Night classes Adult and Community Education (ACE). An incredibly cost effective and valuable part of the NZ education sector for decades. The ACE budget has been eviscerated by National, cut from $16m to $3m. Effectively a death blow, most of the infrastructure and expertise will go.
These are stupid hypocritical cuts, and there is huge public opposition. Yesterday 53,000 signatures in support of Adult and Community Education (ACE) were delivered to parliament. So today the National party spin machine revs up to trot out the same old nonsense. Here is Kiwiblog:
Of course if people wish to still learn how to dye their silk scarves, or learn Moroccan cooking, they can still do so. But they will pay for the course, instead of forcing everyone else to fund it for them.
That’s pretty much the sum total of Farrar’s analysis of this important issue. Unfortunately even at this level he appears to be as clueless as his minister:
Moroccan mosaic tiling classes or twilight golf lessons were easy adult community education targets for the government cost-cutters, and they are difficult to defend. Why should hard-pressed taxpayers contribute to the cost of middle-class white folks’ hobby lessons? They also make for glib and snappy political statements.
But Education Minister Anne Tolley should take more care with her generalisations. The golf lessons were her example, picked at random from Wellington High School’s adult education prospectus during an interview with The Wellingtonian to make her point. Her press officer phoned our office later to ask for the quote to be removed from the story because, he said, they had discovered that the twilight golf lessons were not, in fact, taxpayer subsidised. Moroccan mosaic tiling was another of her examples and it may have even been a worse one.
Ooops! Turns out Moroccan cooking isn’t necessarily subsidised either. Ooops again! The fact is that while you can pick on some examples for “glib and snappy political statements”, most ACE courses are practical and useful. Furthermore, ACE gives a huge return on the investment of taxpayer funding. Check out the 2008 report from Price Waterhouse Coopers Economic Evaluation of Adult and Community Education Outcomes here:
Based on the available data, including the survey responses, the estimated economic impact of the ACE sector is between $4.8 and $6.3 billion annually. This equates to a return on investment of $54 – $72 for each dollar of funding. Each dollar of government funding generates a return of $16 – $22, but this is further leveraged through private contributions to the sector, including those voluntarily added such as unpaid volunteer labour. …
A key economic benefit of ACE is increased income for adult users because of subsequent involvement in paid or higher paid employment. Benefits were also realised through savings in government welfare benefits, savings in crime and health, value added through enhanced community participation and increased taxes. When compared to other community-based activities, ACE is likely to have one of the highest added values in economic terms, as it is largely focused on improving people’s productive lives through learning. Additionally, the benefits of enhanced learning are likely to have implication in all areas of an individual’s life, whether as employees, parents or members of the community.
How many other areas of government spending generate returns like that? How does it compare with returns on, just for example, the $50 Million for John’s vanity cycleway to nowhere? Oh that’s right – we don’t know – no one did any costings on the cycleway. This criticism from the government and their spinners on ACE is as clueless as it is hypocritical.