The Northern Advocate asked PPTA for answers to a few questions about the boycott in Northland, a small portion of which was published in this story today.
Here are the questions and the complete response.
· Why has the PPTA implemented this ban?
PPTA members are deeply concerned about how charter schools will damage the education system in New Zealand, fragmenting provision, wasting resources and undermining our strong public system. The people who will ultimately suffer will be students, as we have seen in countries like Chile, Sweden or the USA where charter school type policies are leading to far worse education outcomes.
After opposing the charter school policy all the way through the legislative process, PPTA members decided that it would be consistent and principled to continue this opposition when charter schools are established. Charter schools are a politically driven experiment, and it’s clear that they are premised on and directly contribute to ‘failure’ of public schools.
The politicians who developed the policy and the people who have wanted to run charter schools have all said that public schools are failing students and that’s why they are needed. If this is the case, why would they then turn to the public system for support? The evidence is clear that while we have challenges in our NZ education system we are doing well and getting better – and that many of the factors which contribute to student success and failure are things that are out of the control of teachers, but that the government could act on them if it was serious about all students doing well. When a charter school is given more money because its students are from tough backgrounds and struggling in the education system, the same challenges in the public system are met with the message to ‘raise your expectations.’
What’s more, the charter schools are funded, extremely generously, to offer a full curriculum. The Whangarei charter school has banked millions of dollars of surplus, while the Whangaruru one is this year being funded at a cost of around $50,000 per student. They could almost afford to employ one teacher per student – compare this with the average of $7000 per student in the public sector – many local schools would recieve less than that. Charters have plenty of money to purchase any support they need, and that’s the premise on which they were established anyway – give them the money and free them from having to do the sort of things that public schools do.
· What does the PPTA hope to achieve through the ban?
There are two things – one is to make sure that they (charter schools) succeed or fail on their own merits, that they aren’t propped up by the goodwill and expertise of teachers in the public sector. The second is to continue to demonstrate the strength of feeling of teachers in the public system against this unwelcome political experiment. Charter schools were foisted on the public in a back-room deal after the 2011 election, and the development of the policy was as bad as I’ve seen education policy get. We are not going to treat them as a fait accompli and give up our principled opposition to them now.
· The ban has been described as discrimination, how does the PPTA respond to this?
The ban that PPTA members agreed to means that we don’t support charter schools by giving them professional advice or access to the expertise or resources of public school teachers. These are all things that teachers do with colleagues in their own and other schools, or with trainees, out of good will for the profession. Charter schools were established with the rationale that the teaching profession is failing, and it’s highly hypocritical of them then to seek assistance from trained and qualified teachers in the public system.
It’s perfectly legal to choose not to employ or work with people on the basis of their current employer – it’s the same as a business not wanting to sell something to a competitor because they don’t want to be copied by them. A boycott is by definition discriminatory, but this is both legally and ethically sound, like many examples of boycotts against unjust practices or bad policies in the past.
· Has the PPTA either formally or informally circulated his name amongst state schools?
No. Teachers in Northland schools contacted PPTA as they were concerned that they did not want to support the charter school, and informed their principals that they did not want to have a student teacher who was employed there. Teachers at several high schools in the area were approached and when they realised the student teacher was employed at a charter school they declined to host the student teacher. Trainee teachers are turned down by schools for placements like this regularly for a range of reasons and it is common for trainees to have to travel to complete a teaching practice. We contacted the teacher education provider and suggested a number of options for this student to complete their initial teacher education at schools which do not have PPTA members. This is what I understand has happened.