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Vouchers Aid Lower Income Families

6 April 2004


Hon. Trevor Mallard must be feeling the pressure to resort to using his own tired and out-dated ideological rhetoric when he tries to discredit parental choice in education.

Parents will exercise choice one way or the other to ensure they get the best education for their children.

If they are able to they will increase their mortgage to buy in their preferred school zone, or they will pay independent school fees.

The question Mr. Mallard has to ask is: "Why should poor parents be denied that same ability to choose the best school for their children?".

Not every neighbourhood school suits every child. It is commendable to work towards improving every school, be it state, state integrated or independent. After all, New Zealand's geography and sparse population in some areas does limit access for some people.

But the Government doesn't (fortunately) see fit to provide all housing, all clothing, all food, and neither should it provide all education. It has a role in ensuring standards YES, but provision, NO.

Access to a choice in education has been proven to raise individual and national standards in education. Low income students in the United States who were provided with vouchers to enable them to access a school of choice were much more likely to graduate from university than their peers. Choice in education is not about benefiting the rich, as Mr. Mallard's very tired press statement proclaims; it is about providing all children with the ability to access the best education for them. The NZIER Report on "Funding Arrangements for Independent Schools in New Zealand", noted this.

National's proposals to couple this with the proven formula of freeing schools from centrist domination and allowing them to respond to their community's requirements, has obviously scared Mr. Mallard into pre-empting Don Brash's education policy announcement.

It is a pity Mr. Mallard cannot rise above his outdated ideology and listen instead to what parents (and voters) really want when it comes to educating their children.


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