Feedback: June 18, 2016

by The Listener / 09 June, 2016
Funding arrangements for schools; Labour-Greens alliance; tackling housing; and drinking in New Zealand.

HISTORY LESSONS


Most educators would agree that the funding arrangements for schools announced in the Budget were disappointing (Editorial, June 11). Operational grants were not increased, the amounts allocated for the neediest children were paltry and nobody will know whether the targeted children have been helped before they move to another school, as they frequently do. The decile system could certainly be improved by using the school average of socio-economic indicators, rather than just those below the 20th percentile, but the popular misconception that decile equals quality would remain.

A better strategy would be to adopt a direct, personal approach based on the decisions of independent experts who study the particular needs of each school. After discussion with principals and boards, decisions could be made about what those priority needs are – such as more reading recovery places, regular school meals, additional associate teachers or mentoring for board members. Socio-economic statistics might also be taken into account, but without advertising quantitative indicators to the world.

Such an outcome could be achieved if the number and resources of the Ministry of Education’s embryonic regional authorities were expanded to include enough experienced educators to become familiar with the circumstances of each school.

Such was the policy before that flawed experiment called “Tomorrow’s Schools” was foisted on an unwilling system 27 years ago. Anyone who studies the history of how this alien business model was introduced and its continuing baleful influence will agree that it underlies most of the weaknesses in our education system today – from growing inequality, white flight, a decline in co-operation between schools, over-burdening of principals, mistrust of distant policy-makers and isolation of struggling schools to declining international test scores, to name a few. Our defective decile system won’t be fixed without much wider reforms.

Warwick Elley
Emeritus Professor of Education
(Rothesay Bay, Auckland)

Letter of the week

LABOUR-GREENS DANCE


The memorandum of understanding between Labour and the Greens may signify a major turning point in the political system (Your say, June 11).

It’s clear that the adversarial, personality-driven style of politics is wasteful, inefficient and, frequently, just plain embarrassing. It is not relevant to the needs of society and fails to deliver anything like genuine democracy. It leads to such abominations as the circus performance taking place in American politics.

The time has come to move on to a style of governance where the best interests of the greatest number are the driving force. Policies should not be vote-catchers, owned by a particular party. Pragmatism should prevail. Policies should be negotiated with input from the most rational, well-informed and socially responsible minds in the country. We have these people. It’s time to listen to them.

Enough of pop-idol politics – let’s move on to a grown-up system where we can put self-interest aside and focus on rebuilding our reputation as an honest, decent, open society where everyone has a fair chance.

Patricia Fenton
(Whangarei)

To implement policy you need votes. The policies Labour and the Greens agree on will be made clear. Better to know what you will get when you vote than take a gamble with a vote for NZ First.

Alison Fletcher
(Picton)

ORUARANGI FOR THE PEOPLE


The 33ha of Oruarangi Block should never have been voted a Special Housing Area (“A very special area”, June 4). It is far too precious as a green space. Building up to 480 homes there will shatter the peace and serenity of the area and lead to damage to the archaeologically important Otuataua Stonefields adjoining it.

These areas are sacred to local Maori who have already had to suffer Auckland sewage polluting their harbour and confiscation of land. The stonefields are also special to me, a Pakeha Mangere resident.

Isn’t there a philanthropist out there who could buy the land and give it back to the community as public open space outside the reach of land grabbers?

Anita Divers
(Mangere Bridge, Auckland)

TACKLING HOUSING


The Government line of “encouraging” the freeing up of land and building more houses will take years, perhaps a decade or more, and will do nothing for first-home buyers now (Editorial, June 4). Prices have to drop, not just flat-line or rise more slowly.

Investors will squeal. Tough – they’ve had it too good for too long. Most people, though, will applaud, as house prices come back within their reach. Most “middle New Zealanders” are not property investors, and lower-income Kiwis are certainly not. There must be a winning percentage of votes here for a political party.

Mark Gilmour
(Darfield)

EUROPEANS AND BOOZE


Cathrin Schaer points out that Germans and French are more civilised drinkers than New Zealanders (Bulletin, May 28). In France, promotion of alcohol by aggressive advertising and sponsorship of sporting and cultural events is banned. This is a potent factor missing in New Zealand.

A group convened by our government to look at alcohol promotion suggested measures similar to France’s. The Law Commission advised the same years ago. But no government has seen fit to implement the recommendations.

Perhaps the Labour-Green combination will have the intestinal fortitude to tackle the problem. There is certainly widespread public support for strong action to curb the enormous cost to the taxpayer of the collateral damage wreaked by alcohol in our communities.

Dennis Veal
(Timaru)

HONOURING ALI


Amid the praise for Muhammad Ali from the Kentucky establishment, I’m reminded of being yelled at by people in that US state as one of two whites in a picket line demanding that shops and restaurants in Lexington and Louisville serve African Americans.

People who had expressed their prejudices so freely in the 1960s now hail Ali as “the greatest” and declare their love for him. Yet he came from a family who could not shop downtown and was prohibited from attending white schools and pursuing white opportunities.

I celebrate Auckland’s multicultural community and tolerance of all people. Ali’s life was amazing and accelerated human rights in America.

Prejudice limits everyone’s development.

Caroline Mabry
(Glen Eden, Auckland)

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