pathetic that lifting price caps — a minor issue no one had ruled out — had displaced debate about how to bring education sector funding up to a level that supported a modern services economy.
But as I argue in my new CIS Issue Analysis paper, which came out today, this is a major issue, and in fact identical to the issue of how funding reaches the level appropriate to a modern services economy. (I summarise some of the arguments in this newspaper article).
The Bradley report has no answers to key question such as
* how do we know what level of investment is necessary?
* if we can find that out, how do we ensure the investment occurs in a price-capped regime?
I don’t think it is even possible for the federal government to know the appropriate level of investment. Students and the institutions they may attend are too diverse for this knowledge to be available to a central planner.
But even within the central planning paradigm, the federal government has never done what I call a normative cost study, ie working out what minimum standards we should aim for and determining what funding level would be necessary to reach that minimum standard. It hasn’t even done a large-scale review of current costs for twenty years. And Bradley does not even recommend that either of these things be done now. So we are expecting people who show no sign of even understanding the role of prices, let alone of having any history of setting them competently, to suddenly do this professionally in the future.
Bradley’s call for more public funding is essentially to repeat the strategy that led to the current problems. There is no analysis of the fiscal and political reasons why governments of both parties have allowed funding to fall over time (it’s in my paper), and no explanation of why we could reasonably expect the future to be different from the past.
The Bradley committee suffers from the great social democratic delusion – as does commenter Russell on schools – that the solution to under-performing public services is just another few billion dollars in handouts or another program tweaking away, when in reality there are fundamental structural flaws that stand in the way of reliably good performance.