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Key set to give taxpayer funding to Kings College

20 October 2008

Media Release:

John Key set to give $3,241,446 of taxpayer funding

to the school where he is a parent

In the middle of a financial meltdown, John Key is set to give $3,241,446 of taxpayer funding to Kings College, one of the wealthiest schools in the country, where he is a parent.

This is the outcome of National's policy to double government funding to private schools while restricting increases in public school funding to the rate of inflation. It is an unjust and self-serving policy.

Under National in the 1990s government funding for private schools increased dramatically. At Kings College the story went like this:

Year Government funding to Kings College

1994 $632,473

1995 $651,646

1996 $797,790

1997 $1,250,845

1998 $1,850,257

1999 $2,030,884

2000 $2,114,241

Under Labour the funding has slowly decreased as the total subsidy for private schools was capped at $40 million. This year the subsidy to Kings College is $1,620,723. John Key would double it to $3,241,446.

Meanwhile National policy will cap state school funding increases to the rate of inflation despite the fact that this is where there is the greatest educational need. Just across a wire-mesh fence from Kings College is Otahuhu College (decile 1) which could do educational wonders with an extra $3.2 million.

The argument that this subsidy would help private schools to remain accessible to poorer students doesn't hold water. When National ramped up subsidies in the 1990s we are not aware of a single private school which reduced fees to parents. Instead most used the government subsidy to enhance their exclusivity.

Neither do private schools offer better educational opportunities. Most private schools carefully select the students they want (high academic aptitude and sporting prowess are near the top of the list for the larger schools) and then bask in the warm glow of the success of these carefully hand-picked students.

The only comparative study in educational achievement for New Zealand students was a longitudinal study conducted by Canterbury University which showed students from co-educational public schools outperformed all other groups in academic achievement at University.

QPEC would be happy for government funding for private schools to increase provided the schools dropped their fees and accepted students to enrol on the same basis as any other public school.

Private schools have had the option of integrating into the state system where they could have received full government funding (aside from new buildings and maintenance). However private schools such as Kings College want to retain their exclusivity. It's their choice but should not attract government subsidies.

National's doubling of government funding to private schools would be a significant shift to the Business Roundtable/ACT model of education vouchers. Vouchers are best described as welfare for the wealthy.

With the looming financial crisis it's time for National to revisit this policy.


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