Pork for School Lunches

To gain an insight into the worst tendencies of Liberal Party social policy, look no further than their recently released schools policy, which promises $1 billion to fix school buildings. Why is this money a priority? We’re not told. How will it be spent? Doled out to everyone. How will we measure its impact? We’ll never be able to. Any serious discussion of teacher quality, school choice, equity, testing or any fundamentally important educational issue? Nup.

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4 Responses to Pork for School Lunches

  1. Andrew Norton says:

    I must admit I haven’t read the government’s school policy, though I am quite prepared to believe that its evidence is a bit light on. But the quality of school buildings is a big issue, often very run-down with no cooling and inadequate heating. Teachers have the worst physical conditions of any white collar workers. It is one of many things making teaching an unattractive career.

  2. Andrew Leigh says:

    Andrew,

    I didn’t mean to come across as opposing the improvement of school buildings. But if your goal is to make teaching a more attractive career, $1 spent on buildings across the state almost surely gets less bang-for-buck than $1 spent on salaries or performance-based top-ups. In some schools, the reverse might be true, but because this is about as carefully targeted as a drunk twelve year old with a shotgun, my guess is that its effect on teacher quality will be approximately zero.

    Andrew.

  3. Andrew Norton says:

    I’ve been mightly unimpressed with the Coalition’s spendathon, but I suspect this one is defensible (even if they have not defended it with real data). In this policy, they are avoiding recurrent spending, which is what you get if you become involved in salaries. I think it is best to avoid further complication of federal-state financial responsibilities by getting the feds involved in teacher salary setting, however important that issue may be.

    As I understand the situation with school buildings, far too many are in a state that no teacher should have to work in and no student should have to study in. Fixing some of them is something the feds can do to improve things without any huge ideological fight.

    In your original post you mentioned school choice, which has surely been one of the Howard government’s relative successes in schools, given the growth in the private school system over their term in office. They’ve done about as much as they can, it is now up to the states. And my old boss, David Kemp, had a big battle with the states in the late 1990s to get literacy and numeracy testing.

  4. Andrew Leigh says:

    Maybe I missed something in reading the policy documents, but the policy didn’t seem to be aimed at fixing the worst schools so much as providing a dose of capital funding for all schools.

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