Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hungry kids: doing their bit to subsidise elite education

It's no secret the National party dislikes handouts to the poor, no matter how needy. But it seems handouts to the wealthy are another matter. Radio New Zealand has done a bit of snooping around and found private schools will get increased state funding in the budget. These are the country's most expensive elite schools. The sort of school a Prime Minister might send his little boy to, for example.

Spider and I walk through a neighbourhood lots of Kings College kids drive through to go to school. These little darlings drive mostly European marques worth more than the average household incomes of the neighbourhoods they drive through. One suspects that even at this young age they've been indoctrinated to believe that they deserve no less. One also presumes that they have parents who, while generally prepared to impose tough love on the poor, are happy to suck up millions on behalf of their own offspring. Here's the amounts received by the top 8 schools for the last three financial years, helpfully totaled both ways so you can see exactly how much taxpayers are subsidising the education of the children of the already wealthy.

In a time of austerity - you know, cuts to women's refuge, legal aid and community law, and a raft of other social services - we still managed to find $42 million dollars to prop up private schools. This is truly a case of them that have shall receive.

Meanwhile back in the land occupied by parents who send their kids to public schools, Mana's Feed the Kids Bill is coming up for its first reading in early June (at this stage). National has said it will oppose the Bill because, well...who knows why they choose to be so mean-spirited? But there's always that ever-receding fiscal surplus to provide a ready excuse.

In its report on food in schools CPAG estimated a total cost of about $25-30 million per year to provide breakfast to decile one and two primary and intermediate schools, assuming a take-up rate of about 20%, give or take. Mana's costings come out at about $100 million per year but their Bill provides for breakfast and lunch in decile 1-3 primary, intermediate and high schools so would be considerably more expensive. But clearly there's wiggle room. Mana's Bill is being supported by almost every organisation in the education sector because principals and teachers are fed up with kids coming to school hungry. So the question needs to be asked: why can New Zealand afford to chuck $17 million at the country's wealthiest schools in the last year, but not afford to provide breakfast to the country's neediest children?

Yesterday Mana, with support from a bunch of community organisations, ran a Big Breakfast for about 2,500 kids at the Otara Leisure Centre. It was AMAZING. The kids had a great time munching on their WeetBix and milk and being entertained by various Famous People. Here's a couple of photos to give flavour of the event. And please, if you think we can afford to provide breakfasts to kids in low-decile schools as well as subsidise their richer peers, then write to your favourite National MP and ask them to support the Bill.
South Auckland's finest packing out the Otara Leisure Centre

Breakfast? Choice!!
Lunches packed and ready to go. Bon appetit!