In 2009 the Government cut funding for adult community education classes. It was an easy target, as adult community education lacks the lobbying power of the tobacco, alcohol and gambling industries. As a result there was little organised public opposition.
Tobacco, alcohol and gambling do not get taxpayer funding. On the contrary they pay huge amounts of tax to fund stuff such as, well, adult community education.
So presumably Lyons wrote this just to try and paint the Government as captured by special interests (in fact it has agreed to tobacco plain packaging and a 50% increase in tobacco excise tax – far more than any previous Government has done).
A PricewaterhouseCoopers report said the benefit of adult education to the New Zealand economy was about $4.8 billion. The report concluded that every direct dollar spent produced a $16 gain to our economy.
As Mr Lyons teaches economics perhaps he should read the PWC report and the critiques of it by professional economists. It’s nonsensical conclusions are based on an assumption that if you do a pottery clause, you magically become half as likely to ever commit a crime.
In 1996, I was teaching in Warkworth. At the start of the year I was rung by the evening class co-ordinator at Orewa College. She desperately needed an accounting tutor for an evening class starting that week. I reluctantly agreed to take the class for the first term until a permanent replacement was found.
There were 10 students. They included several single mothers on the DPB eager to learn a new skill. There was a guy with cerebral palsy in a wheelchair. I ended up taking the class for the entire year.
By the end of the year the number had dwindled to seven students, which was not a bad attrition rate given my skills as an accounting teacher. All passed the final exam. For most of them it was their first success in an external exam.
It is not difficult to do the maths on the potential wider economic benefits of one of these students furthering their study in accounting. If one of those ladies on the DPB carried on to complete an accounting degree she would have an earning capacity of at least $70,000 per year. Over a 30-year working life, this would total an extra $2.1 million in GDP for the economy.
And these are the courses still funded by the Government – English language, literacy and numeracy. It is the basket weaving courses that lost funding.
A further factor overlooked in the demise of community education is the benefits to civic society. It gets people out of their houses and mixing with others. They are also acquiring skills and developing talents in the process. It adds to what is referred to as social capital.
I bet you that the vast majority of those attending were well off middle class people. I’d far rather we spent more on literacy and numeracy for disadvantaged families than millions on pottery and cooking courses.