Nothing but broken promises from Hitman Hipkins

Hitman: Education Minister Chris Hipkins plans to eliminate Partnership schools
Credit: Luke

Where are the promised changes to the Special Character legislation from Hitman Hipkins? The only way there can be a genuine option for a pathway that doesn’t involve closure for Partnership schools is if the promised changes are made. In a press release yesterday Chris Hipkins stated:

“The Bill repeals legislation that allows for future charter schools.

“It also includes provision for existing charter schools to operate under their contracts while the Ministry discusses possible options, including in the state system, on a case-by-case basis.

“My preferred option is to explore early termination of contracts by mutual agreement. Operators wanting to be involved in education can apply to me to establish another form of school, such as a designated character school. As part of this process, applications would need to meet the relevant requirements.

Currently, the relevant requirements are such that no Partnership schools currently operating will be able to meet them. Without the promised changes to the legislation, the entire process is a smokescreen for Labour’s cold-blooded determination to terminate all the schools.

“If however, early termination is not agreed by both parties, I am reserving my right to issue a notice of ‘termination for convenience’, under charter schools’ existing contracts, by the middle of May 2018. This would take effect at the end of the school year.”

In other words, you either go along with the fiction that the closure was mutually agreed upon by both parties or I will not honour the government’s existing contract with you. This is SHOCKING stuff. In a democracy, new governments are expected to honour existing contracts. They do not have to renew them but to force schools to close who have 2-3 years still to run on their contracts is outrageous and surely illegal?

This information has been released even though neither Chris Hipkins nor the Ministry has had a conversation with the schools. Where is the openness and transparency that was promised? This is a fait accompli where no respect has been shown whatsoever for the Partnership schools. There has been no consultation or discussions, just Stasi like dictates from on high.

Previous to Education minister Chris Hipkins’ press release yesterday the message in the MSM was totally different. Leading up to last year’s election several Labour MP’s  including Chris Hipkins made significant statements:

Labour to ‘tweak’ special character schools, save charter schools from closure […]

Under a Labour-led government charter schools will be repealed and the party’s education spokesman Chris Hipkins [now Minister of Education] said the options on the table for those schools would be anything from “closure to integration into the state school system”.

[…] On Monday, responding to Davis’ pledge to resign over them, Hipkins said “tweaks” would be made so there weren’t any “unnecessary barriers” for new special character schools.

But it would be fair to say discussions with some of the charter school operators has highlighted the problems with the special character model as it stands now.”

Under the special character changes Hipkins said it was “quite possible” the charter schools operating in Davis’ electorate would meet the criteria to transition.

[…] Labour’s Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis [now an Associate Minister of Education] has promised he’ll resign before the two charter schools in his Northland electorate are closed. He says it’s an easy promise to make because the schools will only change in name.

[…] A commitment to keep charter schools open was also made in May by Labour list candidate Willie Jackson, who was heavily involved with Te Kura Maori o Waatea, a charter school based in South Auckland.

Late last year during question time in Parliament Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was equally positive citing only three change requirements (NZ Curriculum, registered teachers, and same levels of funding which in many situations would mean more funding for the Charter Schools). These requirements are easily met for all Partnership schools currently operating.

The PM’s key statement was:

We are working alongside those schools to make sure that they have a pathway to remain open, we’re not asking much from them.

Why then is Hitman Hipkins and the Ministry of Education telling Partnership schools via a press release that there is no transition option and that their contracts will be “terminated”?

New Zealand Partnership schools are successful and have waiting lists. They are providing alternative education that is desperately needed. They are looking for support from Chris Hipkins to change the Special Character legislation (as promised) so that they can transition (as promised).


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