Monday, December 5, 2016

Australia's school vouchers

Q: Does Australia have school vouchers?

YES  !!

The current school funding arrangements are in effect a hidden voucher system. Most schools receive similar per capita government funding for each enrolled student. By enrolling a student the school attracts the funding. The student is his or her own voucher.

Q: Can these vouchers be used at any school?

Maybe.  Conditions apply!!

For most state school students the vouchers are only accepted by local schools because of zoning policies. Coincidentally this also drives up real estate values in areas with "good state schools" - check out real estate advertising.
Typically vouchers will be accepted by catholic and "independent" schools provided that student performs satisfactorily, has low needs and is, with his or her family, socially acceptable.

Q: Do school vouchers allow parents to choose schools?


Parents can choose the local state school (not really a choice) or ask a non-state school to enrol their child. 

In the latter situation it is the school that chooses. And these school generally prefer high performing, low needs (low cost) students from families with considerable material and social capital. 

What this means is that there is significant inequality in the ability use the voucher system. And that that it favours more successful students and affluent families.

Scholarships and vouchers

In some ways a scholarship is like a voucher - it appears someone else is paying for the cost of tuition. But in Australia's schools they already are!! Levels of government are similar in most schools. See Unlevel Playing Field (Bonnor and Shepherd)

Q: Who pays for scholarships?

Governments, Parents  and other schools!!

In most instances scholarships are quite already funded by the government. That is, the  level of government funding received by the school offering the scholarship covers the actual cost of having the student in the school. The school gets the credit, the government meets the cost.

Most scholarships are offered by non-state schools and they are usually about increasing enrolments and enhancing the image of the school.

Non-state schools frequently offer "half-scholarships" in which the family pays a part of the school fees. This is likely to result in the school making a useful profit on the scholarships it is has "given". 

But it is not only the government and parents who pay for scholarships. When high performing, low cost state school students move to non-state schools it disadvantages state schools they leave by increasing the concentration of need and disadvantage, and by decreasing social capital available to the school and its community.

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