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Maxim Institute real issues. this week: No. Eighty

Maxim Institute real issues. this week: No. Eighty


* Independent Schools funding makes sense A new report suggests increasing the funding of private schools has educational and economic benefits.

* Plea for foster parents Most foster parents do a sterling job but the real need is for more responsible birth parents.

* Governmental creep How can we see our way through spin and hype?

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Independent Schools funding makes sense

New Zealand has three types of schools: state-funded; special character (integrated); and private, or independent schools (IS). The latter meet costs through fees and some government funding which was capped in 2000. Independent schools currently educate four percent (about 27,000) of school aged children, while integrated schools account for 10 percent.

A report released today, Funding Arrangements for Independent Schools in New Zealand, argues that if current subsidies to IS were increased, more children would be drawn to the independent sector, which would expand over time relative to the state sector (public schools). According to the report, prepared by the Institute of Economic Research, this would have the combined effect of reducing the direct costs to the Government of educating children who move from public schools to the independent sector, as well as increasing parental choice.

Given that there is evidence that IS delivers better educational outcomes, increasing funding could help lift the overall standard of education in New Zealand as well. In addition, a larger IS sector offers more choice to parents who value schools with special character, generates innovation, and acts as a stimulus to improve the performance of the state sector. Increasing funding for independent schools makes sense not only economically but also for education, as well as providing more alternatives to parents for their children's education.

Plea for foster parents

A big shortage of foster parents in Canterbury has prompted Child, Youth and Family (CYF) to plead for more caregivers. Southern regional manager, Paula Attrill, said there is a continuous shortage of suitable placements for children, which sometimes leads to unrelated children being placed in the same home. Family and Foster Care Federation chairman, John Rabarts, said the key to attracting and maintaining foster parents is agency support; "agencies need to look after the caregiver as much as the child", he said, and it is important that parents are well trained.

CYF currently has 3,009 care-giving households on its books around the country, while other organisations such as the Open Homes Foundation and Barnados are contracted to provide foster care as well.

The high demand is hardly surprising given the increasing amount of separation and family dysfunction in New Zealand society. Neither is the shortfall surprising, given the active promotion of the idea that a woman's primary contribution to social order is in paid employment rather than raising a family. In reality, the need is not so much for foster parents, but for more responsible natural parents.

Governmental creep

In an age of spin, it's hard to keep an eye on the ball. Attention is easily distracted from what really matters. Government creep is what happens when the government incrementally uses power for its own purposes. While the government has to use its power to perform tasks necessary to keep good order, all administrations promote and preserve their own interests as well. It's basic self-preservation wrapped up in spin to look otherwise.

An example of creep is the incremental enmeshment of the "principles" of the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand law. In a survey of New Zealand values carried out from 1989-1999, the number of people expressing support for the suggestion that the Treaty of Waitangi be "strengthened and given the full force of law" and who identified "strongly" with the idea that Maori should be given "special land and fishing rights" did not rise above 5.8 percent. Indeed 88 percent expressed only qualified support or downright opposition. In simple terms, there's no demand for constitutional reform. But the Government is insisting on it anyway.

And the "principles" - although nowhere clearly defined - are creeping into every tertiary institution as charters are written and revised. Unless they state support for the 'principles' of the Treaty, their funding is at risk.

For more see Chris Trotter's article "Treaty Takeover" visit: www.theindependent.co.nz/index3.html

Get Evidence by becoming a Maxim Partner

The spring edition of Maxim's quarterly journal Evidence will be out in two weeks, featuring articles such as "Where is government taking the family" and "The origins of the gospel of political correctness". To ensure you don't miss out become a Maxim Partner today - for more information call Amanda tel. 09-627 3261 or visit: www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/act_page/act_support.html

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

Parentage is a very important profession; but no test of fitness for it is ever imposed in the interest of children.

(Everybody's Political What's What, 1944)

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