ACT advocates vouchers for education

Jamie Whyte said:

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.

There is a large degree of truth to this.

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.

Yep our current system gives wealthy families a choice, but not poor families.

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.

This is key. There is a different between the state funding something, and providing it.

Government should make sure that every child gets an education by providing all parents with a voucher, redeemable at any school of their choosing. 

would be a radical reform of the education system. And to a degree the results are unknown. In theory the choice should end up with much better outcomes for poorer students. But are all our schools set up to be self-managing and competing? What if half of them collapsed?

That is not a reason to reject vouchers. It is a reason to trial them. Then make decisions based on the evidence of whether or not they improved educational outcomes.

How about we pick three cites and towns. Turn those cities and towns into fully competitive voucher funded educational centres. And after five years assess the performance of students in those three cities and towns compared to the rest of NZ (in terms of relative change). If they have not improved, then scrap the trial. If they have shown significant improvement, then extend it to some further cities and towns. Make the decision based of actual evidence, not ideology.

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