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Gordon welcomes decision on decile funding

Press Release – Liz Gordon

Dr Liz Gordon, researcher and policy advocate, welcomes the governments decision not to abolish the decile funding system for schools. I have campaigned from the start against the abolition of decile-based funding, and it is great to see the expensive …Dr Liz Gordon, researcher and policy advocate, welcomes the government’s decision not to abolish the decile funding system for schools. “I have campaigned from the start against the abolition of decile-based funding, and it is great to see the expensive and unstable alternative will not be introduced”. There are three main reasons to keep the current system, she noted.

“First, the decile funding system is based on easily-available census data, is simple to work out every five years and transparent. The replacement system mooted was based on the database of all New Zealanders, five million plus names, would be worked out on multiple variables and would require a large analytical unit to maintain it. Transparency would be replaced by secrecy and extreme measures to protect people’s identities. All of that extra work (at taxpayer cost) with no evidence that any beneficial change would occur”.

Second, Liz Gordon notes “the current system offers stability over time and even in transient populations. There is rarely more than a one-decile shift between censuses, and often schools stay for decades in the same decile position”. Basing funding on individuals, as the new system attempted to do, would have caused huge problems: “It is no secret that staff in Wellington were having a lot of trouble coming up with a stable model”, she said.

The third reason, she said, “dear to me”, is that the decile system provides a clear model for examining the effects of socio-economic differences between schools.

“The work I have done on white flight, the emptying out of poor schools and the like could not have been done without a firm basis for measuring school differences. In the UK and USA they use the proportion of students eligible for school lunches as a proxy for socio-economic status. Here we have no such measure”. The decile model is a gift for researchers and those working on the effects of school population differences, she noted.

She said that while new statistical systems allow much more detailed data on individuals, which could in principle be used to determine school funding, the work involved, as against the negligible gains, make such approaches unlikely to succeed. “The previous government had a policy focus on individuals, while the new government is more focused on the performance of systems, so a model of individual funding is no longer a priority – thank goodness”.

The shift from an ideologically driven model back to a pragmatic one is very welcome.

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