More spending not a poll winner

Blaise Joseph

24 May 2019 | Ideas@TheCentre

A significant proportion of Australians would rather have lower taxes than more spending on public services like education without results, and this was reflected in the federal election result.

The truth is, Australians aren’t just concerned about how much is spent on education but also how it is spent.

School funding is an important issue for many people — especially for parents of the two-thirds of children who go to government schools — but evidently, it wasn’t a decisive election issue. This was probably because while both Labor and the Coalition promised substantial increases in government school spending, they only differed in degree (Labor’s was more significant).

The education union’s campaign against the Morrison government was fundamentally misleading. It alleged $14 billion was being ‘cut’ from government schools, which was factually incorrect. And it conveniently ignored the fact that state governments have barely increased their funding of schools over the past ten years, while federal funding has risen massively.

The class warfare of pitting ‘underfunded’ government schools against ‘overfunded’ non-government schools was rejected by aspirational working parents. It’s often forgotten that many middle-income and low-income families value school choice.

And for religious parents, religious schools are often an integral part of living their faith and building their communities. Potential threats to the religious freedom of their schools could also have been a factor in their vote.

The Coalition’s re-election also provides some certainty for NAPLAN, as the current government is supportive of the transparency and accountability coming from the tests. The challenge for them going forward is to improve NAPLAN.

Finally, it’s very welcome news that the Coalition has promised to introduce a voluntary online phonics screening check and ensure teacher education degrees adequately deliver phonics content.

The focus on phonics is something the CIS has been pushing for years, and it’s great to see this policy win in the crucial area of reading instruction. Many Australian children will benefit.

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