Charter schools given Hobson’s choice

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

Dear Chris

Given that neither yourself nor your office respond to any messages or requests for information this is the only forum I can think of where we might hope to get through to you. (PS Kelvin Davis still has not responded to us at all yet either.)

You have told the New Zealand public and our families that we are involved in fair negotiations. That is a lie. We have had one meeting with Ministry officials (and some bits and pieces contact) and that was on February 13 and lasted all of 50 minutes.

In theory that meeting was for us to present the minor changes that were needed to the Designated Character or Integrated models that would also allow us to continue in keeping with your promise that:

In your own words: “The kids won’t notice any difference because it’s transferring the schools from part of the Act to another part of the Act. In terms of what the kids do on a daily basis – they literally wouldn’t notice a difference.” End of quote.

It seemed fair to us to present these three small things to you on February 13 because your Prime Minister has repeatedly said in public that only three things are required of us to continue to do the good work that the recent Martin Jenkins report clearly shows the Villa schools are doing.

Ardern has said:

  • They need to teach the NZ Curriculum.
  • They need registered teachers.
  • They need the same level of funding as comparable State schools.

We quickly agreed to all three and then, in good faith, thought through the things that would be needed so that our staff and families “literally wouldn’t notice a difference.” (We wanted to help you keep your word.)

On February 13 we asked the Ministry to present to you:

  • That we can continue our governance/ownership (non-profit) that provides direction.
  • That we can continue with the bulk fundings that allows us to break down barriers for families through the provisions of uniform, stationery, etc.
  • That our teachers can stay outside of the collective contracts as we require a lot more from them and the contracts are very different.

Your Ministry could not be bothered presenting these to you for well over a month (a fair and just process?) and then on Wednesday, we received a letter from them saying that all of our requests for very moderate legislative changes to accommodate our schools have been dismissed out of hand by the Minister.

Just as bizarrely: with contracts in place that carry us through 18 and 30 months for our two schools and no decision having been made to rescind those: we are told in the same letter that we have until May 1 to apply for our schools to continue under the long-established options that your Prime Minister has described as being “inadequate”. How is much less than three weeks any possible time for due diligence for a tiny Trust such as ourselves that is serving just under 500 children and their families?

Could you explain how this is a just, fair and open process that has the best interests of our families at heart? (Many of these families have written to you: your office dismissed their concerns with form letters.)

Can you explain how the public pronouncements about our schools, including the give and take, and the process they are involved in differ so greatly?

Why did you say you were keen to hear what minor legislative changes would be needed to accommodate us if, in fact, these were never going to be considered?

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A guest post submitted to Whaleoil and edited by Whaleoil staff.

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