School funding and zoning

There was an interesting segment on CloseUp tonight about school boundary changes and funding. Basically the Ministry of Education has changed the boundary between two rural schools (Beckensfield and Carrington I think, could be misspelling them). This means the Beckensfield bus is no longer allowed to travel to pick up seven students who currently attend Beckensfield school. These students are now in the Carrington zone, and can either get the Carrington bus at the gate or be driven to a pick-up point to get on the Beckensfield bus. Carrington school could give Beckensfield permission to drive into their zone, but will not, for one very simple reason – funding.

Currently Carrington school have 27 pupils. If this drops to 25, they are only given funding for 1 teacher. If it is 26 or above, they get 2.5 teachers. So, understandably, they are grabbing any students they can get.

This is a complicated bureaucratic situation. Why is there such a massive change in funding between 25 and 26 pupils? It is ridiculous.

The Family Party supports funding following the child. This means each school gets a set amount of funding per pupil. If a pupil moves from Beckensfield to Carrington or vice-versa, their proportion of the funding moves with them. This is a much simpler system.

With funding following the child, there would be no massive change in funding between 25 and 26 pupils, rather funding would gradually change with pupil numbers. If the board of a 20 – 25 student school could work the finances to get 2 teachers, they could do that. Or they could hire one. They wouldn’t be stuck with fixed Ministry of Education solutions. So there would be no need for the current zoning dispute, which seems to be driven by the current funding arrangements.

I went to Glenroy primary school when I was young, a rural, one-teacher school that ranged between having 9 and 16 pupils while I was there. It was an excellent school, and served the community well. But the Ministry shut it down a few years ago because they were cost-cutting and decided it was too small. Well, technically they didn’t shut it down, they blackmailed the board into shutting it down so it wouldn’t appear on the books that they had forced it to close – they said if the board shut it they could keep all their savings from fundraising and send them to the next school the pupils went to, if the Ministry shut it they would get nothing (or some such arrangement). So the board closed the school under protest and blew most of the savings on a trip to Wellington for all the students!

This school served the community for 108 years, it was part of our heritage for generations, and with funding following the child it could still be there today. This is because the school would have received some funding however small it was, and the board could work out what to do with it and fundraise for any extra that may have been needed. There would have been no need for the Ministry to shut it down, as it would have cost them the same per pupil whether they were attending the small school or a larger school.

Legalising P?

Following from the shooting of Sergeant Wilkinson last week while investigating a suspected P lab, there has been some discussion around the blogs on whether we should be throwing greater resources to fight P, or legalise it – two completely opposite approaches that are both designed to take P away from the gangs.

Kiwipolemicist does a good summary of the arguments for legalising P and other drugs from a Christian perspective. The argument basically comes down to:

Drugs and alcohol are essentially the same thing, i.e. both are psychoactive substances (something that affects the mind). It is illogical and hypocritical for the government to make one psychoactive substance legal – alcohol – and outlaw other psychoactive substances – drugs. …

… the gangs  that the government bleats about get a huge amount of their power and money through the sale of drugs. The quickest and simplest way to give gangs a kick in the family jewels is to make drugs legal. …

“Drugs are harmful” you say. Yes, drugs are harmful, but that is not a rational reason for making them illegal. Cigarettes are harmful, and no one seriously proposes making them illegal; it is a double standard to support the illegalisation of drugs because they are harmful unless you also support making everything else that is harmful illegal.

Which seems to make a lot of sense initially, as this approach allows you to be perfectly consistent across all substances. Blair Mulholland talks from this perspective with regards to P. If you are interested in the issue, read the whole of both articles.

But would legalising drugs really help? Scrubone effectively pulls this argument apart.

There’s one problem with this. Pure methamphetamine is so addictive that people would most emphatically not stop after the first try. They’d try it again. All I have heard (and I even had a neighbor who was previously addicted to it) is that this drug captures you the first, or at most second time you use it and then that’s it – you’re addicted and it’s incredibly hard to get out. So if only 25% of the population try it, that’s at least 20% who are going to be addicted.

What happens then? Addicts are able to purchase it for $5, so their money would last longer – assuming that they didn’t just ramp up their addiction instead. So a year or two down the track they’ve lost everything. What do they do then?

Well, my bet would be that the portion of the population who would be addicted by that stage would start stealing. Sure, you don’t need to rob a bank to get $5. You can just purse snatch for that, or smash someone’s window or whatever. Trivial stuff.

Except that every time my window gets smashed for the sake of $5, the cost to me or my insurance company is more like $100 or more. Who pays for that? Why, I do and the jolly taxpayer who has to foot the bill for increased police to fight petty crime and people “going crazy”.

Again, read the whole article. We can’t just ban stuff because it is harmful to the user, that is why the Greens moves to ban pies and stuff in schools are ridiculous. But when something causes damage to wider society, as drugs like P do, then the correct response is to restrict them. Greater availability of substances like P could cause great harm.

There has to be a balance somewhere, on most issues the classical liberals talk sense in my opinion. But if you bluntly apply liberal principles to every single issue, you could do just as much damage as if you bluntly apply state control to every single issue.

Sometimes liberalism is the way to go. Sometimes restrictions are the way to go. We need to be flexible enough to use the solution that works best on each issue.

PM: “National will kill you”

Well, she nearly said that. Helen Clark is now claiming that if National had been in parliament, and sent troops to Iraq, 60 NZers would have died and National would have “had blood on their hands”. Now that claim probably a load of rubbish, as David Farrar points out, and Helen Clark tactfully ignored the fact that she sent troops there herself for a whole year, but the real issue isn’t whether her claim is real or not.

The real issue is – is this a new low in the campaign? Or will Labour sink even lower in their mudslinging?

This is shaping up to be the dirtiest election campaign Clark can wallow in. And it will only get worse. Although I don’t see quite how you can get much worse than claiming National would have killed 60 NZers, I’m sure Labour will come up with something.

And we still haven’t seen ANY 2008 Labour policy yet.