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Education, Electoral Finance, Children: Maxim

Education, Electoral Finance, Children Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 282
6 December 2007

Roll Play research report released
The good, the bad and the Electoral Finance Bill
The life of a child

IN THE NEWS Chavez and failed referendum 'You paid for it' so now display it

Roll Play Research Report Released

Maxim Institute today released a new research report, Roll Play: How creating better access to schools in Christchurch could affect school rolls. The research looks at how Christchurch secondary school rolls might change if parents had better access to schools. It does this by analysing the findings of a survey of 424 parents whose children currently attend secondary school in Christchurch. The survey asked parents which school they currently send their child to, and which school they would send their child to if access to schools was improved by removing restrictions which limit access, like school home enrolment zones. Importantly, the report sheds light on how the existing capacity of Christchurch state schools could be used better, so that more parents have the opportunity to access the school they want for their children.

Amongst other things the research found that (with 95% certainty):

* 53% of parents do not choose to send their child to the nearest school to where they live, with an associated margin of error of +/- 4%; * in a situation where access to state schools was improved, 10% of parents would change their child's school, with an associated margin of error of +/- 3%; and * if families' access to state secondary schools was improved, it is likely that only two Christchurch state secondary schools would experience a statistically significant increase in the size of their rolls.

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A Geographic Information System (GIS) was also used to examine the distances parents would send their child to different schools. The results showed that the distances parents were willing to send their child to the school they preferred for them were often longer than the distance to the school their child currently attended. GIS was also used to present a number of the research findings on a series of maps which, for example, show the flow of pupils moving between different schools.

The major implication of the research findings is that if families had better access to schools, it is probable that demand would only change significantly for a handful of schools. This has various implications for New Zealand's education policy -- for example, allowing popular schools to cooperate with other schools that have spare places would mean schools could increase the number of available places they have. Implementing policies such as abolishing school zones and allowing schools to manage their own capacity is critical to reduce the income barrier which inhibits access to schools for some parents, and to improve the quality of New Zealand schools.

Read Roll Play: How creating better access to schools in Christchurch could affect school rolls http://www.maxim.org.nz/index.cfm/policy___research/article?id=1330

Listen to Steve Thomas talking about Roll Play on Radio New Zealand - National, during the 12pm news bulletin http://www.radionz.co.nz/__data/assets/audio_item/0016/1236022/mdr-20071206-1200-Midday_News-wmbr.asx

Listen to Steve Thomas talking about Roll Play on Newstalk ZB (Christchurch) - John Dunne's breakfast show http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/podcasts/audio/06121741.mp3

The Good, The Bad And The Electoral Finance Bill

As Parliament heats up with the remaining debates before the Electoral Finance Bill is voted on for a third and final time, the Bill has again captured the attention of the country. With a very limited timeframe for consideration and voting, a ludicrous number of amendments have been tabled in Parliament, including 150 from Minister of Justice Annette King alone. It is difficult to see how any law which still requires such extensive correction at such a late stage can be considered comprehensive, wise and effective legislation.

Following the second reading of the Bill on 22 November, the Bill has proceeded to the Committee of the Whole House stage in Parliament. Screeds of amendments have been proposed by several parties, including Labour, National and the Green Party, in addition to the extensive reworking of the Bill carried out by the Justice and Electoral Select Committee. The proposed amendments range from minor tweaks to wording, to the removal of the ridiculous -- such as the megaphone clause that would require the speaker to state their full name and address before speaking -- to plugging foreseeable loopholes, to more substantive amendments. It is worrying that there is a high level of confusion amongst politicians about what the Bill actually does, and no consensus about how it should be applied or interpreted.

This can be seen particularly clearly from one amendment put forward by the Minister of Justice. The amendment, proposed in Supplementary Order Paper 162, would give both the Electoral Commission and the Chief Electoral Officer the power not to report to the police a suspected breach of the Bill, if they consider it to be 'inconsequential.' This is a similar clause to that included in the 'anti-smacking' legislation; the type of clause that renders the law discretionary and unpredictable. Suggesting such a clause shows that a large number of minor breaches are expected as a result of uncertainty and poor, hasty drafting. But this should not be the case. Law should be well-written and clearly defined, easy to read and follow and we should take the time to do it right. The lack of clarity around this Bill makes it likely it will silence people who will not wish to speak out for fear of breaking the law.

Read the Supplementary Order Papers that have been put forward to amend the Electoral Finance Bill http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/Legislation/Bills/b/a/c/00DBHOH_BILL8029_1-Electoral-Finance-Bill.htm

The Life Of A Child

A sketch of the big wide world as viewed by rather small pairs of eyes has been given to us by the release of a survey by the BBC. The survey questioned 1000, 6-12 year old boys and girls from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and covered a wide range of subjects including the environment, life at school, safety and the future. Most revealing, however, are the answers showing how these children are experiencing relationships.

The answers given by the children surveyed in many ways paint a dreary landscape. One in four do not include their fathers 'as part of their immediate family.' 'Doing well at school' is rated as more important than 'getting on well with family.' Close to double the number of boys rate 'footballers' as most admirable as opposed to fathers. Thirteen percent never eat together as a family. In the words of one eight year old boy, the thing he would like to change most about his parents is 'work less, no childminder.'

With only 65 percent of the children surveyed living with 'mum and dad' there is a clear breakdown in the traditional family structure and this appears to be having an effect on the way children feel about the world around them. Approximately 20 of the children surveyed were scared enough to think about 'carrying a weapon for protection.' Children no longer appear to be as insulated from the world around them as they once might have been with eight percent feeling 'least safe' when 'on an airplane' and ten percent 'most afraid of' being 'stabbed or shot.'

However, some aspects of life, family and relationships seem more secure. Most arguments at home still centre on cleaning up bedrooms, parents still want to know about school work and children still like to be outside more than they want to be on the internet. The top six words used by the children surveyed to describe themselves were 'happy, funny, clever, sensible, confident, loud and silly.'

The world is changing, as it always has and always will, and we need to keep in mind those that might get lost in the traffic. A survey such as this one gives us an insight into the world that they live in and the chance to take account of the world we have made not just for ourselves, but also for our children. What are the answers to the challenges children face in this world? In the words of a six year old boy it is quite simple: 'spend more time just with me.'

Read the CBBC Newsround Survey - Children's Lifestyles http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/03_12_07_newsround_survey.pdf

Chavez And Failed Referendum

This week voters in Venezuela narrowly rejected a referendum proposing massive constitutional reform. The 69 proposed amendments included the removal of time limits on the presidential term, which would have allowed Venezuela's leader Hugo Chavez to be president for life instead of having to step down by 2013. This was Chavez's first electoral defeat since gaining power in 1998. Opponents accused Chavez of tampering with the result, due to a five hour delay in the outcome, but the 51 to 49 percent defeat shows that there is some degree of procedural democracy still in place in Venezuela. The failure of the reforms is attributed to the 56 percent voter turnout; commentators believe that many Chavez supporters abstained from voting because they felt the proposed reforms went too far, considering Venezuela's bleak history of dictatorships, but feared negative repercussions if they voted against them. However, Chavez plans to continue to push for the implementation of the reforms; he addressed the media after the defeat, saying, 'we couldn't do it -- for now,' the same phrase he had uttered in 1992 after his failed military coup.

'You Paid For It' So Now Display It

If the Electoral Finance Bill is passed into law in the next few days, it will come into force on 1 January 2008 and the 'You Paid For It' blog will be launched on the same date. The blog will ask members of the public to contribute any election campaign material they receive carrying the Parliamentary crest (which signals that it is funded by taxpayers) to the website. This will allow the public to see where their money is going, as everything submitted will be scrutinised to see if it counts as campaign material. It will provide evidence for complaints or police prosecutions for contraventions of the advertising limit proposed in the Bill. This blog is a great example of civil society providing a check and balance on government.

Visit the 'You Paid For It' website http://youpaidforit.co.nz/

Talking Point

'An open enrolment system that allows families greater opportunity is fairer to lower socio-economic status (SES) parents especially, as it breaks down the power of income and residential choice as the primary determinants of access to schools.'

Roll Play: How creating better access to schools in Christchurch could affect school rolls

A registered charitable trust, funded by donations, Maxim Institute values your interest and support.


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