Saturday, June 20, 2009

Education and politics: Like oil and water

By Jennifer Buckingham, a Research Fellow at CIS -- speaking of bureaucratic waste of Federal "stimulus" spending

If ever there was evidence that politics and education don’t mix, the fiasco of the Building the Education Revolution program is it. How did this policy, which should have been a political slam-dunk, go so spectacularly wrong?

First, it was never about education. According to a 14 June media release from the Minister Gillard’s office, ‘The Guidelines for the Building the Education Revolution are clear and were developed to ensure that this investment supported as many jobs, in as many communities and as quickly as possible, to cushion the effects of the global recession on the Australian economy.’ Nothing there about teaching, learning, student achievement, or anything even remotely scholastic.

To meet the economic stimulus objective, the time frame has been extremely short, and schools have had to accept what would normally be unacceptable in nature and in cost, or risk missing out altogether. But just to confuse matters, in a bid to make the program sound education-friendly, all building works must be mainly for student use, which presents schools with a fairly narrow range of options and not necessarily the most useful ones.

For example, a school in my area already has a new hall/gymnasium and library, so it is using its BER funding to build more new classrooms when it already has several unused ones. What this school really needs is better staff facilities and a building that could be used both in and out-of-school hours to increase parental and community involvement in the school, which is sorely lacking. This does not meet the criteria, however.

On top of all that, the cost of the buildings for public schools is being inflated by the use of state government contractors, substantial project-management costs extracted by state governments, and the price premiums caused by urgency.

Second, by maintaining a sector-neutral approach and offering funding to all schools, the size of the building grants are dependent only on school size. This means that schools that already have every kind of building they could possibly need have been given millions of dollars to build more. Yes, there have been some stuff-ups, with a number of terminal schools being given money for new buildings, but rushing out a funding program of this scope will inevitably get it wrong in some cases. However, the broader issue of school need is fundamental and should have been foreseen.

It is hard not to see this as a missed opportunity for education. Granted, it wasn’t really about schools, it was about creating jobs. In this program, schools were just a politically safe place to dump some money. Nonetheless, a better program could have served both purposes with a much smaller price tag.

The above is a press release from the "Centre for Independent Studies" dated June 19th.

Corrupt Queensland cops whitewash their misuse of Tasers

COMPLAINTS about Queensland police officers' alleged misuse of Tasers are routinely being investigated - and dismissed - by police. Of the 13 complaints made about Tasers since July 2007, only three have been finalised, with two of those found to be unsubstantiated.

Police also dismissed the third complaint - relating to the use of a Taser of a 16-year-old girl at South Bank - finding the constable involved had displayed sound judgment in his actions. However, the Crime and Misconduct Commission disagreed with that finding and conducted its own investigation, which resulted in harsh criticism of police "for failing to learn from their mistakes". Police are still investigating nine other complaints received about the use of Tasers, with the CMC overseeing the latest investigation into the possible Taser-related death of Antonio Galeano, 39, in north Queensland this month.

A CMC spokeswoman said the commission was generally only involved in complaints "of acomplex nature".

Family and friends of Galeano farewelled the 39-year-old yesterday in Ayr, about 5km from Brandon, where he collapsed and died shortly after his confrontation with police on Friday, June 12. Although officers involved have said he was Tasered no more than five times, data from the weapon revealed it was discharged 28 times. An autopsy has found the man suffered a heart attack, but it is not yet clear if the taser triggered that. [Would 28 rapidly repeated high voltage shocks from a Taser cause a heart attack? Nah! Just ONE shot is usually disabling. It's the goon concerned who should be shot]

The incident has prompted a four-week review of Tasers in the Queensland Police Service and temporarily halted the statewide rollout of the weapons.

Civil libertarians have called for an independent investigation into the death, but Queensland Police Union acting president Ian Leavers said investigators should be left to do their job without comment. "Only at the conclusion of all these tests will the actual cause of death be known, and only then will the actions of the officers be able to be properly assessed," Mr Leavers said.


An old, old story: Cops lying to protect fellow cops

HE WAS a friend and colleague - a fellow police officer, with whom Greg Brown was prone to have a beer. And after an inquiry by the Police Integrity Commission into alleged criminality, he is free. Brown, by contrast, is looking at jail for lying to protect him.

Gregory John Brown, a senior constable from Fairfield Police Station, was sentenced to eight months and two days protective custody yesterday for lying to the commission about plans to buy a brothel, covering up for a colleague who was later found to have done nothing wrong.

He was denied an adjournment by Chief Magistrate Graeme Henson, but immediately lodged an appeal and was granted bail unopposed. He will re-appear on August 3. After making bail, Brown refused to say whether there was an unspoken code among police - one where an officer might lie for another.

In sentencing Brown, Chief Magistrate Henson drew on the sentencing of the disgraced former judge Marcus Einfield. "As has often been said," he read from Justice Bruce James's judgment, "each of the offences of perjury and perverting the course of justice strike at the heart of the administration of justice." Being a police officer did not change this, he said. The supposed nobility of the act - of covering for a mate - made no difference.

On December 4, 2007, Brown lied five times at an Integrity Commission investigation into whether Constable Rick Perchtold was involved in criminal activity or serious police misconduct. He had been under oath. Constable Perchtold was a friend - a "professional and social acquaintance", as Chief Magistrate Henson put it - who worked with Brown at Fairfield Police Station. Brown had introduced Constable Perchtold to the brothel owner Sam Lapa at the Marconi Club. He spoke to Constable Perchtold about the latter's plans to buy a brothel.

But when questioned under oath he failed to mention any of this. It was not until the commission heard recordings of conversations he had with Constable Perchtold that Brown conceded it was not an exhaust business his friend was trying to buy. The brothel turned out to be a legal business operation.


School bullying: Qld. Education Dept. trying to shoot the messenger

Because effective discipline has been outlawed, many schools are now unsafe for weaker children but only an ideological backflip could cure that so the Dept. just averts its eyes from the problem. The NSW Education Dept. recently had to fork out $468,000 as a result of a lawsuit by a victim of school bullying so the Qld. mob might find that their victory is a very Pyrrhic one if they successfully prosecute this guy

A BRISBANE dad who took his daughter out of school because she was being bullied has been charged with failing to ensure she participates in full-time education. Vanessa McKenna, 10, has not returned to Sunnybank State Primary School on Brisbane's southside since March 24 2008, after suffering multiple physical attacks.

Her father John McKenna told The Courier-Mail the school had failed to adequately address his concerns about his daughter's safety, despite his numerous calls and letters. "It's been going on for several years," said Mr McKenna. "Her glasses got broken, three boys ran her into a pole chasing her into the toilet and one boy pulled his pants down in front of her in the classroom. "Instead of taking action against the boy responsible, the teacher made Vanessa sit next to him."

Mr McKenna said he had been told the school had no record of the assaults against his daughter. "The teachers have developed a code of silence and cover-ups and it makes parents believe their children are liars," he said. "I don't believe my child is a liar. I've seen the marks on her body. What's got to happen? Does a child have to die?"

Although Vanessa has not attended Sunnybank State School since last March, Mr McKenna said he did not hear from Education Queensland until September. An official from the district office contacted the family to try to get Vanessa into other schools in the area, but Mr McKenna said one "just didn't seem good enough" and the other couldn't promise his daughter would be safe from bullies. "The bloke up there was a very decent gentleman, he was very honest. He said he had five boys who were worse than the boy who assaulted Vanessa and he couldn't guarantee her safety."

Police charged Mr McKenna last Friday with failing to ensure a child in his care was participating in full-time education. He is due to appear in Richlands Magistrate's Court on July 3 and, if convicted, faces a maximum fine of $450. An Education Queensland spokesman said the department was unable to comment on the case because it was now before court. But the spokesman stressed that prosecution of parents over a student's attendance at school was a "last resort".


No comments: