Pigeonhole

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The timing was immaculate. The day after the Auditor General condemned a school’s dubious spending, it emerged that its principal had applied to open a charter school.

The Auditor General report stated that at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori O Whakawatea – “The kura spent $5,120 on Christmas gifts and vouchers for its staff and board members bought from a business owned by the principal. In our view, spending of this nature illustrates waste and a lack of probity on the part of the board.”

 

The business is a beauty spa with a side-line in colonic irrigation – which offers such things as microdermabrasion (from $99) and Hopi Ear Candling (from $55). It's owned by the principal and her husband.

The principal, Susanne Simmons-Kopa, went in the local paper to claim that the spending was all above board and was after all, only $200 per person – enough for a coffeeberry yoga with enzyme mask specialised facial.

How they managed to find 25 staff and board members at a school with 110 students is mystifying – the school I’m on the board of has a lot fewer staff with more than double the students.

Anyway, it turns out that the principal had in 2013 applied to open a charter school as well, under the aegis of the Whakawatea Kaporeihana, a clever way to get around the rule that existing schools can’t apply. The application form is revealing. Simmons-Kopa calls herself the ‘innovator-director’ of the Whakawatea Kaporeihana, an incorporated society that is paid over $30,000 a year by the Whakawatea Kohanga Reo for ‘administration services’, as well as getting MSD funding for afterschool care, presumably at the Kura Kaupapa that Simmons-Kopa runs too.

At this point it’s obvious that she’s a very busy woman – nothing necessarily wrong with that, though most principals I know report that the job is fairly demanding on its own.

 

But what is wrong with this picture is that if she does open a charter school, spending tax-payers money on things like gift vouchers from her beauty salon won’t be picked up, as the Auditor General doesn’t have any oversight of charter schools. 

And, in the US and UK where this experiment is well down the track, cases of fraud, misspending and funnelling public money to dubious ends, are regular news. 

One question that strikes me - why isn't the Taxpayers' Union crying foul about charter schools?

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Random thoughts after reading about the faith based franchise charter school that wants to open up in Porirua.  

Charter school cartoon on Frank Macskasy blogWords that came to mind were missionaries, colonisation, deficit thinking.

Apparently children in Porirua don't need qualified registered professional teachers, just people passionate about education.

Some kind of choice aye. 

A choice the ACT party thinks those kids deserve and National are rolling it out for them.

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

One of the promises of charter schools was that they would be innovative. And as every educational expert from business sponsored think tanks, marketing companies and discredited political parties knows, one of the biggest hurdles to innovation is the collective employment agreement.

The immutable laws of Freidman and Hayek tell us we can’t have 21st century, child-centred instruction while teachers have such industrial era expectations as a set number of hours, class size controls, non-contact time or payments for extra duties.

So, what is going on here then?

Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru, Whangaruru (2 positions)

(10 Mar 2014)

Our secondary, bilingual school, nestled within the picturesque setting of Whangaruru, is an inpiring land and water environment which will be embedded in our curriculum delivery. We seek registered, experienced teachers to fill two positions. (1) 0.5 junior science teacher. (2) Full-time English teacher. Applicants will have proven teaching ability, can motivate and engage students to learn to their potential, inspiring our students to excel. We offer small classes of 15 and individual contracts with high-quality working conditions – equivalent to the Collective Agreement. If you are seeking a teaching opportunity to make a difference for our youth and want to work in idyllic surroundings, we welcome your application.

 

Have they forgotten what they were established to do? They have to show that our ‘long tail of underachievement’ is all a result of the lazy, incompetent teachers hiding behind exactly such outdated protections as collective agreements.

 

 (Before you rush off to apply for these jobs, they’re now advertising three positions. Out of four teachers. Within two months of opening.)

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One of the premises of charter schools was that they would be funded at the same level as public schools – clearly a pretty crucial factor if comparisons between the two are going to be made. The Ministry states that the resourcing is intended to “provide a broadly similar level of funding to that for schools and students in the state system.”

What the Minister hasn’t said is that the funding – while ‘broadly similar’ is actually far more than almost all students in the public system receive. A newly released cabinet paper from October last year spells it out though. “The cost is particularly high, especially for small secondary schools…” and, the cost of these schools “is much higher on a per student basis” than others.

How much higher is revealed in the charter school contracts.

School sponsor

Establishment Payment

Annual operational payment, 2014

Students 2014

Per student funding, 2014

Villa

$1,019,533

$1,340,940

90

$14,899

ATC

$1,611,534

$2,123,804

108

$19,664

He Puna Marama

$1,880,693

$2,016,630

50

$40,332

Nga Parirau

$1,379,150

 

$1,508,560

71

$21,247

Rise UP

$391,945

$484,440

50

$9,688

Total

$6,508,389

$7,474,374

369

$20,255

 

Compare this to the average per student funding in the public system (2011- most recent year figures released for) including property, staffing and operations resourcing: $6,978

The Ministry of Education says that it’s unfair to compare these two, as these are new schools which always cost more. But the point is, they only build new schools when they really have to because of roll growth, not just for a political, or ideological point. Except in the case of charter schools.

And the greatest irony of all, this is a policy from the party that claims “Government spending is out of control.”

 

 

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A tall tale? Jet Star needs pilots in order to cover their flights – they overpromised and are unable to operate without these pilots. They have approached Air NZ requesting Air NZ pilots fly Jet Star planes - at Air NZ's expense.  This  means Air NZ will have to reduce both domestic and international flights.

Air NZ has refused.

Jet Star managers are up in arms at Air NZ's refusal to cover.  They are encouraging their passengers to write opinion pieces to the papers and to comment in social media damning this divisive approach.

Reasonable?

It seems that ACT supporters who encouraged the development of charter schools - an apparently different, new, innovative and exciting model of education  (and a well funded education model with - because charter schools can afford it - small class sizes) are now upset that local public schools (not as well funded) are saying they are not prepared to teach the charter school students.

Hang on a minute - isn't this supposed to be a new model of education? One that doesn't require qualified registered teachers? A model outside the state system - doing it differently.

Seems that for charter schools 'doing it differently' means - the ability to access and use for  free the teaching resources of state schools - so that the charter school extra funding  can be used elsewhere. The state schools are expected to juggle their resources for the benefit of the charter school.

Go figure.

If the charter school students will "miss out on opportunities" because they can't be taught in the state schools - then why was it we needed charter schools?

The NZ model of charter schools isn't about students. The NZ model of charter schools is about opening up the education market.

Lets close these schools before they open - stop the division - and resource all our state schools appropriately in order to support all our students.

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