While most schools in the country are feeling the pinch – with 95% of secondary principals reporting their funding isn’t enough to meet their needs, one school is so flush that they have just bought a $100,000 waka for their 65 students.
He Puna Marama, which received $6 million of government funding for its two Whangarei schools over two years, but also gets revenue from elsewhere, says it bought the 22-person, 14m carved kauri waka with money specially "put aside" for the purpose.
The secondary school part of this charter school (which opened in 2014) had around 60 students last year, and with its $40,000 funding each student bought in, it employed 8 teachers.
And along with this it has $100,000 left over for a beautiful hand carved waka.
Post Primary Teachers' Association president Angela Roberts said she found the waka purchase "frustrating".
"It breaks my heart, because I know for a fact there are outdoor education teachers in state schools around the country trying to motivate the same kids as He Puna Marama are and they don't even have the money to buy a couple of plastic kayaks," she said. "That's what hurts.
An example of this – a great rural secondary school serving a predominantly Maori community just set up a senior outdoor ed course – and the Board of Trustees gave the teacher in charge a $200 budget for the year. Not even enough for one kayak or mountain bike.
This school – with over 80% Maori students, gets a quarter of the funding that the Whangarei charter does per students, and has a massive debt that a previous principal left.
And from overseas the issue of lack of accountability with charter school spending has been in the news again. The Washington Post reports:
A new report released on Tuesday details fraud and waste totaling more than $200 million of uncovered fraud and waste of taxpayer funds in the charter school sector, but says the total is impossible to know because there is not sufficient oversight over these schools.
It’s to their credit that He Puna Marama was open about this purchase – but we have no idea about the general spending at most of the charters – how much the chief executives are earning for example. I’d hazard that this waka isn’t the only purchase that is out of line with spending at regular public schools.
And, like with the 81 hectare farm bought by another charter, if this trust has its schools closed, or decides it wants to get out of the ‘education business’ their tax-payer funded purchases remain in their hands.