s spending on Vote Education was $1,166,682,000 less last year than Labour budgetted in 2008.

In dollar terms, in 2016, National spent less per student ($14,215.36) than Labour did in 2008 ($14,341.88). Converting National’s $14,215.36 from 2016 dollars to 2008 dollars, and the sum spent  per student is even less: 12,367.37.

In real terms, National has cut the total*** education budget by $1,974.51 per student.

*  Not including 9,529 international fee-paying students

**  Not including 11,012 international fee-paying students

*** Total spent on Vote Education, not just schools and tertiary education.

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Tax-cuts and Service-cuts

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Writing in the Daily Blog recently, political commentator Chris Trotter had this to say on the matter of taxation and social services;

Speaking on behalf of the NewLabour Party, I felt obliged to spell out the realities of tertiary education funding. I told them that they could have free education or low taxes – but they could not have both. If the wealthy refused to pay higher taxes, then students would have to pay higher fees. If the middle class (i.e. their family) was serious about keeping young people (i.e. themselves) out of debt, then they would have to vote for a party that was willing to restore a genuinely progressive taxation system.”

Since 1986, there have been no less than seven tax-cuts;

1 October 1986 – Labour

1 October 1988 – Labour

1 July 1996 – National

1 July 1998 – National

1 October 2008 – Labour

1 April 2009 – National

1 October 2010 – National

 

The 2010 tax-cuts alone were estimated to cost the State  $2 billion in lost revenue.

Taxes were raised in 2000 by the incoming Labour government, to inject  much needed funding for a cash-strapped health sector. The previous National government, led by Bolger and later Shipley, had gutted the public health service. Hospital waiting lists grew. People waited for months, if not years, for life-saving operations. Some died – still waiting.

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During that time, National cut taxes twice (see above). Funding for public healthcare suffered and predictably, private health insurance capitalised on peoples’ fears;

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A decade late, National’s ongoing cuts, or under-funding, of state services such as the Health budget have resulted in wholly predictable – and preventable – negative outcomes;

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patients-have-severe-loss-of-vision-in-long-wait-for-treatment

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A critic of National’s under-funding of the health system, Phil Bagshaw, pointed out the covert agenda behind the cuts;

New Zealand’s health budget has been declining for almost a decade and could signal health reforms akin to the sweeping changes of the 1990s, new research claims.

[…]

The accumulated “very conservative” shortfall over the five years to 2014-15 was estimated at $800 million, but could be double that, Canterbury Charity Hospital founder and editorial co-author Phil Bagshaw said.

Bagshaw believed the Government was moving away from publicly-funded healthcare, and beginning to favour a model that meant everyone had to pay for their own.

“It’s very dangerous. If this continues we will slide into an American-style healthcare system.”

Funding cuts to the Health sector have been matched with increases to charges;

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prescription-price-rise-hits-vulnerable

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cuts to NGOs offering support services;

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kiwi-charities-and-ngos-face-closure-with-impending-funding-cuts-tvnz-tv1-news

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… and  leaving district health boards in dire financial straits;

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The critical correlation between  tax cuts and consequential reduction of state services was nowhere better highlighted then by US satirist and commentator,  Seth Meyer. He was unyielding with his  scathing, mocking, examination of  the travesty of the Kansas Example of “minimalist government”;

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Here in New Zealand, National’s funding cuts have not been restricted to the Health sector and NGOs. Government agencies from  the Police , Radio NZ, to the Department of Conservation have had their funding slashed (or frozen –  a cut after inflation is factored in).

The exception has been the Prime Minister’s department which, since 2008, has enjoyed a massive  increase of $24,476,000 since 2008 and  a near-doubling of John Key’s department and Cabinet expenditure since Michael Cullen’s last budget, seven years previously.

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Tax cuts, slashed services, and increasing user-pays

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By contrast,  parents are finding more and more that the notion of a free state education is quietly and gradually slipping away. User-pays has crept into the schools and universities – with harsh penalties for those who fail to pay.

In May 2013, National’s Tertiary Education Minister, Steven Joyce, announced;

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student-loan-defaulters-to-face-border-arrest

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True to his word, in January 2016, the first person was arrested for allegedly “defaulting on his student loan”. By November the same year, a third person had been arrested. Joyce was unrepentant;

“There probably will be more, we don’t know of course how many are in Australia but that’s a very good start, and I think it’s probably a reasonable proportion of those who are in Australia.”

Joyce, of course, has nothing to fear from being arrested for defaulting on a student loan. His tertiary education was near-free, paid for by the tax-payer.

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National had no choice, of course. The entire premise of user-pays was predicated on citizens paying services that until the late ’80s/early ’90s, had been either free or near-free. With student debt now at an astronomical $14.84 billion, National cannot afford to let ‘debtors’ get off scott-free. That would send the entire unjust system crashing to the ground.   According to Inland Revenue;

… nearly 80,000 of the 111,000 New Zealanders living overseas were behind on their student loan repayments.

IRD collections manager Stuart Duff said about 22 percent of borrowers living overseas were in Australia.

He said the $840m owed to New Zealand was a substantial amount of debt.

Figures show that student debt has been increasing every year since it’s inception in 1992. At this rate, student debt will achieve Greece-like proportions;

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Graphic: acknowledgement - NZ Herald

Graphic acknowledgement:  NZ Herald

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Unsurprisingly, loan ‘defaulters’ have surpassed $1 billion, including $16 million  written off through bankruptcy. Some never pay off their “debt” with $19 million  lost after death of the borrower.

But it is not only tertiary education that has attracted a user-pay factor. School funding has also been frozen, with operational grants the most recent to suffer National’s budgetary cuts;

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Education, Inc.

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Schools are so starved of funds that they are having to rely on outside sources of income  to make up shortfalls;

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schools-using-foreigners-fees-to-staff-classrooms

 

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Reliance on foreign students to make up shortfalls in government spending is essentially turning our schools into commercial ventures; touting for “business” and ensuring “clients” achieve good results so as to ensure repeat custom.

When did we vote for a policy which effectively commercialised our education system?

Schools are also funded more and more by parents – to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Fund-raising and ever-increasing school fees are required, lest our schools become financially too cash-strapped to function.

In 2014, school “donations” (actually fees by another name) and necessary fundraising reached  $357 million and is estimated to reach a staggering $1 billion by this year;

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parents-fundraise-357m-for-free-schooling

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It is estimated that a child born this year will cost his/her parents $38,362 for thirteen years of  a “free” state education. In 2007, that cost was 33,274. Our supposedly “free” state education is being gradually whittled away, and replaced with surreptitious user-pays. According to Radio NZ;

Some school principals say many schools are considering a hike in parent donations next year and cutting teacher aide hours, as they respond to a freeze on core school funding.

More than 300 school principals responded to a survey by teacher unions.

About 40 percent of school principals said they were considering cutting back on the hours of teacher aides and other support staff next year.

Thirteen percent said they were looking to increase parent donations.

The president of the teacher union NZEI, Louise Green, said the survey showed it was students who miss out when school funding was frozen.

The neo-liberal princiciple of user-pays is being covertly implemented throughout the public sector and nowhere is this more apparent than in education. Parents and guardians are expected to pay more for education and this is “off-set” by cuts to taxes. This is core to the concept of user-pays.

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User-pays is hard to pay

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The problem is that this is not an overt policy by National. The public have not been given a clear choice in the matter and instead increasing user-pays has crept in, barely noticed by the voting public. Even when challenged, a National Minister will use mis-information to attempt to use Trump-like “alternative facts” to hide what is happening;

But Education Minister Hekia Parata said parents contributed just $1.80 for every $100 spent by the taxpayer on education.

The Government was set to invest $10.8 billion in early childhood, primary and secondary education, more than the combined budget for police, defence, roads and foreign affairs.

New Zealanders have been lulled into a false sense of security that, even after seven tax cuts, we still have “free” education.  But as Chris Trotter pointed out with cool logic;

I told them that they could have free education or low taxes – but they could not have both.

The question is, what kind of society do New Zealanders want: a free education system or  tax cuts and more user-pays?

Because we can’t have both.

At the moment, politicians are making this choice for us.

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Postscript

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From a Dominion Post article on 24 January;

Student loans are getting bigger and graduates are taking longer to pay back the money they owe.

Figures from last year’s Student Loan Scheme Annual Report show the median loan balance in this country grew from $10,833 in 2008 to $14,904 in 2016.

The median repayment time for someone with a bachelor’s degree also lifted from just over six years, to eight and a half.

Since a peak in 2005, the numbers of people taking up tertiary education have declined.

[…]

Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said there was a variety of factors that lead to higher student loans and longer repayment times. Tuition fees continued to rise, as did living costs.

“The long term impact for people is quite significant, basically they have a large debt for longer,” Hipkins said.

“If they’re weighed down with student loan debt it will be difficult to get on the property ladder, it’s already a burden, and this is making it even harder for the next generation.”

Universities New Zealand executive director Chris Whelan said that when it came to universities fees increasing, one need only look at published annual accounts of the country’s eight universities to see they were not “raking in” a lot of money.

Currently two-thirds of the cost of tuition was covered by subsidies, and one-third was covered by the student.

LOANS ON THE RISE

Median loan balances

2010 – $11,399

2012 – $12,849

2014 – $13,882

2016 – $14,904

Median repayment times for a bachelors/graduate certificates or diplomas

2010 – 6.9 years

2012 – 7.8 years

2014 – 8.5 years

 

 

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References

Reserve Bank NZ: Inflation calculator

Treasury: Vote Education 2008

Treasury: Vote Education 2016

Educationcounts: School RollsStudent Rolls by School 2005-2009

Educationcounts: School RollsStudent Rolls by School 2010-2016

The Daily Blog:  Don’t Riot For A Better Society: Vote For One!

Infonews: Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

The Press: Four forced off waiting list die

Otago Daily Times:  Heartwatch Insurance Cover

Radio NZ: Patients have ‘severe loss of vision’ in long wait for treatment

Fairfax media: Researchers claim NZ health budget declining, publicly-funded surgery on way out

Radio NZ: Patients suffering because of surgery waits – surgeon

Fairfax media:  Prescription price rise hits vulnerable

TVNZ News: Kiwi charities and NGOs face closure with impending funding cuts

NBR: Leaked document shows 10 District Health Boards face budget cuts – King

Fairfax media: Police shut 30 stations in effort to combat budget cuts

Youtube: Kansas Tax Cuts –  A Closer Look

Scoop media: Budget cuts continue National’s miserly underfunding of DOC

Fairfax media: Student loan defaulters to face border arrest

NBR: Arrested student loan defaulter claims to be Cook Island PM’s relative

Fairfax media: Third arrest of student loan defaulter made following government crackdown

Radio NZ: Govt tightens education purse strings

NZ Herald: ‘At risk’ school funding revealed – with 1300 to lose out under new model

Fairfax media: Student loan borrowers seeking bankruptcy as millions in debts wiped due to insolvency

NZ Herald:   Schools using foreigners’ fees to staff classrooms

NZ Herald: Parents fundraise $357m for ‘free’ schooling

NZ Herald: Parents paid $161m for children’s ‘free education

NZ Herald:   School costs: $40,000 for ‘free’ state education

Motherjones: Trickle-Down Economics Has Ruined the Kansas Economy

The New Yorker: Covert Operations

CBS News: Kansas loses patience with Gov. Brownback’s tax cuts

Kansas City Star: Gov. Sam Brownback cuts higher education as Kansas tax receipts fall $53 million short

Bloomberg: Kansas Tried Tax Cuts. Its Neighbor Didn’t. Guess Which Worked

Fairfax media: Tourism industry claims DOC will be severely handicapped by funding cuts

Previous related blogposts

The slow starvation of Radio NZ – the final nail in the coffin of the Fourth Estate?

12 June – Issues of Interest – User pays healthcare?

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 16: No one deserves a free tertiary education (except my mates and me)

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 19: Tax Cuts Galore! Money Scramble!

The seductiveness of Trumpism

Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Week

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 January 2017.

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Hire a teenager, while they know everything

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'Don't just give me worksheets' - pupil suspended over scathing speech about her teachers

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Anela Pritchard’s education couldn’t be as bad as she thinks. After all, she managed to put together an essay that attracted a reaction from her school and nation-wide media coverage.

All in all, she must’ve picked up something from her decade long experience in the education system.

Or does she think her knowledge was absorbed, in utero, when her mother was reading school text-books?

The real problem here is that the school should not have reacted in the way it did. Instead, it could have been a valuable tool to further the girl’s education.

Firstly, her comments should have been used to spark debate and discussion of the role of teachers in our society. This could have really engaged kids in a major way.

Secondly, the difference between an engaged Citizen and a dumbed-down Consumer could have been touched upon. Filling out tax forms is not nearly as important as knowing why taxation is paid and how taxation pays for services New Zealanders take so much for granted.

And lastly, Anela’s education should have been broadened by having her run a few classes and experiencing first hand what it’s like to stand in front of thirty-plus teenagers who all share in common the belief that they know everything.

The old maxim, “Hire a teenager, while they know everything”, was born for good reason;

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google - hire a teenager while they know everything

 

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I recall some of my views when I was 15, and I shudder at some of the comments I put into the public arena through my first letters-to-the-editor. Those horrendously naive polemics shall remain forever buried in the dusty vaults of Fairfax, I hope.

As for the media – I’m not surprised they seized on this as a “story”. It fits their dumbed-down, superficial news perfectly.

As for Anela – she’s a bright kid (from what I saw on TV1 last night) and she will go far.

But she has a massive amount of life-experience to get under her belt first before she gains wisdom to match her intellect. Hopefully she doesn’t become a rabid anti-teacher ACT supporter.

Isn’t that what being a teen is about; the journey from naive childhood to wiser (hopefully) adult?

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References

TVNZ:  ‘Don’t just give me worksheets’ – pupil suspended over scathing speech about her teachers

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Categories: Social Issues Tags: ,

Letter to the Editor: Message to students with loans – don’t come home!

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In the media today; it seems that National has followed through on it’s promise, last year, to enact a new law to criminalise New Zealanders;

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Student loan defaulters targeted

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To which I replied accordingly;

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FROM:     "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE:    Fri, 07 Mar 2014 13:45:08 +1300
TO:     "The Dominion" <letters@dompost.co.nz> 

 

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The Editor
Dominion Post

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So National has passed a law decreeing that student loan
defaulters returning to New Zealand will be arrested at our
borders (ie; airport)?

What will this achieve, aside from sending a clear message
to Kiwi expats - don't come home?

The sad irony of this ridiculous law is that most of it's
National Party architects had the benefit of a free tertiary
education in their youth. In the case of Paula Bennett, her
university education was paid by the taxpayer via a Training
Incentive Allowance which she scrapped in 2009. 

In John Key's case, his university tuition - again free -
gave him the opportunity to amass a multi-million dollar
fortune, before returning home.

After two unaffordable tax cuts, National is so desperate to
scrape together revenue to balance it's books that it is
willing to criminalise an entire sector of our fellow New
Zealanders.

What an absolutely apalling state of affairs we have arrived
at when greed, in the form of lower and lower taxation,  
has resulted in permanently exiling so many of our children.

The message is clear: don't come home unless you have money.

-Frank Macskasy
(address & phone number supplied)

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References

Radio NZ:  Student loan defaulters targeted

Previous related blogposts

Budget 2013: How NOT to deal with Student loan defaulters

 

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Paula Bennet

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Student Defaulters – to be arrested on sight at all borders

16 June 2013 5 comments

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Student loan defaulters to face border arrest

Acknowledgment: Student loan defaulters to face border arrest

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With National declaring that student defaulters who have not paid for their education are to be arrested on sight at our borders, I thought it my civic duty to assist Police and Border Guards to share a Wanted poster with readers.

Please note that these people have not re-paid one cent of their free tertiary education.

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Police Wanted loan defaulters - poster

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These people are not to be approached as Police consider their ideological affront to common sense  to be  injurious to the public good.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 May 2013.

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See related blogpost:

Budget 2013: How NOT to deal with Student loan defaulters

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Charter Schools – contrary to ACT’s free market principles?

25 February 2013 10 comments

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we're trialling an ideological approach

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When the blogger, Imperator Fish  asked in a blogpost headlined – Did You Vote For Charter Schools? – he wasn’t just using a catchy title. He was raising a valid point.

Nowhere on the ACT website is Charter Schools mentioned in any of their policies.

Not. A. Word.

Instead, ACT’s education policy page mentions the usual waffle about “more choice” and some disturbing rhetoric about “the benefits of making education more market-like and entrepreneurial” (1), and principals setting salary for teachers “like any other employer” (4),

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ACT - Education policy

Source

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If that is ACT’s Charter Schools policy, the message is hidden deep amongst the swirl of right-wing rhetoric.

Curiously, for a Party that allegedly has an innate aversion to taxpayer-funded subsidies for business enterprises such as farming, exporting, manufacturing, etc, etc, etc – they seem more than eager to subsidise private schools (3 & 5).  Which seems more than contradictory, since one has to question what is the difference between private schools and other private businesses.

If ACT is comfortable  (indeed, eager) to subsidise private schools, including their Charter School agenda, why not subsidise private hospitals? Private power companies? Private radio and TV broadcasters? Private mining compnies?

There appears to be no rhyme or reason to exempt private schooling and Charter Schools from ACT’s policy opposing state subsidies for business.

Unless they’re chasing votes for the Middle Class Aspirationists?

ACT’s “Principals” are quite clear when it comes to using taxpayers’ money,

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ACT - Principles policy

Source

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Paragraph 5 clearly outlines that the role of central government is to provide “economic support for those unable to help themselves and who are in genuine need of assistance“. It’s hard to see where private enterprise such as private schools and Charter Schools fit with this notion.

Paragraph 8 states that ACT supports  “a free and open market economy“. Are state-funded subsidies to private business conducive to “a free and open market economy“?

Ditto for paragraph 9, which states that ACT will  ” limit the involvement of central and local government to those areas where collective action is a practical necessity“. Is ACT telling us that taxpayer subsidies to private enterprise is a “practical necessity”?

Rob Muldoon thought so, and his government paid millions to farmers through various subsidies, making them beneficiaries of the State.

ACT’s plan will be that whilst Charter will be owned and operated by private institutions (religious groups, businesses, etc), that they will be funded by the taxpayer. And Charter School operators will be able to run these “schools” at a profit.

If this ain’t the State subsidising private enterprise – when very few other businesses are able to enjoy similar benefits – then I fail to see the difference.

After all, we’ve lost 23,000 construction jobs and 18,000 manufacting jobs. If any sectors need state support, via subsidies, shouldn’t it be  Construction and Manufacturing?

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Data reveals drop in manufacturing, building jobs

Source

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(It’s a shame that the loss of 41,000 construction and manufacturing has been offset by the creation of approximately 68,000 personal/community services – traditionally low-paid roles. See: PM – No money for aged care workers)

The question this blogger is asking is; if Charter Schools are a viable business proposition, why is the taxpayer  paying for it?

Perhaps someone from ACT can explain it to us?

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Previous related blogposts

Privatisation of our schools?! (13 Dec 2011)

Charter Schools – Another lie from John Banks! (2 Aug 2012)

Q+A – 5 August 2012 (5 Aug 2012)

Christchurch, choice, and charter schools (15 Sept 2012)

Charter Schools – John Key’s re-assurances (2 Nov 2012)

Other Blogs

Imperator Fish: Did You Vote For Charter Schools?

Sources

Fairfax media: Education shake-up ‘biggest for years’ (7 Dec 2011)

The Press: A controversial way of learning (7 April 2012)

NZ Herald: Editorial: Partnership opportunity for teachers (17 Oct 2012)

NZ Herald: Charter schools escape scrutiny (17 Oct 2012)

References

ACT Policies: Economy

ACT Policies: State Owned Assets

ACT policies: Spending Cap

ACT Policies: Education

ACT Policies: Principals

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Charter Schools – John Key’s re-assurances

2 November 2012 20 comments

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1. The Prime Minister’s ‘committments’

Three months ago, Dear Leader gave assurances that National would dump Charter Schools if they failed to “work”.  He said,

If they don’t work then the Government will close them down very quickly – if they do work then it will be great for the children involved.” – source

Key then added,

If you look at the US where they are the most prevalent – there are about 5,500. Not all of them are successful but many of them are.” – Ibid

Those two statements are unfortunate for two reasons;

2. The Prime Minister’s ‘credibility’

Without beating about the bush and indulging in ‘niceties‘, John Key’s credibility is shot to hell.

As detailed in  previous blogposts and elsewhere on other blogs and in the MSM, John Key has not always told the truth, nor fulfilled his committments.

Past pledges and promises have been broken. Promises such as,

There are also instances where statements made by Key which have stretched our credulity,

More here.

And often indulges in flatout bullshit such as this little gem  on the public ownership of natural resources,

… So if you accept that viewpoint, then I think you have to accept that elements like water and wind and the sun and air and fire and all these things, and the sea, along with natural resources like oil and gas, are there for the national interest of everyone. They’re there for the benefit of all New Zealanders, not one particular group over another. “

See: TVNZ Q+A Interview with Prime Minister John Key

Politicians have a poor reputation when it comes to telling the truth. In the case of our current Prime Minister, in this blogger’s opinion, he has made bending the truth; with-holding information; and outright lying into a whole new artform.

No wonder there is a joke floating around cyberspace, on Facebook, blogs, and elsewhere,

Q: How can to tell John Key is lying?
A: His lips are moving.

Which probably explains why politicians are viewed with such disdain; League Tables that really count!

3. The Prime Minister’s ‘truthfulness’

Key said,

If you look at the US where they are the most prevalent – there are about 5,500. Not all of them are successful but many of them are.”

As usual, Dear Leader’s comments can never be taken at face value.

The truth is that a Stanford University CREDO analysis of Charter Schools in the US revealed the disturbing fact that only 17% of American charter schools did better than non-charter schools.

See: Stanford University: Charter School Performance in 16 States (USA)

The rest achieved same, or worse results,

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Source: Wikipedia Charter Schools (based on CREDO study)

So who will trust John Key on this issue?

Who will trust Key’s committment when he says “if they [Charter Schools ] don’t work then the Government will close them down very quickly” – when he doesn’t even give us accurate information about the efficacy of Charter Schools?

Telling us that “not all of them are successful but many of them are” – is disingenuous. It is a deliberate ploy to mislead the public.

And proves yet again – if evidence was needed – that this man is the most untruthful Prime Minister we have had since —?

4. Furthermore…

John Key assures us, hand-on-heart, that “if they [Charter Schools ] don’t work then the Government will close them down very quickly“…

Which is all very nice (if he can be taken at his word, which is doubtful), but how will he know if Charter Schools “don’t work “?

Actually, we won’t know.

National intends to remove Charter Schools from all public scrutiny and will be exempt from Official Information Act requests. All information regarding Charter Schools will be kept secret by National,

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Full story

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To put it mildly, this is an extraordinary state of affairs. A radical new experiment in education will not be open to public scrutiny. According to John Banks, the architect of this crazy programme,

DEVELOPING AND IMPLEMENTING A NEW ZEALAND MODEL OF CHARTER SCHOOL

[…]

Ombudsmen Act and Official Information Act (OIA)

These acts would not apply to Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua because they are not Crown Entities. This is the same case for private schools.

This will help to ensure Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua are not susceptible to costly and vexatious requests. The contract will specify the information that must be provided to government, and this will be subject to the OIA.”

Source:  Office of the Associate Minister of Education (Hon John Banks) – Developing and Implementing a New Zealand Mode of Charter School

It’s interesting that a politician with the lowest reputation for honesty and openess in this country’s history – John Banks – has decided that Charter Schools will be exempt from OIA requests and Ombudsman oversight.

Banks’ attempted to justify this paranoid secrecy by suggesting that Charter Schools would be “susceptible to costly and vexatious requests“.

Laughable…

Extraordinary…

Worrying…

And scandalous.

5. Summing up…

So what do we have here?

  1. The  Prime Minister promises that  “if they [charter schools] don’t work then the Government will close them down very quickly “.
  2. Key assured the public that ” not all of them are successful but many of them are ” – ignoring the truth that only 17% of Charter schools in the US have been deemed “better” by a Stanford University CREDO study.
  3. There will be no public oversight of Charter schools.
  4. The Minister in charge of Charter Schools, John Banks, justified the removal of public oversight and secrecy on the flimsiest of excuses.
  5. The public will have to rely on the National Party for accurate and impartial reporting of Charter Schools progress. (Imagine Key’s reaction had Labour proposed such a thing! Imagine the cries of “nanny state” and “Helengrad”?!))
  6. Neither John Banks nor John Key are held in high regard in many parts of New Zealand society. Key is known for breaking promises; abandoning committments; and mis-representing the truth. John Banks was engaged in dishonest activities surrounding his mayoral campaign donations; lied about his activities; claimed “forgetfulness”; and was investigated by the police. He was not prosecuted – but only because his actions went beyond a statute of limitations. (Banks still refuses to publicly release a record of his police interview, despite his assertion of “nothing to hide, nothing to fear”.)

This blogger finds nothing reassuring in the utterances of John Key and John Banks.

An incoming Labour-Green-NZ First-Mana government has no option but to close down this dodgy programme, or at the very least, incorporate these schools into the state system.

Otherwise, Charter schools are a ‘time-bomb’ waiting to go off.

Does Shearer really, really want such a  legacy from John Banks?

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Previous related blogposts

Christchurch, choice, and charter schools

Charter Schools – Another lie from John Banks!

Dear Leader, GCSB, and Kiwis in Wonderland (Part Rua)

Sources

TV3: Key defends charter schools trial

Otago Daily Times: PM vows charter schools out the door if they fail

NZ Herald: Charter schools escape scrutiny

Radio NZ: Charter school group wants to register unqualified teachers

Additional

Many oppose proposed charter school

Charter schools: They’re not better for our kids

Other Blogs

Seemorerocks:  One video exposes Key, GCSB’s & Banks’ Dotcom lies

Not PC: John Key lies [updated]

Infonews:  National’s growing list of broken promises

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Why Hekia Parata should not be sacked

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Dominion Post poll

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Disclaimer: This blogger is not a National Party voter. In fact, Hell would experience a Christchurch-style snowstorm before I would support National in any manner – unless it was to assist them to call an early election.

Having said that, there are three reasons why Hekia Parata does not deserve being stood down as Minister of Education – despite the debacle over classroom sizes and cutting teacher numbers.

1. Collective Responsibility

Parata’s attempt to cut back on teacher numbers was a budgetary consideration handed down from on-high, from Bill English’s office.

Since 2008, National has been cutting back on government departments and state sector employees.  Almost every part of government – from the Department of Conservation to the NZ Defence Force – has been forced to cut staffing numbers.  These cuts were part of National’s policy of reducing state expenditure after their April 2009 and October 2010 tax-cuts.

See: Thirty-five jobs may go at Niwa

See: DOC confirms 96 jobs to go

See: MFAT plan puts 50 jobs on the line

See: Housing NZ staff face further cuts

See: 2500 jobs cut, but only $20m saved

See: IRD cuts 51 provincial jobs

With massive borrowings of $380 million a week; a ballooning deficit; and a shortfall in taxation revenue, National is deperate for deep cuts if it is to balance the books by 2014-15.

As journalist Duncan Garner wrote earlier this year in January,

Key has finally dropped the optimism and is talking about the downside. He doesn’t do downside well – he prefers the good news.

But there’s no walking away from the reality. The Government’s treasured surplus target in 2014/15 may not happen. And if it wants to get there then more cuts are on the way. “

See: Economy on skids, cuts to come

Parata’s Plan to cut teaching staff and increase classroom sizes was dressed up as “improving teaching quality and professional leadership” – which was exposed as patent bollocks when she stated,

The changes to teacher:student funding ratios were to have saved the Government around $174 million over four years, of which $60 million was going to be invested in improving teaching quality and professional leadership. “

See: Teacher funding ratios to remain the same

Sacking Parata for policies that every other Minister has been implementing seems pointless. Especially when National’s essential policy of cutting expenditure and services would remain unchanged.

That is the real crux of the matter; an ongoing programme of  reduction in  social services because of two tax cuts we could ill afford, and which National was irresponsible in making.

2. No mis-deed

Parata did nothing illegal, immoral, or inappropriate.

She simply carried out National Party policy.

So if  the buck stops anywhere, it should be on the desks of Dear Leader John Key, and Finance Minister Bill English. At this point, rather than unfairly targetting one single person, we should be looking at National as a whole.

Will the Prime Minister take responsibility for National’s slash a burn of the state sector? Fat chance.  Thus far,  Dear Leader has shown little inclination to taken responsibility for anything – unless it involved opening the Rugby World Cup; supping beer with visiting royalty; or other smile and wave photo-ops.

In fact, John Key seems more than willing to allow Hekia Parata to be hung out to dry on this issue.

This blogger sees no political gain in demanding Ms Parata’s head on a plate.

However, in the spirit of collective responsibility and shared culpability, National  should resign and call for an early election. The classroom/teacher debacle has impacted on National’s mandate and an early election is necessary to restore confidence in government.

3. Who would replace her?

Perhaps the strongest reason not to sack Parata is simply that it would achieve very little for National’s opponants. John Key would simply replace her with another Minister – one perhaps tougher and more doggedly determined in pursuing narrow, National Party policy.

Better Parata, a chastened lame duck –  than a cocky pitbull, looking to prove himself in the eyes of his fellow Tories.

Keeping Parata as Education Minister, it is unlikely that she will attempt further cuts to the education sector. Not unless she has a deeper masochistic streak we were unaware of?

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Postscript

Further to my previous blogpost where I wrote,

Congratulations to National.

John Key, Bill English, Hekia Parata, et al, have succeeded in teaching our children their first lesson in politics. An entire generation of children have seen political machinations at work, first hand, and the “bad guys” were ministers from  the National Party.

When our children learn about the Right Wing in politics, in such a personalised, in-your-face manner, the future of this country suddenly became a lot more rosy.

Future support for the Greens, Labour, and other centre-left Parties is all but assured.

Thank you, Ms Parata. You are a fine teacher for our young folk.

Duncan Garner wrote in his blog on 6 June,

I got home last night and my 12-year-old step daughter was waiting for me with a stern message: “We all hate John Key,” she exclaimed.

Why, I said – pretending to be shocked by it all, but secretly knowing what she was about to say.

“Well, he’s going to close our cooking and technology classes at our school. So we all hate him. And we’re writing him letters – no one likes him at our school anymore,” she said.

I won’t name the school. But whether or not she’s right, and whether or not this Government backpedals on its move to increase class sizes, the fallout is immense – and perception is reality – especially for the children and their mums and dads.

See:  Hekia Parata should’ve asked one simple question

John Key’s legacy for the future:  an entire generation alienated by this arrogant National government –  a gift  of immeasurable value to the left wing. Just as many who lived through the “reforms” of Roger Douglas in the 1980s use the term “Rogernomics” as a pejorative, to describe destructive, extremist, politics from a past era.

No one saw that coming.

And now, waiting in the wings,  the coming asset sales furore…

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Additional

Colin James: A win for Shearer. But much work still to do

Related Blogpost

Class-sizes, pigs wearing lipstick, and State-enforced sterilisation

Other blogs

Minister’s rose-tinted glasses are two generations out of date

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Class-sizes, pigs wearing lipstick, and State-enforced sterilisation

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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When National released it’s 2012 Budget on 24 May, it either over-looked the issue of increasing class-sizes and cutting of teacher numbers (which is what National’s “capping” actually is)   – or woefully  under-estimated  the angry  reaction from Middle Class New Zealand.

Teachers, Principals, Boards of Trustees, and Parents formed a United Front opposing National’s proposals. The public were no fools – after three and a half years they understand only to  well was “capping” meant.

See:  2500 jobs cut, but only $20m saved

Regardless of whether they overlooked or under-estimated the reaction –  Education Minister, Hekia Parata, was left looking like a possum in the middle of the road, with a  Public Juggernaut bearing down on her.

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As recently as 6 June, Ms Parata was adamant; there would be no backdown on the reforms,

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Pressure on the Education Minister mounted. National was coming under concerted attack from Opposition parties; parents; schools; and the community itself. There was little doubt that John Key’s government had bitten off far more than it could chew, and had seriously underestimated the public mood on this issue.

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By 6 June, John Key was giving Parata the message to “sort this sh*t out”, when he told her,

It is important she engages with them…in the end the government’s got its policy but the administration of that policy happens through schools themselves and the unions play an important role in that. “

See:  Education Minister must meet unions – PM

Though in reality, Key’s credibility itself was taking several serious hits. Firstly, the revelations that Key sent his children to private schools, which boasted smaller class sizes for bettering educational outcomes, did not go down well with the public. In fact, most folk probably detected more than a hint of strong stench of hypocrisy from Dear Leader,

”  Prime Minister John Key’s son attended King’s College in Otahuhu, which said on its website: “Class sizes are limited and our policy of a low pupil-to-teacher ratio ensures students are given greater individual attention in the classroom”. “

See: Ministers’ kids skip big classes

Then Key’s let-them-eat-cake-comment further raised the ire of the public, when he said,

In reality we are saying over the course of a three year period the maximum impact on any school can be two [full time equivalent teachers]. Now that that is not a dramatic impact.over all. ” – Source

To which, by now, the public were becoming more than a little bemused, and a “Screw you, mate!” hardening of attitude was started to fester.

Being paid $411,100 a year out of our taxes is one thing. But messing with our children’s education whilst sending your own offspring to private schools was going beyond public tolerance.

National’s party strategists  soon began to pick up mounting public anger.

National MPs were being flooded with angry emails and other correspondence at their electorate offices.

National’s polling (no doubt with David Farrar’s able, tax-payer funded, assistance) began registering a seismic shift in public opinion – none of it positive for the Nats.

The shitski – as they say in Russia – was hitting the fanski. Time for Plan B:

Initiate Default Deflection Plan – Look over there!

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Social Welfare Minister duly stepped into the glare of public attention with suggestions of the State forcibly removing children from unfit parents – which the State can already do, by the way, considering the number of children in CYFS care. But Bennett went further, with hints of forced sterilisation and court orders permanently banning  “unfit parents” from reproducting.

(If these plans had included banning certain politicians from breeding… )

This deflection achieved only modest success. It failed to spark the raging public debate which Bennett created with her plans, last month,  to “encourage” solo-mums (but never solo-dads) to go on contraception to prevent having further children.

See:  Beneficiary contraception plan ‘intrusive’

That debate raged – but never went anywhere. It died  a quiet ‘death’ and barely anyone remembers it now (oh, that public amnesia is getting worse). But it did it’s job, deflecting public attention from worsening economic stats and growing unemployment figures.

See:  Unemployment rate lifts to 6.7pc

The purpose of Bennett’s political “hand grenade” was not to seriously force solo-mums (but never solo-dads) on to contraception.  A cursory check of the dates of the report – Unemployment rate lifts to 6.7pc – shows it was a public issue at the same moment as Beneficiary contraception plan ‘intrusive’ .

Public deflection, using highly controversial “dog whistle” politics – works every time. (That’s why they call it “dog whistle” politics!)

However, not this time. As Hekia Parata stood paralysed on the road, with the  juggernaut of public opinion bearing down on her and her colleagues, one must always remember;   in such situations, possums always come of second best,

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As Mathew Mannine, one-time National-voter;  Wellington father of three; and protestor against plans to increase classes,  said on Radio NZ’s Checkpoint,

Well, as they say, a pig’s a pig even if you put lipstick on it, and I think that’s what she was trying to do, and there was no way at all, from the parents I’ve spoken to, that this policy would’ve flown. “

Indeed. So saith Middle New Zealand – a lesson National has learnt the hard way.

Two further interesting points arise from this debacle.

1.

Hekia Parata says that canning this policy will incur a cost,

The changes to teacher:student funding ratios were to have saved the Government around $174 million over four years, of which $60 million was going to be invested in improving teaching quality and professional leadership. “

This is a  rather candid admission that reducing teacher numbers and increasing class sizes was never about “teaching quality”.

Let us disabuse ourselves of that fantasy; this was about cost-cutting pure-and-simple, and talk of  “improving teaching quality” was nothing more than a fiction.  This was National engaging in window dressing, to cover up a blatant exercise in reducing spending in education.

Anyone who believes otherwise should contact this blogger – I have shares in Wellington Harbour bridge going very cheap.

2.

Congratulations to National.

John Key, Bill English, Hekia Parata, et al, have succeeded in teaching our children their first lesson in politics. An entire generation of children have seen political machinations at work, first hand, and the “bad guys” were ministers from  the National Party.

When our children learn about the Right Wing in politics, in such a personalised, in-your-face manner, the future of this country suddenly became a lot more rosy.

Future support for the Greens, Labour, and other centre-left Parties is all but assured.

Thank you, Ms Parata. You are a fine teacher for our young folk.

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Related Blogposts

Frankly speaking on Budget 2012

Media

Listen to reaction on Radio NZ Checkpoint

Listen to parent’s reaction on Radio NZ Checkpoint

Media Release

Hekia Parata:  Teacher funding ratios to remain the same

Other blogs

John Minto:  Minister’s rose-tinted glasses are two generations out of date

Just Left:  Smaller class sizes — for people like us

Local Bodies:  Hekia’s Huge Tui Billboard!

Local Bodies:  Parata’s Future?

Robert Guyton: National Folds

Red Alert: Who Reads Hekia’s Advice?

The Standard: Flip-flop still leaves hole in education budget

The Standard: Parata to the Headmaster’s office?

Pundit: Don’t look here! Look over there!

Gordon Campbell on the turmoil in education

No Right Turn: Anger works

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Citizen A – 31 May 2012 – Online now!

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Citizen A

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– 31 May 2012 –

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– Matthew Hooton & Phoebe Fletcher

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Issue 1 – Key senses danger and backs down on classroom sizes. Keen political instincts or self inflicted mutilation?

Issue 2 – Raising retirement. Economic sense or more baby boomer intergenerational theft?

Issue 3 – Tame Iti get’s two and a half years, Rena captain gets seven months . What have we learned from the Urewera terrorism trials?

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Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)

Tumeke

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Finland, some thoughts…

21 March 2012 7 comments

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Finland & Capital City, Helsinki

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When David Shearer mentioned Finland in his speech on 15 March,  the right wing were quick to leap onto that reference and gleefully point out that our Finnish cuzzies had elected a right wing government, which had part-privatised some of it’s own state own enterprises. A grinning, mocking,  John Key made a Big Thing of it in the Debating Chamber (see video at 2:10), in a response to a ‘patsy’ question from National MP, Michael Woodhouse.

As usual, John Key told us only half the story. (What else is new?)

It is quite true that the centre-right party, imaginatively called – The Centre Party– and it’s Keysque leader, Esko Aho, were elected into office in 1991. It’s also true that The Centre Party and Aho were thrown out of office after just one term.

It seems that the Finns had little appetite for Right Wing governments.

And last year’s elections resulted in the Centre Party drop from the largest single party in the Finnish Parliament, to the fourth, it’s support dropping from 23.11% to 15.82%.

The Finns has ‘flirted’ with right wing governments, it’s true. But generally that flirtation results in a quickie-divorce.

Finland does indeed hold  lessons for New Zealand. As well as having a benevolent social welfare system;  a higher rate of personal income (Finland: $35,885  – New Zealand: 28,409); and one of the highest standards of (free) education in the world – they also have a low tolerance for right wing governments that attempt to mess with their Scandinavian model of social democracy.

In Finland, they hold the teaching profession in high regard and pay them well. Here in New Zealand, certain political and public elements prefer denigration and questioning if teachers are paid too much. Charming.

This is worth thinking about,

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The flexible curriculum is set by the Ministry of Education and the Education Board. Education is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 16. After lower secondary school, graduates may either enter the workforce directly, or apply to trade schools or gymnasiums (upper secondary schools). Trade schools prepare for professions. Academically oriented gymnasiums have higher entrance requirements and specifically prepare for Abitur and tertiary education. Graduation from either formally qualifies for tertiary education.

In tertiary education, two mostly separate and non-interoperating sectors are found: the profession-oriented polytechnics and the research-oriented universities. Education is free and living expenses are to a large extent financed by the government through student benefits. There are 20 universities and 30 polytechnics in the country. Helsinki University is ranked 75th in the Top University Ranking of 2010.

The World Economic Forum ranks Finland’s tertiary education #2 in the world. Around 33% of residents have a tertiary degree, similar to Nordics and more than in most other OECD countries except Canada (44%), United States (38%) and Japan(37%). The proportion of foreign students is 3% of all tertiary enrolments, one of the lowest in OECD, while in advanced programs it is 7.3%, still below OECD average 16.5%.

More than 30% of tertiary graduates are in science-related fields. Forest improvement, materials research, environmental sciences, neural networks, low-temperature physics, brain research, biotechnology, genetic technology and communications showcase fields of study where Finnish researchers have had a significant impact.

Finland had a long tradition of adult education, and by the 1980s nearly one million Finns were receiving some kind of instruction each year. Forty percent of them did so for professional reasons. Adult education appeared in a number of forms, such as secondary evening schools, civic and workers’ institutes, study centers, vocational course centers, and folk high schools. Study centers allowed groups to follow study plans of their own making, with educational and financial assistance provided by the state. Folk high schools are a distinctly Nordic institution. Originating in Denmark in the nineteenth century, folk high schools became common throughout the region. Adults of all ages could stay at them for several weeks and take courses in subjects that ranged from handicrafts to economics.

Finland is highly productive in scientific research. In 2005, Finland had the fourth most scientific publications per capita of the OECD countries. In 2007, 1,801 patents were filed in Finland. ” – Wikipedia

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Unlike New Zealanders, who seem to tolerate right wing policies that ultimately do more harm than good (and then leave us wondering why we’re in such a mess) – Finns boot their right wing governments out faster than you can say ‘Don’t let the door hit your neo-liberal arse on the way out‘.

Shearer was right. We can learn from our cuzzies in Finland.

But we probably won’t.

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Additional

OECD Country statistical profile:  New Zealand 2011-2012

OECD  Country statistical profile:  Finland 2011-2012

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If size doesn’t matter…

5 February 2012 6 comments

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Source

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Well, it seems that we’re about to witness yet another broken promise from this shabby government. It seems that after three years, John Key, Bill English, and their mates were hoping we had forgotten their pledge “that National will not cut spending to education“.

Because now we have this,

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Source

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It occurs to me that…

“I can tell you categorically that National will not cut spending to education,” the party’s education spokeswoman Anne Tolley said in a statement today.” – Anne Tolley, 5 August 2008

conflicts with…

Finance Minister Bill English is not ruling out an increase in class sizes, saying all Government departments are tasked with finding ways to save money, and staff costs are one of them.” – Bill English, 3 February 2012

Bill English’s comments that “there is clear evidence that class size does not significantly affect the quality of students’ education” is all rubbish, of course. Common sense will tell us that a teacher can give more attention to each child in a class of 20 – than s/he can in a class of 40. Especially if there are children with disabilities; special needs; or just plain disruptive kids in the room.

Professional studies confirm this common sense approach.

But even if it were true that  “class size does not significantly affect the quality of students’ education” – can that  rule-of-thumb be applied elsewhere?

What about… the government Cabinet?

New Zealand reportedly has one of the biggest Cabinets (ministers, and suchlike) for a country the size of ours,

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New Zealand Cabinet:  28

Population: 4.4 million

Ratio: 1/157,142

British Cabinet: 23 (currently)

Population: 62.2 million

Ratio: 1/2.7 million

Australian Cabinet (Federal only – excluding State Cabinets): 21

Population: 22.8 million

Ratio: 1/1.08 million

Irish Cabinet: 20

Population: 6.2 million

Ration: 1/310,000

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We have more Cabinet minister per head of population than Britain, Australia (Federal Parliament), and Ireland.

And it’s costing us truckloads of cash. Ministers of the Crown don’t come cheap these days,

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How They’re Paid

Prime Minister –  New salary (backdated to July 1): $411,510. Was: $400,500.

Deputy Prime Minister –  New salary: $291,800. Was: $282,500.

Cabinet Minister –  New salary: $257,800. Was: $249,100.

Minister Outside Cabinet –  New salary: $217,200. Was: $209,100.

Speaker and Opposition Leader – New salary: $257,800. Was: $249,100.

Backbenchers – New salary: $141,800. Was: $134,800.

Source

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So, excluding the Prime Minister, 27 cabinet ministers is costing the tax-payer;

Deputy PM: 1 X $291,800 (p/a) = $291,800

Cabinet Ministers: 18 X $257,800  (p/a)  = $4,640,400

Ministers Outside Cabinet: 8 X $217,200 = 1,737,600

Total cost of Cabinet, per annum (ex Prime Minister) = 6,669,800

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Six point six million dollars each year. Throw in one smile & wave Prime Minister at $411,510 p/a, and the wages bill for that talkfest comes to over $7 million a year.

And that figure does not include allowances such as housing, superannuation, etc.

If we followed the Irish ratio, we would have fourteen ministers (including the PM), or, one Minister per 314,285 people (approximately). That would roughly halve the cost of Cabinet minister salaries.

And if a Minister needed assistance, there are another 106 or 108 (depending on over-hangs) MPs in Parliament who could assist with Ministerial duties (but still be paid a Back-bencher’s salary).

So what about it, Mr English?

If “class size does not significantly affect the quality of students’ education” then obviously, we should be able to apply precisely the same rule to Cabinet,

Cabinet size does not significantly affect the quality of  Ministers’ performance.

And we could plow the $3.5 million (approximately)  saved, plus ministerial perks, into training and hiring more teachers to educate our children.

Brilliant!

We can start on Monday.

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Dear Minister…

John-Paul Powley

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Dear Anne Tolley, and John Key

I woke up this morning and read your education policy as summarised in the media. This whole article on your proposed education policy made me furious.  The article suggested that these were the key points:

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EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION:

Target of 98 per cent of new entrants in school having participated in early childhood education by 2015

New interactive website for parents to choose “the best” local ECE service

New funding model to be trialled in 2014

SCHOOLS:

Require publication of National Standards data in 2012

New assessment of “disposition to teach” for trainee teachers

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A long time ago when National Standards were introduced I predicted that they would creep to Secondary schools and that we would  see league tables.  It didn’t bother me that on both points you said this wouldn’t happen.  It was clearly a lie, and it is no comfort to me to see my predictions turn out to be correct.

It seem to me that there is simply no possibility of negotiating with your government in good faith and this makes me angry, because I am a reasonable person who believes that conflict is a dead end.

Here are some points that I would like to address to you:

  • How can you want 98% of kids in early childhood education, but cut the funding to these centres that make them affordable, and how can you want 98% of kids to go to centres where you do not believe that it is important that 100% of the staff there are fully qualified?
  • What does the term “best” ECE centres mean?  Doesn’t this just mean the centres with the wealthiest and best educated parents?  How does a competitive model in education work when some people can’t afford the best, and are you committed in terms of the massive amounts of money and time it will take to build up struggling centres, or is it a fail-and-close-them-down model?
  • You said that you would not create a situation of league tables two years ago.  This was clearly a lie.  Do you think it is a good model to our students to lie in order to get what you want, and then use double speak to try to pretend that you never said such things in the past?
  • League tables are good for comparing apples with apples, but after the first round of tables are printed there will no longer be apples and apples, there will be schools that are better than others when measured against one criteria.   My daughter started school yesterday, and I know the pressure to send your child to the “best” school and not the local school, but I believe in my local school and I was DELIGHTED to send her to the local school and see her running in and playing with the Somali kids, and the Pasifika kids, and the Indian kids, and the European kids all together, learning together, and being wonderful and curious together, and I can’t help but wonder what will happen to all the white kids when the school down the road does better on the league table, because it is a wealthier and more homogenous school.  Are we committed to a multi-cultural New Zealand or not?  Or is that just talk?  Past experience shows that Europeans like me abandon schools that are sinking faster than rats on a sinking ship because they can, and that parents who can’t afford to make the change don’t (even though they care just as much for their children).  I’m not proud of this fact, but I have to admit it is true.  Do you understand this?  I don’t think that you do, and I think that this is the weakness of a party that is made up of a homogenous and wealthy group and would prefer a voting system where they can just stop mucking about and govern alone.  You do not represent everyone, and you should never, ever be allowed to govern alone for that reason.  Not because I do not like you, but because NO ONE should govern alone.
  • Disposition to teach?  My first years teaching in a low decile school were hell.  I went home, lay down on the floor and cried.  If someone had offered me a job doing something else at the moment I would have taken it.  Now I am at the end of my sixth year teaching and I think I do a damn good job.  Teaching is a long hard road to success, and it is even more brutal and even more important at decile one schools.  My experience of a  decile ten school is that the students can almost teach themselves.  Is it not then true that student teachers in higher decile schools will appear to have a better disposition to teach than those toughing it out in low decile schools?  Where do you want good teachers to go?  Into the low decile schools where the results are low, and they will be judged on league tables, and their position will worsen as white flight takes place over the next few years?  I assume that you are also planning to let parents have “choice” about where they send their kids.  Which means abandoning zoning, and abandoning certain schools whose funding is tied to their roll.
  • Can I ask you this?  What was broken about our education system?  One of the best in the world for decade after decade with results we can be proud of in maths, and reading and writing?  Our identified area of concern was our long tail.  A characteristic that all multi-cultural societies face, and one that they are all battling with.  Why have you created a policy that will disadvantage the schools where the long tail is over represented?  I think that it is so parents who are educated and comparatively wealthy (compared to long-tail parents) can have a good reason to send their kids out of area.
  • Finally, I would like you to show me another country similar to our own where this model has worked over a long period of time.

Yours sincerely,

John-Paul Powley

http://manoferrors.wordpress.com

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Additional

 

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“Building better public services” – Really?

1 November 2011 1 comment

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Here, yet, is another instance of the current government’s ability to say one thing – whilst doing something completely different. (Commonly referred to as telling a lie.)

This issue, though, is perhaps the most serious of all of National’s spin-doctoring.

The promise,

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The reality,

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Source

Listen to more on Morning Report

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Taking money from already stretched school-budgets, to “redirect” into “trade training for teenagers”, seems counter-productive and the consequences will simply be more social problems down the road.

Does this seem even remotely sensible to anyone? “Robbing Peter to pay Paul”?

But that’s ok. We got our tax-cuts in 2009 and last year.

Never mind the kids. They’ll be ok. And if they don’t get a proper education, and go off the rails… well, I guess National will just go ahead with building that new prison in Wiri.

Is it worth it, my fellow New Zealanders?

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Additional

“Building better public services” – Really?

Lies, Damned Lies, and National Party Campaign Advertising

Greed is Good?

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Greed is good?

28 August 2011 54 comments

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As we look back on the last 25 years of neo-liberal “reforms”, including User Pays; the canning of “Labour’s” superannuation savings plan in 1975 (by Muldoon – after being elected into office with his infamous “Dancing Cossacks”  TV ad); and National’s continuing high popularity in the polls, despite their avowed proposal to sell-down 49% of several State assets,  – it seems abundantly clear who has been  pulling the “strings”.

No, it’s not Washington. Nor the Bilderbergers. Nor the UN/New World Order/Illuminati.

The answer is mind-numbingly far more prosaic:  it’s us – the Baby Boomer generation. The 1960s and 1970s rebellious youth  weren’t just an “aberration” – they were a clear signal that the Baby Boomers had arrived; could be inclined to  incredible selfishness (hence the term the “Me Generation”); and we voted individually for personal gain – on a collective basis.

Yep. We have seen the “enemy” – and it’s us; graying; self-centered; resentful of the young (who we’ve well and truly shafted);  and looking back at ourselves in the mirror, wondering where it all went wrong.

The case of  Surgeons Ian Penny and Gary Hooper, who tried to rort the tax system using Trusts  and companies – even though they had graduated BEFORE student loans and fees were implemented in 1992 – is the clearest example ever of our collective unbridled selfishness.

To re-cap;

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A court battle is over for two surgeons who challenged Inland Revenue over claims they tried to avoid tax bills worth tens of thousands of dollars.

The Supreme Court has ruled unanimously against Ian Penny and Gary Hooper, saying they underpaid themselves from their own businesses to avoid the top personal tax rate.

The issue arose after the previous Labour-led Government raised the top personal tax rate to 39%, compared to the company rate which was then 33%.

The orthopaedic surgeons openly paid themselves a lower salary than the market rate, arguing that they had a choice about how they operated their business.

They tried to challenge a Court of Appeal decision that found in favour of Inland Revenue, which said the surgeons had paid themselves salaries too small to be commercially realistic.

It said they were therefore able to avoid paying the top tax rate, while the balance of their businesses’ profits went as dividends to family trusts.

The trusts funded items such as a loan for one surgeon, and a holiday home for the other.

Inland Revenue said using those business structures to create artificially low salaries amounted to tax avoidance, saving each man between $20,000 and $30,000 a year for three years, beginning in 2002.

Supreme Court Justice Blanchard on Wednesday delivered a judgement supporting that argument, ordering Mr Penny and Mr Hooper to pay Inland Revenue $25,000 in court costs.

Mr Hooper told [Radio New Zealand ]Checkpoint the court has created a salary benchmark that is higher than the one countless private practitioners have been using.

He says they have been following Inland Revenue advice and calculating their salaries based on public hospital rates.

An Inland Revenue deputy commissioner welcomed the ruling, telling Checkpoint it clearly states and reaffirms what the department’s commissioner felt was the case all along. Carolyn Tremain says IRD has yet to fully absorb the implications and consequences of the ruling.

PricewaterhouseCoopers John Shewan, who appeared as a witness for the surgeons, said the case is important for individuals and firms. He said tens of millions of dollars may now be claimed by Inland Revenue from cases it still has open on this matter.

Source:  Radio New Zealand

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Specifically,

Surgeons Ian Penny and Gary Hooper set up companies, owned indirectly through trusts, to buy their surgical services and paid themselves artificially low salaries.

After 2000, Hooper’s personal income fell from $650,000 to $120,000 a year. Penny’s dropped from $302,000 to $125,000, and then to $100,000, while the income of their companies grew.

Source:  Dominion Post

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What makes this case of case of tax avoidance stand out is that none of it was ever necessary in the first place.

Dr Ian Penny received his Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor (MB ChB) of Surgery from Otago University in 1981.  He became a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1990.

Dr Gary Hooper received his Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor (MB ChB) of Surgery  from Otago University in 1978 and became a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1985.

In simple terms, they graduated as doctors in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Tertiary education then was still nominally free. Plus,  student allowances were available to most students,

“Up until 1992, nearly every student (86.4 percent) studying at a public tertiary education institution in New Zealand received a living allowance or grant while they studied.

 Prior to the mid 1970s, student support was based on a system of bursaries and scholarships. In 1976, a new system of government-funded tertiary bursaries was introduced. This included a study or living costs grant that was available to most students.”

Source: NZUSA

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Student fees and student loans came into effect in 1992, during the Bolger-led National Government, when Ruth Richardson was Minister of Finance (and coincidentally the same year that Shortland Street came on air).

In simpler terms, Dr Penny and Dr Hooper enjoyed the benefit of near-free tertiary education before fees were raised in 1992. They had no student loans to repay, as  medical students currently do, and may well have benefitted from receiving a Student Allowance.

Contrast their free tuition with that of medical students, in the 21st Century:  “on average medical students will graduate with around $80,000 of debt and nearly 90% will have a student loan“, according to the  New Zealand Medical Students’ Association in April, last year.

So with a free education; in receipt of student allowances; and no student loan; Dr’s Penny and Hooper were, as Revenue Minister Peter Dunne stated;

… the important thing about this decision is to bear in mind the scale of what was happening. This wasn’t people minimising their income because they were reinvesting in their business. This was people minimising their income because they were actually minimising their tax liability but still enjoying the full benefits of the income they were in reality earning.

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So not only did these gentlemen benefit from a free education – but they were now minimising their income because they were actually minimising their tax liability [whilst] still enjoying the full benefits of the income they were in reality earning.”

God, you’ve no idea how sick this incident has  made me.  Let me explain why.

Prior to the introduction of “Rogernomics” in 1984 (and National’s addition from 1990 onward),  education in this country had been free (or as close as possible to free) to nearly all New Zealanders. Education whether at Primary School or University was funded by the previous generation; our Mums & Dads; Grandmothers & Grand dads. The idea was terribly simple; education was a right, and not to be determined by ability to pay.

In turn, as we graduated from schools and Universities, we – my generation, the “Baby Boomers” – were to fund our children through their education, through our taxes.

Except, it did not quite happen that way.

In 1984 we unknowingly elected a Labour Government that had been taken over by a secret cabal of neo-liberals, conservatives, and proponants of the Free Market. A raft of  radical changes were implemented throughout the economy and impacting directly on society.

Despite public objection; mass protests; and even vocal opposition from within the Government by some Labour MPs such as Jim Anderton, Labour was re-elected in 1987.  Curiously, they had increased their majority from 55 to 57.

During Labour’s two terms (1984 to 1990), they cut taxes twice, and implemented a new tax in 1986, called GST.

National followed, implementing User Pays in tertiary education whilst  cutting taxes in 1996 and 1998.

In 2008, despite evidence that the world was plunging into a global recession, John Key promised that National would again cut taxes. As New Zealand went into deep recession; unemployment rose; businesses closed down – National cut taxes in April 2009 and October last year.

Most of the public, it seems, will swallow User Pays if they stand to reap a benefit from tax cuts.

The social contract therefore, was well and truly broken between our (the Baby Boomers) generation, and our parents/grandparents.

We had taken their gift – that of free education which they had paid for – but we decided not to pass it on to our children. Instead, we accepted one tax cut after another. And social services were either cut or User Pays applied, to pay for those tax cuts.

To my generation of fellow Baby Boomers, I say this; we’ve well and truly  shafted our own children. We denied them the very same opportunities of a free education that our parents had bequeathed to us. Instead, we voted ourselves seven  hefty tax-cuts; instigated User Pays; and left our children saddled with $13.9 billion in student debt.

Is it any wonder that our children our leaving New Zealand in greater and greater numbers? They’re not just emigrating to seek better paying jobs – they’re sticking it to us for our unmitigated greed. Whether consciously or sub-consciously, our children realise what our generation has wrought, and by god, they are not happy.

No doubt there are some folk who will cheer on Drs Penny and  Hooper. These people  feel that paying taxes is “unfair” and that it is unreasonable for the State to take the money that they have worked hard for.

Perhaps I should take a moment to remind these people what their taxes were, and in many cases  are still, used for…

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Inter-island Ferry, Aramoana

Dams and other power generation projects

Our first television broadcast system

Roading and highways

Hospitals

University education

Dental care for our Children

Our Police and justice system

Railways and other public transport

Schools

State Housing

Infrastructure such as power transmission lines

Social welfare and superannuation

Bridges

Postal and telecommunications systems

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Many of these assets no longer reside in public ownership – but they were originally built and maintained by previous generations of taxpayers; our parents, grandparents, et al.

As the Baby Boomer generation, what have we built and left our children?

$13.9 billion in student debt?

No wonder they are departing our shores…

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But I leave the last word to this expat Kiwi, now living in Australia,

A Victorian-based Kiwi with a student loan debt, who did not want to be named because he did not want to be found by the Government, said he did not intend to pay back any of his student loan.

The 37-year-old’s loan was about $18,000 when he left New Zealand in 1997. He expected it was now in the order of $50,000. The man was not worried about being caught as the Government did not have his details and he did not want to return to New Zealand.

“I would never live there anyway, I feel just like my whole generation were basically sold down the river by the government. I don’t feel connected at all, I don’t even care if the All Blacks win.

“I just realised it was futile living [in New Zealand] trying to pay student loans and not having any life, so I left. My missus had a student loan and she had quite a good degree and she had paid 99c off the principal of her loan after working three years.”

Source: Dominion Post

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Further Reading

Greed of boomers led us to a total bust

New Zealand’s wealth gap widens

Over-55s own most of NZ’s wealth

 

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