Ombudsman investigates charter schools OIA request complaint

A complaint by PPTA Te Wehengarua about the Government’s refusal to release a range of information about its plans for charter schools, is being investigated by the Ombudsman.

“We are delighted the Ombudsman has decided to investigate our complaint,” says Chris Abercrombie, PPTA Te Wehengarua president. “We believe the refusal to release this information is extraordinary and demonstrates that neither the Ministry of Education nor Associate Education Minister David Seymour are meeting their responsibilities to release information proactively.”

The complaint from PPTA Te Wehengarua relates to its request in March for information about the Government’s policy, advice and costings for the re-introduction of charter schools.

The Ministry’s response to the request, received in May, identified 25 documents as in scope of the request. Only two of the documents have been released in part. Four documents have had even their titles withheld and 17 documents have been withheld under section 18(d) as ‘soon to be publicly available’. However, as at the date of the complaint, only three of these documents are currently listed - not published but title given - on the Ministry of Education website. All other papers, specifically those that have been prepared for Associate Education Minister David Seymour, are not listed on the website.

PPTA’s complaint to the Ombudsman says that ‘despite including in our request that a date be provided for any documents withheld under section 18(d), the Ministry has failed to provide a date by which the information will be available, nor have they previously notified us when information has been made available. We do not have confidence that the refusal is justified based on ‘the agency [being] reasonably certain that the requested information will be published in the near future (and be able to articulate when and where).’

Chris Abercrombie said the public deserved to know more about the proposed model for charter schools. “This is particularly important, given the coalition agreement allows for state schools to be forced to convert to charter schools. What is that going to mean for communities and local schools? Local communities are being left completely in the dark.

“The Government has said that charter schools will be funded on roughly the same level as public schools but have refused to release any information about the funding model. Recent budget announcements that charter schools will be able to access the period products in schools programme contradict the completely independent, bulk funding model that the Minister has been promoting.”

As the Government has stated it intends to introduce charter school legislation by 30 June, obtaining the official information was a matter of urgency for communities and PPTA Te Wehengarua members, he said.

“The lack of transparency around the plans for charter schools gives us cause for serious concern about how they will operate when they are re-introduced. More than $150 million of taxpayers’ money is being poured into charter schools all under a huge cloud of secrecy. This is not the Kiwi way.” 

Last modified on Tuesday, 18 June 2024 12:55