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Saturday, 29 December 2007

Irish Education: State should take its share of responsibility

Update Jan 3, 08
Schools will be billed for water but no clearer on funding

Two year delay with flat rate charge gov abdicates responsibility to LA's.

What do we pay our taxes for?

Stat-ist and water bills

Im loathe to write blog posts around articles by David Quinn but there have been a series of articles in the papers recently suggesting the someone, some body somewhere is calling for complete state takeover of schools, yet they never names who these people are.

No politicians and priests just parents.

When the question is framed as, Church or State, many people, especially those of a liberal or secular outlook, will answer "State" every time. Quite apart from their distaste for the Church, the idea that a religious organisation of any stripe should run so many of our schools offends their secular principles.
I commented, when secularists say the state should run schools, they mean state funded via tax, because secularist generally believe in free education via the tax system, taxing at various levels and spending it where its needed. We still think there should be local committees of parents and maybe one or two politicians and priest but not a majority of such. Secularist expect their income tax to cover opening of schools and to pay for the heating and lighting of that school. (He is right to highlight the issue of class, but its not reason not to reduce the catholic monopoly.)

But again in this fawning article about Cardinal Brady David Quinn repeats the falsehood about trying to reduce parental choice by getting the state to take its responsibility in education, when infact currently there is little choice.

Obviously there are too many denominational schools in this country. But reducing their number is not enough for our die-hard secularists who want them reduced to zero. They dream of a system entirely dominated by the State and in which parental choice counts for nothing.
People like him say that there is a constitutional right for parents to choose schools run by religions but with currently with 98% of schools church run the constitution is actually being broken by the current system giving little or no choice to parent to choose secular schools. He obviously hadn't read my comment on his previous article.

When the issue of water charges finally broke onto the front pages another series of articles was written in the never ending public argument between various papers columnists and even between columnist in the same paper. I don't like that Fintan O'Toole has become a columnist now as well but he is the only person writing about these issues consistently and summing up the whole situation. I wonder if F'OT is that aggresive secularist Bertie Ahern was talking about?

A lesson for Primary schools

Imagine, writes Fintan O'Toole , a country so poor that it has no national primary school system. The state doesn't set up schools for children, but leaves the task to parents and local groups.

Teachers and parents spend much of their time trying to collect money for basics like water and heat. We don't have to imagine this country, of course, because - except for the bit about being poor - we live in it. But we are so used to the absurd situation of primary education in Ireland that we forget how crazy it is that one of the most basic tasks of modern states is left to a ramshackle network of over 3,000 private institutions. Maybe we need the even greater absurdity of forcing parents to pay for the water used in the schools their children attend to shock us into realising that we can't go on like this.

Which induced another article attacking the strawman state-ist.
Now, as then, we are being told that the answer to all our problems is more -- much more -- state intervention, a total state takeover of our schools, in fact. The faith of some people in the State is simply touching.
He also suggest the local communities having to fund raise to pay basic bills is good thing as it bring the schools closer to the local community!!

Breda O'Brien wrote a similar article this weekend as well, Funding is core issue for schools, not patronage (reg req). Which it is in the short term, but this problem stems from state abdication of responsibility for education, which she highlights.

The Department of Education and Science acts as if the schools were completely private institutions when it suits it, and at the same time demands exacting educational standards as if they were completely State-run.
but then she says..,
It is suggested that dismantling this system and making the State directly responsible for all schools would solve the problems. This can only be described as a touching, if somewhat puzzling, faith in a state that has proved itself incapable of planning even water charges.

It is suggested. Suggested by who?

So again O'Brien doesn't say who it was that was calling for such a thing, the only call I've heard is for the state to fund the schools fully and for new types of schools with firm state, parental, community and some politicial ( and even some religious) involvement. But I disagree that patronage is not an issue, they are inextricable, its the root of the prob she describes. Her long opinion column then waffles on about, morals muslims French republicans holding back women and schools set up communities (for her read religious communities).

I haven't read are listened to all of the reports on this issue but I haven't seen or heard anyone suggesting this in regard to the water issue or funding in general, or during the recent discussions over new school 'patronage'. Fund the fecking schools!,thankfully both DQ and B'OB say this but also addressed there articles to these state-ist straw men.

Hanafin is still abdicating responsibility while pretending everything is okay or passing the buck and blaming everyone else.

Minister knew of school water crux.

Correspondence seen by the Irish Independent also shows that then-minister Dick Roche offered to pay for water conservation measures in schools to help reduce the bills in October 2006, but the Department of Education did not respond.

In the Dail Bertie Ahern admitted that even though delayed parents will end up paying for water charges and even with water conservation these bills will be in the thousands. RTE report on water. Still no free education.

So what are the principals and teachers and boards of management saying about school funding in relation to water charges...

Cllr Walter Lacey, who has been involved with schools as chairman of the board at Scoil Mhuire Gan Smal in Carlow for a number of years, said it was a well known fact that there was no income or business to be made from schools.
Schools vow to revolt on water charges
“Parents and teachers have had to organise fundraisers to foot the bills for running costs, refurbishments and repairs as it is.”
Principals claim water charges would be the ‘death-knell’ for rural schools
Schools turn to second minister in water row
Hundreds of schools now set-to-seek refunds
Water charges unfair to schools

Sean Cotteral,Director, Irish Primary Principals' Network writes to the Indo Scandal of school water charges

Schools neither manufacture nor sell goods or services for profit, nor register for VAT. Incredibly, schools are the latest soft targets for stealth taxes despite having to continuously fund raise to make up for systematic Government under-funding of day-to-day running costs.
Of course when right wing people talk of choice what they really mean is privatisation, so perhaps what David Quinn is really angling for is privatised schools like the City Academies in the UK where millionaire Evangelical Christians have been able to wow council with their money to build huge highly equipped while impose their religious beliefs on schools Most recently seen in the The New Fundamentalists C4 Dispatches program.

So the new style of patronage will be VEC's. I worry that the VECs will become our city academies when they start doing second level ones, VECs have in their mission statement specifically to produce students for trade and industry... like these city academies.

But Bock calls the Bishop on the hypocracy.

Mairaid traces Hanafins awful track record of grand false promises and refusal to recognise any problems in Irish education.

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