Should public schools be privatised? Day 5

Day 5

[Introduction] [Day 1] [Day 2] [Day 3] [Day 4]

Dear A.L,

As you suggest, former private school students might show more civic attitudes and behaviour than former government school students, but that doesn’t show that the school is the cause. Identifying causes requires much more research than I have done. I mentioned this finding not as an argument for private schools (it may or may not be that), but because you suggested that public schools provide a shared ‘basic understanding of democratic values’. I say, consistent with the evidence I think, that we will get that either way. Civics is a neutral factor in this debate.

If you are overstating the importance of civics in choosing a school system, I think you are understating how radical my proposal is. I don’t want to fund private schools on the same basis as public schools; quite the reverse I want to fund what are currently public schools on the same in-principle basis as private schools are now, according to their students’ socio-economic background.

I’m open to argument on the best measure of socioeconomic background. The current system uses proxies based on where the student lives, you favour more accurate ATO income statistics to create—if I read you correctly—personalised, income-tested vouchers.

The ATO may be the best original data source, but I prefer funding schools on an average basis, rather than via vouchers. I have the usual concerns about the work disincentives linked to means testing, but from an educational perspective individualised funding would encourage parents who must pay high fees anyway to send their kids to a high-fee school in an affluent area. That would replicate the lost peer effect problem that you mention.

Unlike the public school lobby, I don’t think kids should be conscripted into providing peer effects for their classmates. But if they voluntarily attend a school with a lower average SES rating their own family’s, everyone may end up better off. Each group takes advantage of the other group’s socioeconomic status.
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