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Reports highlight need for school funding reform

Arorangi School situation and a new report both highlight need for school funding reform

The Arorangi School student funding furore and a new report out this week both highlight the need for school funding to 'follow the student' - as it largely does at early childhood and tertiary education levels, the Education Forum says.

Private, Tokoroa-based Arorangi School has been in the news for reportedly enrolling pupils at another school so those pupils could get taxpayer funding. Education Minister Trevor Mallard yesterday ruled out any satellite arrangement between the two.

Education Forum policy advisor Norman LaRocque said the recent events had highlighted the artificial distinction in funding between public and private schools.

"Why is it that kids at Arorangi are fully funded if they attend a state school, yet are only partially funded if they attend a private school. Aren't they the same kids in both cases?" he said.

"Funding should follow the student and be based on student needs, not on a school's ownership status. The government's prime interest should be in ensuring an educated populace and providing opportunity for all children, irrespective of income, not building up a real estate portfolio.

"Schools don't need to be 'state' owned to help the government achieve its education access, equity and quality objectives."

A timely, new Education Forum report supports this view.

The report advocates 'accountable choice' whereby funding follows students into new or existing schools of choice: government-, private- or church-run. The quid pro quo for state funding is schools being publicly accountable for their results and operating norms such as open admissions.

As the paper argues, "Through a relentless focus on results and greater flexibility about delivery systems, policymakers can begin to customise public education to meet the needs of a more diverse student population as well as raise overall educational attainment."

The report, Education modernisation and school choice, was written for the Education Forum by Andrew J. Rotherham from the 21st Century School Project at the Progressive Policy Institute, a Washington DC think tank. The report is available here as a PDF

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