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tough love for public schools « Previous | |Next »
August 28, 2008

So the Rudd Government is going to focus on education as the key to boosting long term productivity and ensuring economic growth and make it the core of their reforming agenda. Rudd and Gillard are going to do that by making individual schools' performances more open and transparent and lifting the quality of the teachers entering the nation's schools. He threatened to penalize under-performing schools and to withhold funds from those states that did not accept the changes by refusing to pressure badly performing schools.

Rudd is willing to invest in under-performing schools provided the states agree to implement his reform proposals within 1-3 years before the commonwealth opens its purse. Presumably the aim is ensure that more students stay on for year 12 and fewer leave without employment or skills and so end up in welfare dependency. The assumption here is that economic exclusion results in socially exclusion.

Parents can use the performance information to vote with their feet, whilst the states will have to drive the performance assessment, develop the performance data and deal with the unions. Doing nothing means no commonwealth money.

Will Rudd deliver on this through co-operative federalism where the Coalition failed. Or will the states---NSW in particular -- block the reform. They will extract a high price for compliance. The Australian Education Union simple demand for $1.5 billion extra investment with no strings attached a sign of its opposition to greater accountability of schools.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:20 AM | | Comments (17)


"He threatened to penalize under-performing schools"

The problem with that is that under-performing schools tend to be the ones in low socioeconomic areas. Penalising under-performing schools translates to penalising poor kids.

that is the consequence of the neoliberaL side of the policy. The social justice side is the investment in the poorer under resourced schools provided they agree to performance assessments. You get money by lifting your game.

True social justice would involve deregestering the AEU n'er-do-wells and giving working class families vouchers so they can escape the diabolical public comprehensive schools!

the states are not going to allow that closure to happen. A 'public comprehensive school ' is so English.

there does need to be an emphasis on improving the quality of teachers, rewarding them, and making teaching more attractive as a profession.

what are you going to do in regional areas where the only available school is crap? All the vouchers in the world won't help if there's no alternative.

And just say you do send all kids to decent schools, won't the decent schools then become overcrowded and sub-standard?

It would be a better system if the head masters were elected by the parents to serve a 3 year term.

August 27, 2008: "THE Federal Government's education revolution will see public school funding continue to fall over the next three years and parents increasingly turn to the private system, according to a study by one of Labor's former chief education advisers.

New research from University of Sydney expert Jim McMorrow has warned that public education funding will fall from its 1996 level of 43% of the federal schools budget to 33% by 2012, unless dramatic action is taken.

While the report points out much of the problem is due to the funding arrangements inherited from the Howard government — namely the contentious socio-economic status funding model for private schools — it found Labor's first budget "markedly slowed the growth of education funding", from 10% a year under the Coalition, to 1% a year.

The report — commissioned by the Australian Education Union — also says:

■The drift of students from public to private schools will continue over the next three years, with students in independent and Catholic schools set to increase by 3.1% compared with an 0.1% fall in government school enrolments.

■That if increased federal funding for non-government schools in the May budget was expressed in terms of the capacity to pay teachers, the number of private school teachers would rise by 2630 by 2012.

■The report credits the Howard government for giving all schools much-needed upgrades, but shows that during its years in government, public schools gained an extra $2 billion, while private schools got $4.7 billion."

So much for a focus on public education!

I personally can't understand the motivation for indifference towards public schools, and the unspoken shift in emphasis from public to private.. what are the reasons?

Is it deemed desireable to create a two-tier society?

Julia Gillard has suggested that the model she is following is the New York education system that is championed by Joel Klein, the NY city schools chancellor. Apparently, y Gillard visited them recently. She was impressed by the fact that the Americans have managed to achieve a real increase in basic skills, mainly literacy and numeracy.

I don't know anything about this system. Do you? Gillard reckons it works in some of the tough suburbs in New York.


"Public comprehensive school" is extremely apt; especually in NSW.


Klien seems have championed the 'charter' system:

"Charter schools are elementary or secondary schools in the United States that receive public money but have been freed from some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results, which are set forth in each school's charter."

Charter schools seem to be about deregulation and decentralisation. Basically, embracing variation of idea within the wider school system. Schools are freed from the centralised state regulation of how to educate, but in return they must show results, and it's the individual school's fault if it doesn't perform, not the government's.

To quote Klein, a charter school would be a "sensitive communit[y] in which people have a shared vision and mutual commitment. They respect each other and are passionate about educating kids. They are willing to run the extra mile, to take some risks and be entrepreneurial. That's what creates a school culture that will work. Sadly, public school education is exactly on the opposite end of the spectrum.

The best school systems in our nation are those that pay a great deal of respect to excellence and meritocracy. Yet sadly, our system doesn't put a premium on those things that matter. We treat our people as fungible, and everyone knows that people are not. We under-invest in leadership. We downplay differentiation. And as a result, the fundamental problem with our system is that it has misaligned incentives.

The charter model offers a solution to this problem. At their core, charter schools embody the three ingredients that are necessary for any successful school -- leadership, autonomy, and accountability."

So is it the system basically about corporatisation: deregulation, meritocracy, and incentive?

Gerard Henderson, in the Sydney Morning Herald has a straight answer to the problem in public schools.He says:

The reason why conservatives and social democrats have a similar attitude to education reform in Australia results from the fact that they are attempting to resolve a continuing problem. Namely, that the public education system is dominated by public sector unions who have no genuine desire for real education reform. There are many excellent principals and teachers in the government system along with some duds. The former do not need union protection. The latter use the clout that potentially results from collective action to avoid the consequences which flow as a result of incompetence or laziness in most other industries.
The Howard government failed to achieve school education reform because it could not override the state and territory Labor governments which protect the interests of the education unions.
Nothing about the lack of investment in public schools

Well if the government's plans are simply to gauge how individual schools perform and where they could improve, as in NY, its surely a good idea.

Let's just hope money will be there to do what needs to be done if and when the result start coming in.

well they sure need something to effect change to deliver on the promise of an Education Revolution that would bring us better schools, universities and technical colleges and so more of the highly skilled, better-paid jobs we need to prosper in a more competitive world.

The qualification was that this change would not involve interfering with the Howard government's scheme for making grants to public and private schools.

This was to remain even though he Howard government had biased its system of school grants in favour of private schools and the likely consequences of the Rudd Government's commitment to leave these arrangements unchanged until at least 2012 was greater impoverishmnet of public schools.

Post globalism,
We have tough love for poorly performing public schools in a system where the Commonwealth is favours the private system over the public! Any criticism of this kind of biased arrangement is dismissed by Gillard as fighting yesterdays battles

What is happening to Rudd Labor?

spot on. Ross Gittins in the Sydney Morning Herald says:

The disconcerting truth the Rudd Government would prefer us not to think about is that when Howard came to power in 1996, 43 per cent of federal grants to all schools went to the public schools responsible for educating more than two-thirds of all students. By the time he left office last year, total grants had doubled in real terms to $10 billion a year. But whereas real grants to public schools grew by 68 per cent over the period, grants to private schools grew by 137 per cent. The effect was to cut the public schools' share of the kitty to 35 per cent.

Only part of this switch is explained by the continuing drift of students from public to private schools. Much is explained by the way Howard kept changing the funding formula to favour private schools in general and privileged independent schools in particular.

As Gittins says the rules are rigged in favour of the private schools..

Successive Liberal ministers in the Howard Government has a policy to "out" poorly performing schools. The Howard ministers only ever beat the drum. It was a symbolic attack, a diversion. It covered a massive injection of funds into private schools, thus aggravating the very problem that was meant to be fixed. Beating the drum drove more children into these schools and more dollars into their coffers.

We are still waiting for a comparable investment in the public system that educates most of our children. It is a rebuilding the public system after decades of neglect and this cannot occur within existing funding arrangements.