Coddington on zoning

August 4th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Deborah Coddington writes:

With preschoolers we look around for an early childhood centre we think suits our needs, is convenient in terms of distance from home and work, and within budget – usually in that order. Then the government subsidies per child go to the provider.

When we go to tertiary training we choose where, geographically, we wish to study. If you live in Auckland, you are not restricted to Auckland University; likewise Dunedinites are not zoned for Otago University.  As a tertiary student, you choose, and the government funding for your qualification follows you to the tertiary provider.

But for some reason we do not trust families to choose their children’s primary and secondary schooling. 

I’d abolish all zoning, but have a reserve power for the Ministry of Education to force a school to take a student if there is no other school available within say 30 minutes travel.

The only winners from this policy are property owners and real estate agents.

Zoning means rich families get choices, but poor families do not.

It does not have to be like this. The Netherlands abolished zoning in 1917. The state pays for education while parents choose the school. 

But that will never happen here because of two powerful interest groups – wealthy property owners in grammar zones, and teacher unions. Both have a vested interest in this archaic system.

So governments will continue telling families that bureaucrats know which school is best for their children.

Sadly.

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51 Responses to “Coddington on zoning”

  1. Zebulon (93 comments) says:

    Amen

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  2. YesWeDid (1,048 comments) says:

    How many times do we need to go over this? Abolish school zoning and effectively the popular schools get to choose who attends not the parents.

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  3. stephieboy (2,788 comments) says:

    DPF, your wrong. Zoning I believe was temporally abolished under the Bolger Government in the 1990’s . it was disastrous and actually negatively effected poor families many of whom were forced to travel long distances to a school , denied entry to their local neighbuor school.
    That poor families get choices in this set up is a bit of a myth.

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  4. Nukuleka (307 comments) says:

    Christchurch epitomises all that is wrong about school zoning. It is the families living in the wealthy suburbs who have all the choices: they can afford private education if they so choose but then have the back-up of being in zone for the top single sex state schools. The teacher unions are all for putting barbed wire fences around less affluent suburbs such as Aranui- ‘Know your place’ is effectively what the unions preach. The left don’t want those in poorer socio-economic circumstances to get ‘uppity’ and desire the best for their kids.

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  5. ShawnLH (4,600 comments) says:

    “How many times do we need to go over this?”

    As long as it takes for Leftists to get the point that controlling where people can send their children is morally wrong.

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  6. Mark (1,479 comments) says:

    Abolishing school zoning does fit well with Nationals national standards policy. Allowing the top public schools to cherry pick the better students will definitely improve the outcomes for everyone.

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  7. burt (8,232 comments) says:

    Just ask Trevor Mallard about zoning – why he supports it and what his reasoning is. Just don’t ask him why his own kids didn’t go to their locally zoned school – he won’t answer that.

    He supports the zoning rules – but only for other people.

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  8. Mark (1,479 comments) says:

    Zoning means rich families get choices, but poor families do not.

    DPF surely you are not naive enough to think that removal of zoning will improve the schooling choices for poor families?

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  9. burt (8,232 comments) says:

    Mark

    Allowing the top public schools to cherry pick the better students will definitely improve the outcomes for everyone.

    The top schools filter their kids by the ability of the parents to afford being in-zone. Real estate is a proxy for high school fees. Somehow that is fair and reasonable – can you explain why inflated real estate prices as a financial barrier to entry is acceptable but high school fees are not ?

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  10. Ed Snack (1,848 comments) says:

    What’s wrong with starting with a qualified abolition; you can always go to a school in zone, but you can go to any school that will accept you. Give vouchers that carry your government subsidy with you. The Swedes do something like this, works for them…

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  11. burt (8,232 comments) says:

    Mark

    The Pacific Island role at Auckland Grammar when from something like 16% to 3% with the introduction of zoning. Apparently zoning is successful – so was it’s intention to restrict entry of pacific island students to one of NZ’s best schools ?

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  12. burt (8,232 comments) says:

    Ed Snack

    The Swedes do something like this, works for them…

    Perhaps the Swede’s are mature enough to stop education funding policy from being an election football.

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  13. ShawnLH (4,600 comments) says:

    “What’s wrong with starting with a qualified abolition; you can always go to a school in zone, but you can go to any school that will accept you. Give vouchers that carry your government subsidy with you. The Swedes do something like this, works for them…”

    An excellent idea ED.

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  14. Bob R (1,363 comments) says:

    Coddington seems to overlook that what makes a school “good” is partly the student body. Zoning acts as a means of ensuring a middle class student body for places like Auckland Grammar. If you removed that and gave them a low socio-economic group of students from South Auckland the achievement levels would invariably plummet.

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  15. burt (8,232 comments) says:

    Bob R

    If you removed that and gave them a low socio-economic group of students from South Auckland the achievement levels would invariably plummet.

    The only way you can actually use the word “invariably” is by asserting that socioeconomic status is causal in academic achievement rather than correlated. Do you think it’s causal or correlated ?

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  16. Bob R (1,363 comments) says:

    @ Burt 7,

    Socio-economic status isn’t causal (unless you’re talking about extreme cases where there is neglect/deprivation eg CYF cases). Lower socio-economic status also reflects levels of motivation, parental education and ability. It’s not the level of income per se, but the traits of the parents (and passed onto the kids) that is being reflected to some extent.

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  17. burt (8,232 comments) says:

    Bob R

    I agree. But what you seem to have missed in the comment I responded to is the effect of placing those people in an environment where success is both encouraged and rewarded. They might improve rather than bring the level down. Not a popular though for the lovers of status quo and welfare entrenchment though.

    Apparently it’s better to lock them into a low performance zone so they fail and continue to vote for more welfare !

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  18. Bob R (1,363 comments) says:

    ***They might improve rather than bring the level down. ***

    I’m a bit of a genetic determinist and think that while they may improve to some extent, overall they will bring the level down :) Hopefully I’m wrong about that.

    http://martynemko.blogspot.co.nz/2011/02/behavioral-genetics-most-important.html

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  19. RRM (9,826 comments) says:

    Our local state school is so bad, we took our 10yo daughter out of it and my wife is homeschooling her now.

    The only other primary school in town / in zone is the Catholic school. We enquired there, but their response was that they only need 5% non-catholic students in order to get their taxpayer funding, they already have that many so they are not enrolling any more. I hope they enjoy my tax dollars.

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  20. jp_1983 (207 comments) says:

    Whilst I don’t agree on zoning, but the families that are over leveraged in the ‘double grammar’ zone in the great electorate of Epsom won’t take too kindly to their property values being dumped over night with a move like this.

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  21. alloytoo (530 comments) says:

    “Zoning means rich families get choices, but poor families do not.”

    Zone means that lower decile schools get disproportionately more funding than higher decile schools. The difference is bridged by “rich” parents, who are ironically paying for the disproportionate dispensation too.

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  22. Max S (20 comments) says:

    So long as the pupil selection process is conducted arbitrarily and transparently, abolishing zoning should be supported.

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  23. peterwn (3,242 comments) says:

    “… but have a reserve power for the Ministry of Education to force a school to take a student if there is no other school available within say 30 minutes travel.” So defacto Grammar zones (different for Auckland and Epsom Girls Grammars) would be the zones where other secondary schools are out of reach. The Grammar schools would need to reserve sufficient places for pupils from these zones and property prices would shoot up in these zones, especially in the overlap area of the zones. Things would also get tricky if all of the secondary schools in an area approach saturation.

    An improvement which could be made is to remove the impediment for Auckland schools to include parts of their zones in the Grammar zones. This currently appears to be the interpretation of zoning legislation, but surely was never intended as an effect of zoning legislation.

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  24. Liam Hehir (123 comments) says:

    @RRM – are Catholic parents exempt from paying tax? Damn, I wish somebody had told me that.

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  25. stephieboy (2,788 comments) says:

    Ed Snack , but parents do and can send their children out of zone and there are schools who accept them as out of zone enrollment

    burt, since when did Auckland Grammar did not have zoning. ? It accepts a quota of out of zone enrollments ( like most other schools ) including a quota of Pacific Islanders and Maoris ,the former its said mainly for their Ist XV and other sports .

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  26. Jimbob14 (1 comment) says:

    Keep zoning. Its in place, we all know how it works and the market follows from that base. Main reason is that you should go to your local school. It gives the best outcome in regard to community spirit, peer groups, and of course in Auckland – traffic.

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  27. Nukuleka (307 comments) says:

    @RRM- blame the teacher unions for the imposition of a 5% non- Catholic enrolment at integrated Catholic schools. It wasn’t Catholic schools that set the 5% limit. At the time of the Integration Act Catholic schools were more than happy to accept all children irrespective of their faith. It was only when the teacher unions woke up to the idea that so many parents would be bypassing the local State school and opting for a faith-based Catholic school that the government imposed the 5% limit.

    Your local Catholic primary school would love to enrol your child. Blame the teacher unions for your predicament, not the school itself!

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  28. burt (8,232 comments) says:

    stephieboy

    The listener did a great article on it titled “School wars” – it was freely available but is now behind a pay wall. I’ve quoted the article before ( even on this blog )

    In that article the principle fro Auckland Grammar is quoted with those stats. So … I don’t know exactly when it wasn’t zoned but I suspect the principle knew enough about it and didn’t make shit up.

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  29. Bill Courtney (161 comments) says:

    It’s a fallacy that the government tells you where you can send your kids to school. Ed Snack’s big suggestion is, in fact, the way that school zoning works now!

    Being in a zone gives you the right – but not the obligation – to attend your local school. It’s simply an option (in the financial market sense of the term). If you want to exercise it, fine. But if you don’t then you are free to choose another school – as long as the other school LETS YOU IN. If the other school is not zoned, then they cannot refuse your enrolment. If it is zoned, then you apply under the conditions of their enrolment scheme and try your luck. Clue: As stephieboy suggests, it helps if your son plays rugby and in the position that the Grammar 1st XV is currently short of…

    So, in the USA zoning is a way to allocate you INTO a school; zoning in NZ is a way to keep the riff raff OUT.

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  30. Nukuleka (307 comments) says:

    Why is it that whenever Pacific islanders or Maori are mentioned on this blog an element of paternalistic unpleasantness seems to creep in? Auckland Grammar allows Pacific islanders and Maori to enrol in order to boost the calibre of their sports teams? Really? Is that honestly what Kiwibloggers in general believe?

    No wonder The Standard regularly casts racist aspersions upon some of the blogging on this site.

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  31. doggone7 (776 comments) says:

    Wasn’t Coddington in ACT? Epsom is ACT territory. Is the ACT Party calling for zoning to be abolished?

    Is the ACT Party calling for zoning to be abolished in Epsom? If not why not? Or are they not making a noise about it but when they get to Parliament they’ll bring it in like they did with charter schools?

    Is this the party pure on principles or not? Or are they hypocrites?

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  32. E. Campbell (90 comments) says:

    A difficult issue to address. I agree, perhaps the best solution is a combination of a guaranteed place in a local school with the option of funding following the student. Open-slather didn’t work when zoning was abolished for a time in the 1990s, and strict zoning now also has its problems. As usual, there’s a solution to be found in the middle-ground somewhere.

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  33. burt (8,232 comments) says:

    Nukuleka

    Yeah, racism is sick isn’t it. It’s OK to have a quota for Medicine and Law at uni to make sure we train a designated number of pacific island doctors and lawyers – but an Asian quota for the All Blacks is well off limits.

    Affirmative action is racism – but it’s OK apparently.

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  34. burt (8,232 comments) says:

    E. Campbell

    Arguably the only thing that makes this issue difficult is the desire to deny that some kids are smarter than others. Some mamby-pamby left wing notion that success is bad. Some desire to insist that everybody can be called a success because they participated.

    Entry based on academic ability is apparently intolerable to the lovers of mediocrity !

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  35. Nukuleka (307 comments) says:

    burt- ‘but it’s okay apparently’- apparently to whom exactly?

    I agree that quotas of any sort based on gender or race suck- but I’m not sure that this is quite relevant to the topic or that I have ever written anything that suggests I am a supporter of such race-based quotas.

    What precisely is your somewhat enigmatic point?

    I really despise racial stereotyping of any sort, whether stated or implied!

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  36. slightlyrighty (2,471 comments) says:

    It would certainly have an effect on housing prices, and add some needed rationality to it.

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  37. doggone7 (776 comments) says:

    burt: “Arguably the only thing that makes this issue difficult is the desire to deny that some kids are smarter than others. Some mamby-pamby left wing notion that success is bad. …”

    How does some kids being smarter than others make zoning difficult? Do you mean that if there were no zoning a school would cherry pick the bright kids and tell the average ones living next door to them to go elsewhere? Do you think that should be the system and the filtering meaning schools would end up being streamed like high school classes, A, B, C, etc.? Intermediate schools would take their pick and any kid who has not reached the national standards would be told to bugger off?

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  38. gump (1,634 comments) says:

    @Nukuleka

    “I really despise racial stereotyping of any sort, whether stated or implied!”

    ———————–

    Schools like Auckland Grammar didn’t create places for Pacific Island students because of stereotypes. They picked students that had proven playing ability and superior physical development (many of whom were Pacific Islanders).

    It isn’t racist to select players on the basis of their talent.

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  39. burt (8,232 comments) says:

    doggone7

    Because zoning seeks to ensure entrance to a school based on where you live – not how well you do in screening exams. IE: It stops schools from being ‘elite’ academically and forces them to be elite/mediocre/poor in terms of parental ability to purchase or rent a house in zone.

    The proxy for entry to “top” schools isn’t academic ability – it’s parental economics.

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  40. gump (1,634 comments) says:

    @burt

    That’s entirely true. And if you talk to teachers at schools like Auckland Grammar, you’ll form a completely different view of the students’ academic ability than the school might like to portray.

    Auckland Grammar has more than its fair share of turnips.

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  41. doggone7 (776 comments) says:

    burt : ” It stops schools from being ‘elite’ academically and forces them to be elite/mediocre/poor in terms of parental ability to purchase or rent a house in zone. … The proxy for entry to “top” schools isn’t academic ability – it’s parental economics.”

    I assume you advocate ‘parental choice’ becoming ‘teachers’ choice’ with that most despised group, teachers, picking who they want.

    Do you seriously think that schools are forced to be elite/mediocre/poor by parental ability to purchase or rent a house?

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  42. RRM (9,826 comments) says:

    @Nukuleka – thanks, it is interesting to know the background to that 5% figure and that it is a maximum limit not a minimum.

    @Liam Hehir – try not to be a knob end, I am not for a moment suggesting catholics aren’t paying tax too… catholics, however, aren’t barred from using this taxpayer funded service they are paying for on the grounds of their religious persuasion.

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  43. kiwigunner (230 comments) says:

    http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/jul/20/education-school-academies-michael-gove

    Meanwhile another Charter School success story – this time from the UK.

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  44. Max S (20 comments) says:

    Can anyone from the ACT party confirm that David Seymour is going around Epsom opposing any changes to school zones in the electorate? This despite the ACT’s policy is to abolish zoning.

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  45. Bill Courtney (161 comments) says:

    Yes Max S. Here’s the N Z Herald story:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/education/news/article.cfm?c_id=35&objectid=11299262

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  46. Liam Hehir (123 comments) says:

    No need to be tart RRM – you just haven’t got it quite right. Catholic parents of children at integrated schools get a part of the taxpayer funded education spending they pay taxes towards. In fact, integrated schools actually provide a net subsidy to the rest of the system because capital costs are borne by the proprietor.

    We could close Catholics Schools, I guess – and then the costs of educating those children would fall 100% on taxpayers.

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  47. Bob R (1,363 comments) says:

    ***Our local state school is so bad, we took our 10yo daughter out of it and my wife is homeschooling her now***

    @ RRM,

    What is so bad about it? The quality of the teachers? The facilities? The other students?

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  48. big bruv (13,718 comments) says:

    Come on people, think about this. Zoning is a great idea, it keeps the scum out of nice areas.

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  49. gump (1,634 comments) says:

    @big bruv

    What if you fall on hard times and find yourself in a not so nice area?

    Does that make you scum? Hardly.

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  50. Bob R (1,363 comments) says:

    ***What if you fall on hard times and find yourself in a not so nice area?***

    @ gump,

    Define “not so nice area”. Also, how does school choice alleviate this? Won’t it simply introduce the problems in the “bad schools” to the “good schools”?

    I think there’s a degree of educational romanticism in the likes of Coddington. It will be interesting nonetheless to see how the charter schools get on to see if they get better results.

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  51. jcuk (668 comments) says:

    Abolish zoning and give every parent a voucher for each child to the value of the education they want for their child and then let the children sit entrance exams for acceptance. This means expensive schools with limited roles are on the same standing as the larger poorer schools … every child can go there if they are worth it.

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