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Education vouchers up for debate

*Education vouchers up for debate*

*Two Wellington Central electorate candidates, along with prominent and controversial public policy commentators, will go head to head next week in a public debate about whether education vouchers should be implemented in New Zealand secondary schools. *

The debate, open to the public and free of charge, is being organised by the Victoria University Debating Society and is supported by the University.

*MP Heather Roy*, standing for ACT in the Wellington Central electorate this year will be joined on the affirmative team by Business Roundtable Executive Director *Roger Kerr* and champion Victoria student debater *Stephen Whittington*.

For the negative, *Grant Robertson*, also standing in Wellington Central for Labour, will be joined by the Principals' Council chair *Arthur Graves*, (recently critical of the National Party's plans to increase state funding to private schools), along with veteran activist and commentator *John Minto *, from the Quality Public Education Coalition.

A School Voucher Program would allow parents to use the public funding set aside for their child's education to send their child to a school of their choice, public or private. This breaks down the link between Government financing and Government operation of schools. Advocates of School Vouchers argue that the additional choices that it provides parents will ensure better quality education, and will prevent children being forced into bad schools. Opponents of School Vouchers believe that it will widen the gap in education achievement between the wealthy and the poor. School Voucher programs have been implemented in many states, such as Sweden, Chile, and the United States. In New Zealand the ACT Party advocates a full voucher system, while the National Party wishes to increase the State subsidy paid to private schools.

The debate will be chaired by Professor Dugald Scott, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education) at Victoria University. Each debater will have around ten minutes to speak, and there will be time for questions and answers at the end.

The debate is the first in a series of public debates on important election year issues organised by the Victoria Debating Society. Emily Bruce from the Society's executive said that the Society saw it as its role to "provoke debate and discussion about important public policy issues" in election year. "We're looking forward to a spirited debate about this important issue. With the people involved there are sure to be some fireworks!" said Ms Bruce.

The Victoria University of Wellington Debating Society, founded in 1899, is the most successful debating society in New Zealand and ranked as the 19th best in the world. It currently holds the NZ Impromptu, Prepared, and British Parliamentary debating titles, and was the runner-up at last years Austral-Asian championships.

*Key details:***
*"That New Zealand should implement a system of education vouchers"**

*Date:* Monday May 26
*Time:* 6pm - 7.30pm
*Venue:* Lecture Theatre Two, Rutherford House, Pipitea Campus, Victoria


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