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Will ‘pragmatism’ save her Charter schools?

Raewyn Tipene says she met about nine ministers at Waitangi to try to save her two charter schools in Whangarei. Photo NZ Herald

I do not blame Raewyn Tipene for trying to enlist the help and support of Kelvin Davis and Willie Jackson as her Charter schools are threatened by Jacinda Ardern’s heartless and ideologically and union driven government along with all the other Charter schools. Whether or not preferential treatment and support for her Charter schools is fair or not cannot be her concern as her obligation is to do whatever she can to protect her students and to fight to keep their school operational. If she can enlist the support and protection of Willie Jackson and Kelvin Davis then she should.

The problem is the public perception that Kelvin Davis and Chris Hipkins are working with one Charter school organisation but not others.

Alywn Poole’s Villa Education Trust had complained to the Auditor-General that Education Minister Chris Hipkins showed “favourable treatment” to the Whangarei schools by meeting Tipene at Waitangi last month despite saying he would leave negotiations with all charter schools to officials.

National MP Nikki Kaye also complained to the Auditor-General and told ParliamentHipkins was “engaging in preferential treatment accepting meetings arranged by other Cabinet ministers while telling everyone else he won’t meet with other schools”.

Poole criticised Hipkins in an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

“Your ‘Hitman Hipkins’ got his process so very wrong. His ‘agree to close or I will close you anyway’ announcements were atrocious and completely lacked compassion for our children and families,” he told her.[…]

[…] The Labour Party itself is divided on the issue. Deputy leader Kelvin Davis, an associate minister of education, was involved in establishing the two Whangarei schools, and Employment Minister Willie Jackson headed the Manukau Urban Māori Authority (MUMA) when it started a Māngere charter school, Te Kura Māori o Waatea.

Tipene said she met “about nine ministers” at Waitangi during Waitangi Day events.

This is a significant number of ministers and is an opportunity that the other Charter schools have not had.

“I caught up with Chris. He was very, very polite. We had a very good conversation. He made no promises about anything,” she said.

This is quite a turnaround from what she said on Waatea News, where she was scathing about how Education Minister Chris Hipkins had treated the Trust and she also was not at all impressed with how non-Maori PPTA members celebrated the demise of Maori Charter schools. She described Hipkins’ behaviour as “aggressive” and “bullying” and said that it reflected badly on Jacinda Ardern who said such nice things about helping Maori at Waitangi.

Tipene also confirmed that Hipkins met with her at Waitangi and that he made her feel that everything was going to be alright.

One can only wonder what has happened since she was on Waatea News. Is it possible that she was promised something that is now under threat of withdrawal unless she toes the party line? Kelvin Davis’ campaign manager works for her Trust so communication between Labour and the Trust may be easier than for other Charter schools. In the most recent media article in the NZ Herald Tipene has said that she thinks that it is best to try to settle the issues and work out what was actually being offered, or not offered.

Tipene said her trust, He Puna Marama Trust, was “really pragmatic” about keeping its two schools open. Their 312 students at the last official roll return were all Māori and the trust wants to keep the schools’ bilingual character.

Alwyn Poole has said that he thinks that Tipene’s Charter schools are ‘ fabulous schools” and that the complaint to the Auditor-General is a request for the Auditor-General to look into the process that has been implemented by the Government and the ministry.”

Poole said he was also confident the Government would not close his two middle schools, in Henderson and Manurewa, but he wanted to retain trust ownership, bulk funding and individual employment contracts for teachers.

Vanguard Military School chief executive Nick Hyde said he would apply for designated character status, and MUMA general manager operations Wyn Osborne said he would seek designated character status for a composite Years 1 to 13 school on his Māngere site.

The other five charter schools said they were still considering their options.

It will be interesting to see if Tipene’s more ‘pragmatic’ approach turns out to be more effective than the approaches of the other Charter schools. It certainly can’t hurt to have two Labour MP’s in your corner but who could blame the other schools for highlighting this difference if it will give them some leverage to get some support and protection for their own schools?

Credit: Luke

-NZ Herald

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