The politics of state funding to private schools

datePosted on 06:00, January 21st, 2009 by Anita

In the United States for a long time the Christian Right and the Economic Right existed in parallel trajectories. They campaigned for different things, they didn’t co-ordinate, and they didn’t overlap in membership. Then they started flirting, they each recognised the political power the other had. The issue that brought them together was public funding to religious schools; it was something they both wanted. For one it was direct funding, for the other it was tax payer subsidisation of the education of the rich. The Republicans, keen to draw in the conservative Christians hugely increased the state funding of private (religious) schools

In Australia as John Howard built his brand off his Methodist values, rolled back liberal measures and developed and used the conservative Christians, his government hugely increased the state funding of private (religious) schools.

In New Zealand, as the Brash and then Key led National Party fought against a liberal incumbent and developed its relationship with the conservative Christians both leaders promised church groups that they would increase funding to religious schools. Now they have been elected and are promising to nearly double the funding to private (religious) schools.

28 Responses to “The politics of state funding to private schools”

  1. BLiP on January 21st, 2009 at 08:41

    I see that the NZ Fox News Herald has already begun the softening up process to facilitate the transfer of funds from the public purse to the children of the rich.

    But it is a connundrum. On the one hand, those who pay for a private education are, in effect, reducing the burden on the public purse of educating the rest of us. The again, why should a secular state subsidise a religious education?

    I’m not sure where I stand on this issue and shall await the usual erudite comments of your more informed contributors.

  2. The ex-expat on January 21st, 2009 at 09:35

    Anita, you analysis misses some important differences between the systems.

    The New Zealand state has been subsidizing religious schools – all those ‘special character’ schools kura, catholic, pentecostal since at least the the 1970s. They receive substantial funding through integration to the public sector ie. they teach the New Zealand curriculum but are able to retain a ‘special character.’

    The difference between them and the ‘true’ private schools is that they do not teach the New Zealand curriculum. Most of the true religious private schools in New Zealand are run by the more liberal denominations of Christianity ie. the anglicans Also some New Zealand private schools have no religious element to them at all, the academic colleges group, is one that springs to mind.

  3. BeShakey on January 21st, 2009 at 09:52

    But it is a connundrum. On the one hand, those who pay for a private education are, in effect, reducing the burden on the public purse of educating the rest of us. The again, why should a secular state subsidise a religious education?

    Surely the situation is fairly analogous to health, but in that situation few people argue that the state should start funding private hospitals because the rich are taking pressure off the health care system by going private. Another similarity would be (I suspect) that the actual data would show that the pressure removed from the public system by taking away some of the brightest and richest kids would be minimal (given that of course as well as losing the ‘burden’ of providing for them, you lose all of the contributions they could have made).

  4. Graeme Edgeler on January 21st, 2009 at 11:14

    Why should a secular state subsidise a religious education?

    Because it’s not an atheist state?

    Or perhaps it can just pay for part of the regular education, and allow parents who want the religious education to pay extra on top of that…

  5. cha on January 21st, 2009 at 11:36

    Cactus Kate has posted on private school fees.

    * King’s College: Year 9 to 11 $19,340, Year 12 and 13 $19,872.
    * St Kentigern College: $14,700 plus levies and fees.
    * Kristin School: Years 7-10 $14,940, Years 11-13 $15,260.
    * Senior College: $14, 458.
    * Diocesan School for Girls: Year 1 to 6 $13,824. Year 7-13 $16,040.
    * St Cuthbert’s College: Year 1 to 6 $13, 408. Year 7 to 13 $15, 888.
    * St Paul’s Collegiate: Day student $21, 133, boarders $25,717.
    * St Peter’s Cambridge: $15,000 for a day pupil, $25,000 for a boarder.
    * Montessori College of Auckland: Closed. $7650 plus donations.

  6. Anita on January 21st, 2009 at 12:32

    The ex-expat writes,

    The difference between them and the ‘true’ private schools is that they do not teach the New Zealand curriculum. Most of the true religious private schools in New Zealand are run by the more liberal denominations of Christianity ie. the anglicans Also some New Zealand private schools have no religious element to them at all, the academic colleges group, is one that springs to mind.

    Traditionally our true private schools (aka “independant schools” as opposed to “integrated schools”) have been made up of “special character” (e.g. Montessori and Steiner schools) and some very elite religious schools (e.g. Wanganui Collegiate, King’s College), as you said mostly Anglican, and a handful of others (e.g. Gloriavale Christian Community School – the Cooperite school, and Kadimah College – a Jewish school in Auckland).

    What has changed in the increase in two other groups: “International” schools – which take NZ pupils alongside the focus on export education, and more conservative Christian schools.

    Taking a quick look through the list of independent schools some easy examples of the recent increase in evangelical conservative Christian schools within this sector stand out: City Impact Church School, Destiny School, West City Christian College. Also there are a number of relatively new schools within the “Christian Schools” movement, e.g Amana Christian School.

    So increased funding to these schools benefits both the rich (subsidising the schools fees of elite schools) and the evangelical conservative churches which are involved with, or send their children to, an increasing number of evangelical conservative Christian private schools.

  7. James on January 21st, 2009 at 13:30

    Private schools reciving State funding ARE State schools….they are tired to them and therfore are able to be dictated to by the state.

    The State has no role to play in education…remove it.

  8. Anita on January 21st, 2009 at 13:32

    James writes,

    Private schools reciving State funding ARE State schools….they are tired to them and therfore are able to be dictated to by the state.

    Is that a statement of principle or a comment on the current rules in NZ?

    If the latter you might like to check out the difference between state, integrated and independent schools.

    If the former, yes your comment is entirely consistent with libertarian ideology. I’m not sure there’s much else to say. :)

  9. Roger Nome on January 21st, 2009 at 14:19

    James:

    “The State has no role to play in education…remove it.”

    Says you – others would like to see children from disadvantaged backgrounds have the opportunity to get a decent education. Still more would balk at the idea of neo-nazi schools springing up around the place to teach their hatred.

    Now, pull your head out of “Atlas Shrugged”, and have a look at reality. The dogmatic faith in 80s market idealism is cute, but we’ve been listening to the same sermon for the last 30 years, and we’ve still yet to see the rapture. You came three decades late i’m afraid, our spotty little disciple.

  10. Quoth the Raven on January 21st, 2009 at 16:27

    While I hate to wade into the public schools debate I will anyway. I’ll readily admit the education system in this nation is much better than other nations. Even so I still can’t see how any left winger can be proud of the public school system. It is run along totalitarian lines making children resent their education. They have strict hierachies and they inculcate children into this hieracical state of mind. They breed apathy or alternatively mindless careerism. I’m not saying that current “private” schools are better in fact I believe they’re worse. Kevin Carson has some great quotes here from American educators. John Dewey:“Every teacher should realize he is a social servant set apart for the maintenance of the proper social order and the securing of the right social growth.”
    A U.S. commisioner of education: Ninety-nine [students] out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual.”
    Carson’s sentiments that they have don’t have liberal education they have servile education applies equally to our own nation.

    I agree with James that the “private schools” are nothing of the sort, they are state schools. If they are religious it is absurd in a secualr society that our tax dollar funds them.

    Roger – Opposition to state schooling needn’t have anything to do with neo-liberalism or 80s market idealism (which is not market idealism at all). Here’s something interesting for you – Rothbard was an austrian economist, with some very interesting ideas, for instance if we were to “privatise” a state university it would be absurd to sell it to the highest corporate bidder. Using Lockean principles it should be owned by those whose labour has been mixed with it hence if the state were to privatise a univeristy it would belong to the educators, workers and students.

  11. unaha-closp on January 21st, 2009 at 17:19

    Two other prominent examples of extensive state funding for private schools are the Netherlands and Sweden. Are these also victims of right wing/christian agenda politics or have you just cherry picked two examples and extrapolated a wild theory?

  12. Anita on January 21st, 2009 at 17:49

    unaha-closp,

    I wrote about Australia because they’re most similar to us, and about the US because analysts see the inspiration for the Australian arrangement in the politics of the US.

    I was also writing about increases in funding to private schools as a political tactic not the absolute levels themselves.

    But anyhow, let’s take your examples:

    The Netherlands

    A quick google says that the equalisation of funding to private schools was accomplished as part of the Pacification of 1917 and resolved a very long and bitter dispute in which Protestant and Catholic schools wanted equal funding called the “school funding controversy”. One thing I read says that it was radical liberals who also wanted equal funding for private schools.

    So that absolutely backs up my point, same players, same alliances, same outcomes.

    Sweden
    Sweden is so different that it’s really hard to compare. They have state funding of private schools (effectively a voucher system) but the private schools are not allowed to charge additional fees. They also severely limit the teaching of religious ideas in all schools.

    So I’m not sure that they have enough in common with us to draw any real inferences.

  13. Anita on January 21st, 2009 at 18:12

    unaha-closp,

    If you’re really interested (and ideally have JSTOR access, if you don’t email me and I can probably dig you up a copy of the article) you might want to have a look at this article. It’s intended to be about policy borrowing but it covers the situation in both the UK and the Netherlands (which both have state funding of religious schools) as well as some interesting history of the challenges of setting up evangelical schools in both countries.

  14. James on January 21st, 2009 at 19:16

    James – you compare the blog authors to rapists and expect to still be able to comment here? Come back when your pants are dry – we’ll see if they are in 1 week.

  15. Oliver on January 21st, 2009 at 19:16

    Increased state contributions to private schools will still be far less per pupil than what state schools receive. That means that for every extra student in private schools there is more money left for state education.

    Also a quick look through all the private schools will show you a lot of immigrant families with 2 working parents making a lot of sacrifices to send their children to private schools because of their lack of faith in state education.

  16. SPC on January 21st, 2009 at 19:27

    When will people argue for subsidy for those buying into gated communities on the basis that new housing reduces pressure on the existing housing stock?

  17. Anita on January 21st, 2009 at 20:24

    Oliver writes,

    Increased state contributions to private schools will still be far less per pupil than what state schools receive. That means that for every extra student in private schools there is more money left for state education.

    That’s true only if people switch their children from public to private schools. Increasing the subsidy to John Key’s family and City Impact Church School parents produces absolutely no saving for the state system.

  18. millsy on January 21st, 2009 at 20:36

    I dont see just why the government can just fix the public school sector instead of giving up and handing the money to parents to send their kids to private schools.

    Surely we are better than that?

  19. BLiP on January 21st, 2009 at 20:48

    Oliver said:

    Also a quick look through all the private schools will show you a lot of immigrant families with 2 working parents making a lot of sacrifices to send their children to private schools because of their lack of faith in state education.

    That’s a little racist, isn’t it? Just so that you do know: immigrant families can be just as elitist as the the local knobs who send their children to private school. They too can feel so superior as to not want to mix with the hoi polloi.

    I didn’t know the private schools permitted access such detailed information about the parents; country of birth, marital status, and income. I suppose they sell it to credit card company telemarketers.

  20. Elizabeth on January 21st, 2009 at 21:36

    Now, pull your head out of “Atlas Shrugged”, and have a look at reality. The dogmatic faith in 80s market idealism is cute, but we’ve been listening to the same sermon for the last 30 years, and we’ve still yet to see the rapture. You came three decades late i’m afraid, our spotty little disciple.

    Love it. Giggling my head off

  21. unaha-closp on January 21st, 2009 at 23:18

    So that absolutely backs up my point, same players, same alliances, same outcomes.

    Outcomes are interesting. After 90 years of equal state funding for (and some influence over) each child the Dutch are now mostly liberals. Not what I’d call a bad outcome, since I am mostly liberal. It seems to be a progressive approach to education that is capable of uniting disparate groups under a common cirriculum.

    Based on that longterm outcome the Nats and the Aussie Libs and even the Republicans seem to be adopting the more liberal and progressive approach to education than their respective opposing parties. Those opposing parties may have become so inter-twined with unionist special interests favouring a state monopoly of schools that they neglect more progressive alternatives.

    PS. Thanks but no thanks with the scholarly article.

  22. unaha-closp on January 22nd, 2009 at 09:40

    For one it was direct funding, for the other it was tax payer subsidisation of the education of the rich.

    Yet liberal politicians endorse tax-payer subsidisation for the retirement of the rich, the healthcare of the rich and in NZ the accident insurance of the rich. Means testing is not standard liberal fare for any other policy area. Why here?

  23. unaha-closp on January 22nd, 2009 at 10:13

    It all fits the theory that major parties overtime become centrists, distinguishable only by the colour of their money. So called “conservatives” represent the business community so will push any agenda (even a progressive one of statist inclusion) that favours their money and so called “progressives” represent organised labour so push any agenda (even one that exaserpates social exclusion) that favours union power.

    This post infers (using the Bush & Howard bogeymen) that an increasing state subsidy is bad and then James comments that the subsidy should be cut to zero. Is kiwipolitico moving in James’ direction?

  24. Phil Sage (sagenz) on January 22nd, 2009 at 11:06

    Outcomes are interesting. After 90 years of equal state funding for (and some influence over) each child the Dutch are now mostly liberals. Not what I’d call a bad outcome, since I am mostly liberal. It seems to be a progressive approach to education that is capable of uniting disparate groups under a common cirriculum.

    ah brilliant. How absolutely true. I had the choice between Selwyn & an expensive private school. I chose Selwyn. And there is nobody who is happier than me that base of liberal pathetic mediocrity has closed.

    My kids are now in a Catholic state grammar school. They worked hard to get in. And they are getting a much better education and actual ethics than I got.

    Education must be about high standards and choice. If you believe state provision is better than private by definition, you are simply an idealist cretin. Excellent education is about standards and leadership. Delivery by state or private is not important of itself. Private or voucher based provision is the only way to ensure high standards are maintained. New Zealand, UK & USA are dominated by teacher unions enforcing mediocre standards.

    You may all hate Bush but NCLB has verifiably raised standards.

  25. Roger Nome on January 22nd, 2009 at 13:24

    Unaha:

    “so called “progressives” represent organised labour so push any agenda (even one that exaserpates social exclusion) that favours union power.”

    That’s a bit simplistic actually. The CTU actually failed to achieve a lot of it’s policy objectives when Labour was in power. The 5th Labour government was a “third-way” regime, which took a “stakeholder” approach to governance, meaning that Business lobby groups had just is much influence over their policy making as organised Labour.

  26. BLiP on January 22nd, 2009 at 14:24

    Phil Sage said:

    You may all hate Bush but NCLB has verifiably raised standards.

    What I hate most about Bush is his unrelenting mendacity and that of his cretinous sycophantic acolytes.

    The NCLB program is a disgrace. Anyone like some links that prove this pont?

  27. Anita on January 23rd, 2009 at 09:53

    unaha-closp,

    This post infers (using the Bush & Howard bogeymen) that an increasing state subsidy is bad and then James comments that the subsidy should be cut to zero. Is kiwipolitico moving in James’ direction?

    That is not what I meant my post to imply, and it might be useful for me to say that the tie-in between the religious and economic right’s in the US over school funding started well before Bush, which is why I didn’t mention him.

    The point of the post was two-fold:
    1) To look at the politics that underpin a particular National policy, and
    2) To look at the way the religious and economic right can and do work together, which was inspired by this awesome comment by Pascal’s Bookie.

    I might post about what I think about public funding of private schools one day, but this wasn’t it :)

  28. […] escalation in violent crime and prison population So it appears that family values, like private schooling, is a carefully crafted concept providing a common cause for both the neoliberal economic right, […]

Leave a Reply

Name: (required)
Email: (required) (will not be published)
Website:
Comment: