The Greens yesterday announced a plan to extend the early childhood education subsidy to 2 year olds. This will be worth $95 a week to those parents. We have become so used to such policies that we no longer notice how peculiar they are.
If the Greens want the parents of 2-year-olds to be made $95 a week better off at the expense of taxpayers, why not simply give them $95 a week in cash? Why make receipt of taxpayers' money conditional on spending it on early childhood education? If that is how the parents want to spend the $95, they can.
If they have something better use for $95 a week, such as saving it for their child's future university education, they can use it for that instead. Why push your intended beneficiary around in this way?
The answer is that by forcing your beneficiaries to spend the taxpayers' money you are offering them on something in particular, you make it a more effective election bribe. Not only will the parents of toddlers become more inclined to vote for you, so will the early childhood educators who are going to be on the receiving end of all this spending. Two bribes for the price of one! Now that's a Smart Green economy for you.
Today ACT is releasing its education policy. It aims to raise standards, especially in underperforming schools, by increasing choice and competition in primary and secondary education. It does this by giving all state and integrated schools the option of becoming Partnership Schools Hourua Kura and by increasing the government subsidy for independent schools.
This policy contrasts starkly with the education policies of Labour and National.
Labour’s policy of increasing teacher numbers and discouraging parents from donating money to schools reflects their abiding philosophy – that no matter what the question, the answer is always spending more taxpayers’ money.
National’s policy, which imposes new management and teaching arrangements on schools reflects their centralising and managerialist tendency – their unjustified confidence that things would be done better if only they were controlled from the Beehive.
ACT is the only party that has faith in teachers and parents. Politicians should not decide how schools are run or how students are taught. Teachers should. And politicians should not decide which schools succeed and which fail, which expand and which contract, which open and which close. Parents should, through the choices they make about where to send their children.
New Zealand’s education system does not need yet more governmental interference. It needs more choice and more competition.
NZ Teachers Unions Attack President Obama on the Education of Black Children
Blog: Jamie Whyte, ACT Leader
The PPTA and the NZEI, two New Zealand teachers’ unions, have gone to war with President Obama on charter schools, to which many black American parents choose to send their children.
In his address to mark charter schools day in America, President Obama said that charter schools “try innovative approaches to teaching and learning in the classroom. This flexibility comes with high standards and accountability; charter schools must demonstrate that all their students are progressing toward academic excellence. Those that do not measure up can be shut down. And those that are successful can provide effective approaches for the broader public education system. They can show what is possible – schools that give every student the chance to prepare for college and career and to develop a love of learning that lasts a lifetime.”
When I said the same thing in a speech last weekend, Judith Nowotarski, the president of the NZEI, called me a “crack pot”. Angela Roberts, the head of the PPTA, said I was “immoral”. And John Minto of the pro-union Mana Party called me an “offensive idiot”.
I wonder if they have contacted Barack Obama to repeat these sentiments. I wonder if they will be writing to the parents of black children in America whose prospects in life have been transformed by charter schools to tell them that they are crackpot, immoral, offensive idiots.
Choice and Caring Go Together
Press Release: Jamie Whyte, ACT Leader
Judith Nowotarski, President of the New Zealand Education institute, a teachers union, doesn’t like our policy of allowing schools to opt out of Ministry of Education control and be bulk funded on a per-pupil basis. She says that “ACT wants to push children through privatised education, as though they were commodities”.
She has also said that “parents know that children are not tins of beans and schools are not supermarkets”.
This response is not only embarrassingly ignorant; it reveals an ugly attitude towards children.
ACT’s policy is aimed at providing schools and parents with more choice. We are not “pushing” anybody into anything. On the contrary, it is Ms Nowotarski who wishes to push students into state schools. She wants to limit the choices available to teachers, parents and pupils.
Her suggestion that we in ACT think of students as commodities is also bizarre. In my speech announcing our policy, I compared the supply of food in New Zealand to the supply of education. Food is supplied by retailers competing for customers. Education, for the most part, is not supplied by schools competing for pupils. We think that, like everything else, education would be better if it were supplied in this way.
But Ms Nowotarski seems to have got the analogy all mixed up. I meant the pupils and their parents to be analogous to the customers of food retailers. She thinks of them as the food being sold, as “tins of beans”. Ms Nowotarski’s peculiar misunderstanding of our position reveals more about how she thinks of children than how we do.
ACT wants educational choice because we care about children. We want every child to have the best possible start in life. Educational choice means parents do not to have to put up with excuses by poor schools. They can vote with their feet.
Judith Nowotarski is the President of the New Zealand Education Institute, a teachers’ union. She opposes ACT’s policy of allowing state schools to choose to become charter schools. She argues that:
“The charter school experiment has been dogged by controversy in its first year. No one is queuing up for more. Opinion polls show parents have no appetite for this experiment being rolled out any further.”
That is ridiculous. The only controversy about partnership schools has been all the whining from teachers’ unions. Nowotarski’s claim that no one wants to send their children to partnership schools is even sillier. If it were true, what would she be worried about? No one would take the choice our policy offers them. The fact that Nowotarski wants parents to be denied the choice shows that she knows many would choose partnership schools.
Speech to ACT Northern Regional Conference
28 June 2014
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for coming today.
Some of you are probably here because we picked this lovely spot to hold the meeting.
It’s a good thing for us and for the members of the Takapuna Boating Club that it was built before 1991, when the Resource Management ACT was passed. Today it might not get planning consent.
Who knows if it would count as respecting the “intrinsic value of the environment”? It might not even be sustainable.
Some people I talk to are surprised to learn that the RMA was passed by a National government. They shouldn’t be.
For although the National Party in opposition claims to believe in personal responsibility, individual choice and fiscal discipline, in government they turn into the Labour Party.
If you did not know the election results, but could see only the policies pursued over the last 15 years, you would think that Helen Clark’s Labour Party was still in power.
Labour increased government spending dramatically. This National government has sustained it, increasing government debt to 35% of GDP in the process.
Labour employed tens of thousands of new bureaucrats. National has kept them in their jobs, beavering away, paid from our taxes to impose even more burdens on us.
Labour made tens of thousands of middle-class families welfare beneficiaries with their Working for Families money-go-round. These families are still being taxed to fund their conversion into state supplicants.
Labour bribed university students with interest free loans. National has kept slipping the envelopes under the table, despite the cost of the programme exploding to more than $500 million a year.
Bill English has actually boasted that under National high-earners pay a greater share of total taxation than they did under Labour.
Only two policies would surprise someone who didn’t know Labour had been kicked out: three strikes for violent crime and partnership schools. And they are both ACT policies.
Voters now face a choice between a Clinton-Blair-Clark-style “Third Way” Centre Left party. That’s National.
An old-fashioned, trades union-dominated, central-planning Labour Party.
A Watermelon Party – Green on the outside and red on the inside.
The Internet-Mana Party, which combines the racial politics of Hone Harawera with the socialism of Laila Harre.
A Muldoonist, anti-trade, anti-foreigner New Zealand First.
A Muldoonist, anti-trade, anti-foreigner Conservative Party.
ACT is the only party in New Zealand that truly believes in free markets. The only party that believes in property rights. The only party that believes in individual liberty and personal responsibility. The only party that believes in a small state and a big individual.
Nowhere is this more evident than in education policy, which is what I want to discuss today.
- The importance of Education
Education has become more important than ever. All around the world, the incomes of the well-educated are rising rapidly while the incomes of uneducated people are stagnating.
This is a predictable result of technological progress. Physical labour and physical strength have become relatively unimportant.
What matters now are your intellectual and social abilities, both of which can be greatly improved by a good education.
Many New Zealand children are well educated. We have some excellent schools here. But we also have a large rump of failure.
The OECD’s 2013 international rankings placed New Zealand 15 year olds at 18th in Science, down from 7th in 2009. It placed us 23rd in Maths, down from 13th. 13th in reading, down from 7th.
It’s disappointing that the ranking of our average student is declining. But our mediocre averages disguise an even more unpleasant fact.
The difference between our best students and our worst is the biggest in the OECD. Our average is average only because our best are very good. Our underperforming students are doing really badly. About 15% leave school almost illiterate.
If we cannot improve the educations supplied to those now being failed, they will fall farther and farther behind well-educated New Zealanders. They won’t have a real chance to get ahead in life. And New Zealand’s overall economic growth will be slowed.
This economic view of education will be familiar. But it doesn’t go far enough.
Education is not important merely for your standard of living. It runs deeper than that. Education forms you. It is part of what makes you the person you are.
I’ll name some of the teachers who have contributed not only to my progress in life but to who I am.
There was Mr Heath, my Standard 2 teacher at Melon’s Bay Primary. He was a long haired sax-playing jazz musician who inspired an enduring love of music in me.
Mr Taimana at Buckland’s Beach Intermediate taught a few of us University Entrance maths even though we were only 12, and made me realize that we are often capable of more than we realize.
Miss Stevens, my history teacher at Pakuranga College, made me understand that the way we live today is not just a natural fact but the result of big ideas that have been battled over for centuries.
Then my philosophy lecturers at Auckland and Cambridge taught me how to be truly boring at parties.
Most of you here could probably name teachers who have been similarly important influences. But many New Zealanders couldn’t. And their baron educational experiences have impoverished them, not just materially but spiritually.
Once people are fed, clothed, housed and loved, nothing is more important to them than their educations.
- What’s wrong with our education system
Food, clothing and housing are provided by competing private suppliers, and sometimes even love. But, for the most part, education is not. 85% of children attend a state school.
State schools face no serious competition.
If a supermarket fails to provide its customers with the food they want, it will go broke. Other supermarkets that offer these dissatisfied customers a better deal will win their business.
The same goes for the farms that produce the food. Fail to provide what your customers want as efficiently as your competitors do and you will eventually go bust.
This ongoing competitive market process explains why the quality of food has improved so much over the last 100 years while the cost has declined.
By contrast, if a state school fails to provide educations that satisfy the parents of their pupils, it will not shut down. Its income does not come from the parents it is failing to satisfy. It comes from taxpayers with no choice in the matter.
Indeed, if a school performs poorly, it is likely to attract extra government funding. In the private sector, resources flow into success; in the public sector they flow into failure.
In a free market, what counts as a good product or service is decided by consumers. It’s up to them what they spend their money on.
Because consumers have different needs and preferences, free markets tend to result in a great variety of products being offered. Think of the extraordinary range of tastes that are catered to by restaurants and food retailers in New Zealand.
When market competition is replaced with state supplied goods and services, consumers’ preferences do not determine what gets offered. The preferences of government ministers and bureaucrats do.
We do not get a variety of educational offerings tailored to the different needs and preferences of children and their parents. We get a standardized, one-size-fits-all educational model.
And, as always with one-size-fits all models, state education in New Zealand now fits only a few children.
Who are those children?
They are children with well-off, well-educated parents.
Parents who can afford to buy a house near to a school that will do a good job for their child.
Parents who have the confidence to lobby for changes to curriculums and teaching methods that would suit their children better.
Parents who can afford to pay the fees of private schools, which do face competitive pressure to supply educations which suit their customers.
The children of poor parents have none of these advantages. That’s why their children get educations that don’t suit them. That’s why there is a strong correlation between educational performance and the “income decile” of the neighbourhood around a school.
Many people blame this correlation on the poor families themselves. Their children just cannot be taught.
That is offensive bullshit. Poor children can be taught. Talented teachers, free to adapt their methods to the needs of their students have shown this time and time again.
My PhD supervisor at Cambridge was the son of a British Rail steward and a mother who didn’t work outside the home. His family would now be described as living in poverty. Yet his education at Manchester Grammar School was so successful that he went on to obtain first class honours degrees in chemistry and engineering at Cambridge University before becoming a philosophy lecturer there only three years after taking up the subject.
The grammar schools of pre-politically correct England are not the only examples of educational excellence for the poor. As a recent Economist Magazine survey showed, charter schools in America clearly outperform state schools.
In New Zealand, the Nick Hyde’s Vanguard Academy and Alwyn Poole’s South Auckland Middle School, for examples, are showing what committed and creative principals can do to lift standards.
Imagine the progress we might see if educators were set fee. If the likes of Nick Hyde and Alwyn Poole were not the exception but the norm.
Imagine how much better education could be if it were provided in the way food is provided in New Zealand rather than the way it was provided in the Soviet Union.
- ACT’s long term education policy
ACT thinks education should be provided in a market of competing suppliers. That has always been our position.
It does not mean that we are opposed to the state funding of education. Not at all. We share the almost universally accepted idea that all children should get a decent chance in life, whatever the circumstances of their birth.
But that doesn’t mean that the state must provide educations, that it must run schools.
The unemployed are now guaranteed food by the state.
This is not done by way of state farms and state supermarkets. It is done by way of cash payments which the unemployed can use to buy food from privately owned and commercially run supermarkets which get their produce from privately owned and commercially run farms.
No sane and informed person believes that the unemployed or the working poor would be better off if the food industry were nationalized. Pre-communist Russia was known as the bread basket of Europe. The Soviet Union relied on food-aid from its arch-rival, the capitalist United States of America.
The same goes for clothes, housing, computers, shoes and just about everything else. No one would expect quality or value-for-money to be improved if these industries were nationalized and we all got what government bureaucrats believed we deserved. And no one would think that nationalizing them was a way to help the poor.
ACT believes the same is true of education. The state should make sure that every child gets an education. But that education should be supplied by educators competing for parents’ voluntarily patronage. Educators should have to win the business of willing customers, just as supermarkets do, just as clothes stores do and just as builders do.
Government should make sure that every child gets an education by providing all parents with a voucher, redeemable at any school of their choosing. Otherwise the government should have no more involvement in the education business than it has in the food business.
ACT’s Policy for 2014
That’s what we want. But what can we now do about it?
What can we seriously hope to get past the National Party in a confidence and supply deal?
With Partnership Schools, we have already made a step in the right direction.
Partnership schools are largely free from Ministry of Education direction. They are free to adopt educational models that suit their pupils. They can employ who they want and pay them what they want.
Most importantly, their funding depends on how many students they attract. Their fortunes depend on the decisions of their pupils’ parents.
Unfortunately, we have taken only a small step in the right direction. Five partnership schools were opened this year. And another five are expected to open next year. And these few schools come under constant attack for being additional to the current stock of state schools and therefore reducing the funds available to them.
The answer is to give all state schools the option of become partnership schools. School boards should be allowed to opt out of control by the Ministry of Education, and be bulk-funded according to the number of students they can attract.
This policy entails no additional government spending.
Just more freedom for teachers to adapt their methods to their students.
More freedom for schools to innovate.
More choice for parents and students.
And no school board that doesn’t want these freedoms would be forced to have them. School Boards that wish to stay under Ministry of Education direction could choose to do so.
However, I expect that a large portion would choose to be free. And that we would see dramatic improvements in the performance of schools, especially those teaching children from poor families.
ACT has other education policies. For example, we want to slash the number of bureaucrats working in the Ministry of Education – which has swollen to 2,700 – and give the money saved to schools. And we want to increase the subsidy for independent schools. That won’t cost taxpayers anything extra because it will draw pupils out of the state sector.
These and other proposals will be explained in our Education Policy Document which will published on Friday. They are all good moves. But they are small beer compared to giving all schools the choice to become partnership schools.
* * * * *
When I took over the leadership of ACT, some commentators portrayed me as a new captain on the Titanic after it had been holed by an iceberg. If they were referring to Banksy’s troubles with Kim Dotcom, they got their nautical metaphor wrong. Though Dotcom resembles something from the sea, it isn’t an iceberg.
More importantly, ACT is not a ship. It is a torch for an idea. I am proud to have picked up that torch. For the idea is the most powerful idea, the most beautiful idea in the history of human affairs. It is the idea of freedom.
Dr Jamie Whyte welcomes all members of the public and media to join him for an address at the Takapuna Boating Club this Saturday, June 28.
Dr Whyte's 3pm speech will outline ACT's ideas and policy platform for this election, and will unveil ACT's new education policy. The floor will then open for an extensive question and answer session.
Afterwards, there will be plenty of time to meet Jamie, David, and other ACT candidates.
The venue has a stunning view of Takapuna Beach and a cash bar will open after Dr Whyte's address.
Entry to the 3pm speech is free, but anyone is welcome to come at the earlier time of 1pm and pay the $25 registration fee to hear the forum's full range of speakers, including party President John Thompson, Epsom candidate David Seymour, economist Jim Rose, and a number of ACT's newly-announced candidates.
The answer is that education supply is controlled by the government. In a normal market, increased demand first pushes up prices. This increases profits and encourages additional supply of whatever consumers want but has been in shortage.
The government should do what it can to draw the private sector into the business of supplying education in Auckland through initiatives like Partnership Schools. The creativity of social entrepreneurs is what we need to address New Zealand’s social challenges.
A life of hard work, honest endeavour and public service
At his media conference this week with ACT President John Boscawen, ACT Leader John Banks said that early in his life he had made a commitment to hard work, honest endeavour and public service. This he said was to try to balance the family ledger.
These ACT values were at the fore this week when he put both party and country first. ACT he said needed a circuit breaker and a change in narrative. He intended to provide that by announcing he would see out the term serving the people of Epsom as their local MP, but would not seek re-election. He also said he intended to stand down as Party Leader at the ACT annual conference on 1 March 2014. This would allow him to focus on clearing his name. These decisions would maximise the opportunity for the ACT candidate to earn the confidence of the people of Epsom and the new ACT Leader to build a team to earn the necessary party votes for ACT.
The next election will be close. Like last time, he said ACT and Epsom can and will make the difference. He concluded his prepared remarks by saying he believed in a country where everybody has the freedom to achieve. Whether New Zealand can be a more open, prosperous, and enterprising nation, with its focus firmly on the future, will depend on ACT succeeding.
Towards a new candidate for Epsom; towards a new ACT Leader
ACT President John Boscawen acknowledged John Banks’ long public service and told the media conference that the ACT Board would meet shortly to open nominations for the ACT candidacy in Epsom and to determine the process for a new ACT Leader. He said the ACT Board would be considering options to engage and activate the involvement of the membership of the Party so the ACT Board can make the best choice of Leader. He told the media he was absolutely confident that ACT can succeed in 2014.
ACT the party of principle - National the party of power
Those within the orbit of the ACT party (and those outside it) have been regularly appearing in the media over the past few days on what’s next for ACT. Most of this coverage has been helpful. The Prime Minister said on Newstalk ZB that there was a voting demographic that can be earned by ACT. He helpfully said that ACT’s pitch was putting more backbone into a National Led Government – but hastily added he didn’t personally agree with the pitch. Former leader Rodney Hide was on RadioLive reminding commentators that there was a process to go through to earn the confidence of ACT members and the Epsom electorate. ACT had the opportunity to renew itself with a fresh pitch and new people for 2014. He said it was unlikely he would seek a return to Parliament but one should never say never.
Dr Jamie Whyte told National Radio that what attracted him to the ACT Party was its values; we are the party of principle whereas National is the party of power. He said he had spent most of his life teaching others about free markets and individual liberty; he thought it was time for him to shift from talking to taking action. Hear Jamie here.
Tracey Martin wrong on Whangaruru Partnership School
Winston First groupies are certainly an odd lot. Tracy Martin (Winston’s Deputy Leader) and member of Parliament’s education and science committee is no exception. This week, she wrongfully claimed that Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru had run out of money and would not get up and running. She was even more outraged that the sponsors of the Kura had purchased a farm and wanted to know if the taxpayer could recover the property.
Ms Martin scrutinised the legislation and policy for Partnership Kura, she should be able to answer her own questions. Partnership schools are not state schools, so they are not provided land and buildings. Other than the non-provision of buildings and land, they are funded for their establishment in the same manner as new state schools. Therefore the taxpayer has no direct interest or risk in any property purchased by a Kura. If a school does not perform there are a number remedies available to the Government under the sponsorship contract including the ability to recover money for services not provided. Just like any other contract.
A sea of debt, a big deficit but they have growth
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne made the Autumn Statement to the Commons this week outlining the UK Treasury’s view about growth. He said the UK economy would grow by 1.2% next year, 2.0% in 2014, 2.3% in 2015, 2.7% in 2016 and 2.8% in 2017 outpacing forecasts for Germany and France. He told MPs that borrowing would drop from £159 billion 2009 -10 to a forecast £31 billion in 2017-18 and indicated that the deficit would continue to drop to a predicted small surplus at the end of the OBR forecast period. A useful summary of the Autumn Statement is here.
Hamba kahle Madiba
"Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do."
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, (18 July 1918 to 5 Dec 2013) Father of modern South Africa.