Several recent stories are highlighting the fall in support for charter schools in the USA.
Most significant is the call at the 2016 national convention of the leading civil rights group, the NAACP, for a moratorium on charter school expansion.
The resolution called for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools at least until such time as:
(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools
(2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system
(3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and
(4) Charter schools cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.
But following the November 2016 Presidential election, the NAACP was concerned that Trump’s agenda to expand the privatization of public education would put the promise of a quality education for all at risk. The Board of Directors then expanded the work of a Task Force they had created to examine charter schools to include protection of quality public education for all inner-city children and renamed it the Task Force on Quality Education.
The Task Force framed their report around five critical recommendations for regulating charter schools and strengthening the public education system.
Other key findings of the Task Force are worth highlighting:
“Charter schools were created with more flexibility because they were expected to innovate and infuse new ideas and creativity into the traditional public school system. However, this aspect of the promise never materialized.”
“Charter schools are publicly funded, but they are privately operated under a written contract (or charter) with a state, school district or other authorizers depending on the state.”
“With the expansion of charter schools and their concentration in low-income communities, concerns have been raised within the African American community about the quality, accessibility and accountability of some charters, as well as their broader effects on the funding and management of school districts that serve most students of color.”
“For some, charter schools provide the answer to persistently failing traditional public schools in their community. To others, charter schools drain their community of limited resources and harm their children because many cannot attend the charter schools in their own neighborhood.”
“There were pros and cons on charters versus traditional schools in every hearing. The Task Force heard testimony that accused charter schools of “cherry-picking” students, counseling out the difficult students, manipulating funds related to average daily attendance once students were no longer in attendance, and re-segregating the public school system. Conversely, charter school advocates criticized the traditional school system for its poor record in educating students.”
“In every hearing, many people agreed that the current education system fails too many children because of the lack of investment in people, policies and programs that support high quality educational opportunities.”
“Furthermore, while high quality, accountable and accessible charters can contribute to educational opportunity, by themselves, even the best charters are not a substitute for more stable, adequate and equitable investments in public education in the communities that serve our children.”
~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ
Source: NAACP Task Force on Quality Education Hearing Report, July 2017.
It’s been a year of non-stop changes and proposals. Some call it a war on free public schooling in NZ – indeed it feels like a continuous battery of skirmishes with little to no break between attacks.
If the Minister is purposefully undertaking psychological warfare to break teachers down, then she’s doing it well, because we’re worn out; We just want to teach.
So far this year, NZ public education has faced:
I’m sure I’ve forgotten some things – there have been so many – so please comment below if there’s anything that needs to be added.
Meanwhile, look after yourselves – there’s still one whole term to go and, as we know, a lot can happen in a few short weeks.
PS, more added below!
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
David Seymour’s press release today about the collapse of North Shore based private school, Corelli, has two whoppers in it.
First, he incorrectly implies that if a student moves from a private school into a state school then the taxpayer would be $5,000 a year poorer for each student.
This is nonsense. The average amount of government funding per student in the state school sector is derived by dividing a whole raft of aggregated costs by the very large number of students enrolled. But that does not mean that each additional student – at the margin – would cost the taxpayer that amount of money.
Many of the costs incurred in running our schools do not immediately change as the number of students changes. So, it might be possible to absorb more students into the existing school network and hardly change the costs involved. Some costs may go up but by no means all of them will.
The second point in Seymour’s reckless release is that he conveniently overlooks the fact that Corelli has a large number of International students on its roll.
The preliminary March roll data suggests Corelli had as many as 19 international students out of its total roll of 37.
So, if they were all “forced” into attending a state school, the taxpayer would actually benefit, as the international students pay fees that are often over $20,000 a year!
With misinformation as grossly misleading as this, it’s no wonder the public doesn’t trust politicians.
~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ
The Education Amendment Bill has been reported back to the House with a recommendation that it be passed.
The legislation will makes it easier for unqualified and unregistered people to act as teachers in charter schools as well as removing the right of teachers to directly elect their own professional body.
“The government has completely disregarded the overwhelming number of submissions which called on it to allow the new teacher representative body to remain professionally rather than politically driven,” says NZEI National Secretary Paul Goulter.
“Instead, once the legislation is passed, the Minister will handpick representatives for the new EDUCANZ body being set up to replace the Teachers’ Council.
“What other professional body has their representatives chosen by the Minister of the day rather than electing their own representatives?”
“This legislation is about ideology and undermining the teaching profession – not about addressing the needs of all New Zealand children and ensuring their right to quality public education.
“The government has also disregarded the views of New Zealanders who have made it clear they don’t want unqualified and unregistered people teaching in our schools.
“This is a major step backwards and will put the education of many children at risk.
“I am sure that New Zealanders will see how this legislation completely contradicts the government’s rhetoric about wanting to improve the quality of education.”
Reformers tell you charter schools are all about choice, right?
So, where’s the choice in England where schools are being FORCED against community wishes to become Academies (their version of charter schools)?
Where’s the choice in New Orleans’ Recovery District, now ALL schools there are charters and students are allocated a school place by lottery?
And what about in New Zealand?
In other words, where a public school would have opened there could now be a charter school in its place. (4)
New Zealand charter schools are sneakily being proposed INSTEAD OF public schools.
Now look again at your local primary school and ask yourself how happy you will be further down the line when it is forcibly made into a charter school.
About as happy as the parents and school governors fighting tooth and nail to prevent is in England, I imagine.
“Roger Sahota, one of the deposed governors, claimed that the results were emphatic. “We conducted a ballot[of students’ parents] in the aftermath of the head’s resignation. We found 147 against academy status, 14 for and five didn’t know,” he said.” (3)
Privatisation of the state system by stealth? Indeed.
NZ, beware of what is to come.
References and further reading:
Below is the Networkonnet Manifesto, the only comprehensive education manifesto I have seen. Please read it and see if it meets your own vision for what our education system should be. If it does, please either sign it here (below in the comments) and I will forward those comments to Kelvin, or click through HERE and sign it directly on the Networkonnet site.
Likewise, if you have suggestions for changes, please share them in as much detail as you can. The aim is to craft a manifesto that speaks to what the majority of teachers, academics, parents and students would like our education system to look like.
by Kelvin Smythe with Allan Alach
The manifesto is intended to gather signatures then, with media release attached, distributed to media, teacher organisations, and a range of interest groups.
At the moment, it could be widely understood that teachers have no specific budgetary or system demands beyond opposition to substantial parts of government policy.
For the sake of our children, our own ideas need to be heard.
The networkonnet manifesto is intended to jog the teacher organisations to set out such specific budgetary and system demands and to publicise them intensively and imaginatively.
Readers will note that the networkonnet manifesto is based on a philosophy expressed as governing ideas. The government is working to a philosophy, brought in from outside and economics: we need to work to ours developed from our education heritage and social democracy. The hammering of public primary schools – the scapegoating, the disenfranchising, and the financial and spiritual impoverishment, is not government whim but engrained ideological policy as part of global capitalism and a shift of civilisation. That policy needs to be confronted with our own set of cohesive ideas.
We urge readers to sign up and encourage others in your school and beyond to do so as well.
The manifesto is open to change and addition, but if you support the general direction, then we suggest you take the positive step of signing up in support.
Readers might be interested to know that one significant political party has called the manifesto a ‘great read’ and remarkably close to theirs.
Kelvin Smythe and Allan Alach
The key idea in the policy recommendations that follow is that the education system should be based on valuing variety – and fundamental to this, the idea of collaboration and shared knowledge development. It is not just accepting variety or tolerating it, it is valuing it – valuing it as part of living in a democracy and as the best means to help children’s learning.
Valuing variety would mean changes to regulations, allowing a wide interpretation of the curriculum – within broad guidelines – in school charters and evaluation practices. Eventually the curriculum would need to be revised to concentrate on principles and aims, leaving schools to decide how to interpret those – at the moment National Administrative Guidelines (NAGS) and the demands of the education review office (using national standards) exert a stultifying control of classrooms.
The Lange government, through Tomorrow’s Schools, introduced into education a philosophy antithetical to Labour Party philosophy. (Most Labour mps of the time find this hard to accept holding on to the idea that Tomorrow’s Schools was, in fact, about giving more power to schools.) While this neoliberal philosophy was diluted in the Clark years, it still remained and remains dominant.
In education that philosophy is expressed as managerialism.
As it pans out, the basic tenet of managerialism is that any issue in education, including the education effects of poverty – indeed, especially the education effects of poverty – can largely be resolved by management changes to do with the organisation and direction teachers. This always involves overstating the role of the teacher in learning so that when schools fail to overcome sufficiently the education effects of poverty, schools are blamed, providing an excuse for shaping schools into the political right’s own ideological image.
An implication in this top-down philosophy is that there is someone knows and that person who knows is a political leader informed by a certain category of academic.
The present education system is substantially a command one – a command one based on excluding teachers and parents from genuine participation in policy making, also on fear, control, propaganda, and corrupted statistics.
The education system needs to be democratised.
One very important effect of bringing in parents and teachers into policy making would be to broaden the curriculum to counteract the trend of an ever narrowing one.
A managerialist-based education system requires a curriculum that is amenable to command and control, also one that can be understood by politicians and bureaucrats – that curriculum is a fragmented one organised for measurement.
New Zealand primary education has a culture of being holistic, in other words, not fragmented for ease of measurement and control. (Many of the most important things in learning are immeasurable; in a measurement-based education system those things are neglected.)
A measurement-based classroom is possible in a holistic-based education system but a holistic-based classroom isn’t possible in a measurement-based system (an important point in considering an education system based on valuing variety).
The present primary school education system is governed by fear and bureaucratic command, and protected by propaganda and corrupted statistics.
The contract system is important to the government control of universities: a key way to restrict academic freedom of speech.
Within schools, the major source of fear and control comes from the education review office – it is unaccountable and used in a variety of ways to generate fear and ultimately obedience; it is really the review office that determines the nature of the curriculum.
The heavy use of statutory managers is another source of fear, control, and indirect propaganda.
People outside the education system have little appreciation of the extent and depth of the fear, control, and use of propaganda that exists within it.
Perhaps the key idea to be developed should be that just as a healthy economic system needs a free exchange of ideas so does a healthy education system.
And central to that is the idea of a shared view of the way knowledge is developed.
All parts of the education system need to be freed up so that all parts can share in the generation of knowledge: teachers, curriculum advisers, academics, parents, and government education agencies.
Teachers should be freed to colonise the curriculum (that is, make curricula work) and to establish their knowledge in the form of successful established practice.
Teachers and schools should function within fairly wide curriculum guidelines.
Academics sought for advice should come from groupings much wider than the current headlining quantitative academics; in particular, that means advice should also be sought from qualitative academics and curriculum academics with significant classroom experience.
More specific policies as an outcome of governing ideas
A call should be made for a grouping of countries to join together to develop an international testing system that functions transparently and concentrates on a broader view of the curriculum. (However, the government should stay in the present international system until that is achieved.)
The 359 million dollars intended for the government cluster policy should be spent directly on helping children in classrooms, not on giving large pay increases to a few teachers and principals.
In a whole series of ways, policies and increased funding to meet children’s special needs should be a priority.
First, there should be a substantial lift in support teacher numbers as well as moves to make support teacher staff better paid and to provide them with a greater sense of permanency.
Following that, there should be improved staffing ratios (gradually introduced) to give flexibility to schools enabling them to provide more individual attention to children’s learning needs, including some appointments for specialist learning (for instance, science, or maths, or Maori language, or drama) as set out as an emphasis in schools’ charters.
Also for improving home school relations (a priority).
An important idea to understand is that the government in implementing national standards ostensibly to lift learning in lower decile schools has used the opportunity to achieve its long-held objective of a narrow 3Rs curriculum for all children.
Improvements in staffing and support teachers and in other areas should be described as being there to help the learning of all children, not just the ones who are struggling (children of all abilities are being badly served by the present system).
A non-contestable fund to promote Maori language should be established to which schools can apply to fund part-time teachers, support teachers, and Maori language labs.
There should be improvement to special needs services including making RTLBs (Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour) more accessible and less bureaucratic. Their role should be extended to work more closely with families – an improved version of the former visiting teacher positions.
The SAF (Student Achievement Function) should be removed with money saved being allocated to other and wider forms of advisory support.
Reading Recovery should be increasingly well funded.
The best home-school reading programme for lower decile schools, one already in operation in miniscule way, is Jeanne Biddulph’s Reading Together programme which binds home and school together in a harmonious and joyful way.
A Committee of Inquiry into making education more collaborative for successful learning should be established – though this should not mean changes to education won’t begin immediately (Committee of Inquiry for Collaboration for Better Learning).
School charters at the moment are a major source of control and bureaucratisation – school charters should be freed to allow schools to develop programmes, within broad guidelines, that suit them. (As discussed above.)
The education review office needs to be staffed by teachers and principals of the highest quality; deliver its work in schools in a different way; and be made accountable (it should also be made fully compliant with the Official Information Act).
There should be a Review Office Appeal authority appointed to hear appeals from schools (a priority).
A cross-sector review office advisory board should be established.
The review office should concentrate on work in schools, not producing reports – those reports should be done by universities on the basis of proper research design.
The School Trustees Association should be restricted in its work to providing direct services to members (a priority).
The statutory management system should be restructured: a more comprehensive conciliation system before statutory management should be established and perverse incentives removed. In particular, the cost of statutory management should fall on the ministry not the school.
Schools and colleges of education should develop a better balance between general education courses and ones directly related to classrooms (though both should be considered equally important) – this might mean rehiring some academics who possess both academic and classroom knowledge.
As one part of the advisory function, a permanent advisory service should be re-established attached to universities to function within broad guidelines (a reasonably free advisory service is an important source of practicable knowledge).
The Teachers Council or its equivalent should be reorganised to reflect the policy of collaboration. As well, it should concentrate on the safety of children. (All teacher organisations are doing well on this one, so I am not elaborating.)
Teacher organisations should be represented as of right on policy, curriculum, and administrative groupings.
Charter schools should be funded and administered on the same basis as other privately-run schools and the money saved allocated to meeting the education needs of low decile schools.
National standards should be removed and with the money saved used to re-establish NEMP (National Education Monitoring Project) formerly based at the University of Otago – more money than before should be allocated and the previous directors asked to advise on its establishment, functioning, and staffing (NEMP was a collaborative institution much admired and appreciated by schools).
NMSSA (National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement) based at the University of Otago should be removed, with the money saved used in the re-establishment of NEMP (see above).
Clusters established on a voluntary basis should receive some government funding.
How to bring parents into education on a national basis is a difficult one: my suggestion is, on a regular basis, NZCER to undertake a survey and some research as the focus for parent discussion (within schools) – the outcomes of this discussion to be reported to a body to consider and sometimes develop matters further.
A broad curriculum should be encouraged in anticipation of the outcomes of the results of the Committee of Inquiry (see above).
An important part of that broad curriculum is an understanding that attention to the 3Rs is mutually supportive with attention to flexible thinking – a mutual supportiveness that should be acted on from children’s first days at school.
The greater freedom for schools to shape their curriculum within broad guidelines will have major implications for the work Colleges of Education, advisory services, and education review office.
The use and resourcing of computers should be approached carefully: there needs to be a broad-based permanent grouping set up to provide schools with guidance on computer use in schools (at the moment it is growing helter-skelter with the curriculum quality being given insufficient attention); also government money would seem to be better allocated for professional development and computer maintenance rather than for directly purchasing computers and other digital devices. (Free technical support is crucial, along with extensive ICT support through advisers.)
The curriculum area of mathematics should be given special attention: a curriculum committee to report in three months, meanwhile, conferences should be organised around the country and extra finance made available to schools working on innovative ideas. (Bobbie Hunter from Massey and University and Jodie Hunter her daughter are doing some excellent work in junior maths with implications for older children.)
The Novapay system, from computer programming to data gathering and Novapay reception, has inherent faults within it – a new system should be introduced (either that or funding for office staff both schools and Novapay reception, be substantially increased).
The Beeby statement I like is the one he made in 1942 following a meeting with the South Canterbury NZEI management committee: ‘There seems to be a common desire on the part of teachers to ask the Department for detailed instructions regarding such things as the changes that are taking place in infant education, rather than to embrace the freedom the Department has given and to participate co-operatively in the working out of up-to-date practice in the infant room.’
Some excerpts from comments made by readers on the initial posting of what is now the networkonnet manifesto
Bruce Hammonds said:
The 2007 New Zealand Curriculum introduced by the last Labour government needs to be emphasised – it is highly regarded by teachers. National is about standardisation and competition while Labour needs to focus on personalisation and collaboration.
… to follow in the footsteps of England and start forcibly taking over public schools and handing them over to charter schools.
And why would they do that?
Well, because of this:
* Tory = National
Still think they’re a good idea?
A recent poll has found that two-thirds of New Zealanders are concerned at the amount of taxpayer money that is being diverted into charter schools.
Yet despite this, NZEI Te Riu Roa Immediate Past President Ian Leckie says the government is clearly committed to this expensive ideologically-driven experiment.
Yesterday the Ministry of Education released the names of 19 new applicants hoping to set up charter schools next year. The list includes a number who failed in their bid for funding last year.
Ian Leckie says time and again the government has been told that New Zealanders want to retain a quality public education system and do not want education funds diverted into propping up costly charter schools.
“Money to charter schools means less money in public schools. That’s not fair and it must have an effect on kids’ learning.”
He says a recent NZEI survey found that 63 percent ranked the diversion of taxpayer money to charter schools as either a “top concern in education” or were “somewhat concerned”.
The government has set aside more than $12m over two years to support charter schools – money that is not being used to support quality public education. Currently there are five charter schools operating with a total of just 367 children.
“This is an incredibly high per-head cost compared to the amount of funding the government pays for students in the public sector.
So far the five charter schools operating receive an operational payment per student of between $11,500 and $40,300 compared to an average of around $5,800 at lower decile public schools.
“Clearly the government is not letting up in its path towards privatising our education sector despite the overwhelming view of the education sector and the wishes of the New Zealand public.”
The effect of rising neoliberalism and globalisation on education will be discussed at a public lecture at the University of Auckland next week.
Professor Christine Sleeter’s lecture; “Confronting neoliberalism; Classroom practice and social justice teaching,” will show how and why neoliberalism has gained ascendancy, how it is impacting on society and schooling, and what teachers can do to prepare an active citizenry who can advocate for their own rights as a diverse public.
Professor Sleeter, of California State University Monterey Bay, will use examples from the United States to critique briefly the kinds of market-based school reforms neoliberalism supports, and argue how a democratic and socially aware society can counter such changes. Because the market-based and privatised-based reforms have gone global, New Zealand is affected as well.
Professor Sleeter will argue that neoliberalism increasingly drives education reform internationally. While public schools face increasingly constrained funding, especially in the wake of the economic recession, market-based reforms that emphasise competition, standardisation, and accountability have expanded, driven by the corporate sector and private venture philanthropy. Who stands to benefit most from such reforms?
She uses three examples of classroom practice from the US – two illustrating what classroom teachers she has worked with do in their classrooms, and one being of a new curriculum resource in Chicago that directly takes on these issues.
Professor Sleeter is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading scholars of multicultural and anti-racist education.
She is Professor Emerita in the College of Professional Studies at California State University at Monterey Bay and remains actively involved in the ongoing development of teacher education programmes there.
Her speech will be held on Thursday 29 May at 5pm in J1 Lecture Theatre, Epsom Campus, Gate 3, 74 Epsom Ave.
STANDARDIZED Lies, Money, & Civil Rights: How Testing Is Ruining Public Education.
This documentary focuses on the proliferation, business,and inadequacies of state-mandated testing in our public schools.
It focuses on America but is every bit as pertinent to what is happening in New Zealand; we may not be as far down the track as the USA , but we are on the same path.
Whenever a new education policy is announced, I would ask you to come back to this: follow the money.
Who stands to benefit? Because with testing now a multi TRILLION $$$ industry worldwide, you can bet your bottom dollar it isn’t students or parents that are the main concern.
The doco will be out later in the year, but here is a sneak peek.
Further to my previous post on this issue, which can be found here, is this article that totally puts into context how shamelessly Milton Friedman’s free-market principles have been (and are still being) applied to education:
“…U.S. Secretary of education, Arne Duncan declared, “Let me be really honest. I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. That education system was a disaster, and it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that ‘We have to do better.’” Yet if there is one particularly frightening example for the future of public education it lies in the aftermath of Katrina. The case of using the disaster as a way to push through the largest and quickest privatization scheme of any public school system ever attempted, was made widely known in Naomi Klein’s best-selling book The Shock Doctrine.
Three months after the hurricane hit, free-market fanatic Milton Friedman wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Most New Orleans schools are in ruins, as are the homes of the children who have attended them. The children are now scattered all over the country. This is a tragedy. It is also an opportunity to radically reform the educational system.” As Klein points out:
Friedman’s radical idea was that instead of spending a portion of the billions of dollars in reconstruction money on rebuilding and improving New Orleans’ existing public school system, the government should provide families with vouchers, which they could spend at private institutions, many run at a profit, that would be subsidized by the state. It was crucial, Friedman wrote, that this fundamental change not be a stopgap but rather “a permanent reform.”
A network of right wing think tanks seized on Friedman’s proposal and descended on the city after the storm. The administration of George W. Bush backed up their plans with tens of millions of dollars to convert New Orleans schools into “charter schools,” publicly funded institutions run by private entities according to their own rules….”
The current New Zealand government is treading more softly (or perhaps more sneakily?) but the expected rhetoric about an “ailing education system” and “bad teachers” is a constant refrain, with the mainstream media joining in loud and long to reinforce the idea that there is a crisis. Charters, of course, have already been enshrined into The Education Act and the first charters have opened, with more to come this year.
How long before Christchurch schools are charterised? How long before public and charter schools are pitted head to head? How long before your local school is closed against community wishes and forcible turned into a charter? You think it wouldn’t happen? It does, just ask communities in England and the USA. Aotearoa is not that far behind.
We are presently seeing just the tip of the iceberg.
Read that meme again: Only a crisis actual or perceived produces real change. That is the heart of global education reforms – Creating a perception.
Below is a hard-hitting and disturbing documentary, outlining how disasters are constructed or manipulated to justify far-reaching reforms and economic take-overs. I will warn you, it is not for the faint hearted but is well worth watching. But first, an outline of how the Shock Doctrine applies to schools.
So, here is the documentary, The Shock Doctrine. Again, I warn you, it is very hard hitting.
If you watch, pay close attention to the beliefs of Milton Friedman and the then Education Minister, Margaret Thatcher, as a lot can be understood about what is happening right now in education by analysing their views and actions.
The Shock Doctrine book and documentary: an investigation of disaster capitalism, based on Naomi Klein’s proposition that neo-liberal capitalism feeds on natural disasters, war and terror to establish its dominance.
Based on breakthrough historical research and four years of on-the-ground reporting in disaster zones, The Shock Doctrine vividly shows how disaster capitalism — the rapid-fire corporate re-engineering of societies still reeling from shock — did not begin with September 11, 2001.
The films traces its origins back fifty years, to the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman, which produced many of the leading neo-conservative and neo-liberal thinkers whose influence is still profound in Washington today.
New, surprising connections are drawn between economic policy, shock and awe warfare and covert CIA-funded experiments in electroshock and sensory deprivation in the 1950s, research that helped write the torture manuals used today in Guantanamo Bay.
The Shock Doctrine follows the application of these ideas through our contemporary history, showing in riveting detail how well-known events of the recent past have been deliberate, active theatres for the shock doctrine, among them: Pinochet’s coup in Chile in 1973, the Falklands War in 1982, the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Asian Financial crisis in 1997 and Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
The dementor is in full swing, fairly skipping up the path of global education reform (GERM) throwing rose petals and blank cheques in her path, just behind her good pals George Bush, Michael Gove, Arne Duncan, Tony Blair and the other GERMers determined to leave our kids’ education to the whims of the market place.
Ooh I bet they are having one heck of a party!
Good job, too. I’m so very glad they are selling it all off. Schools schmools.
I mean, the free market has worked so very well in all other aspects of our lives, hasn’t it, with reasonable power prices, good telecoms services, stable housing market, no Wall Street crashes that rock the entire world markets.
Oh wait. I’m making a Hekia style faux pas here, aren’t I? A blunder, if you will.
Because privatisation does not necessarily improve services. In fact it can make them worse. And more costly. Much more costly.
Which is all a bit of a concern for me, because I like to know my tax dollars are being stent wisely, not just ferreted off into a poorly performing private sector company that doesn’t match what the public sector was doing in the first place.
I’m picky like that,
It’s not just me, though – even the Treasury has pointed out that private companies don’t do better than public ones – even if they are perceived to because they cherry pick their ‘clients’:
In fact public schools beat private ones hands down, despite having to cater for all students of all abilities, backgrounds, behaviours, and so on. Wow. Maybe we shouldn’t privatise all the things after all.
Maybe I should also go read what Allan has to say on the matter, since he has been at the sticky end of education for more years than I. He’s not teaching any more, so he has no vested interest whatsoever in how it all pans out. Let’s see what he says…
“As I’ve been saying for several years, National’s education policies have nothing to do with education, regardless of their spin about ‘raising achievement’ for all. This will come as no surprise to ‘thinking’ people but man, there are many out there who are still unable to open their eyes to the reality.
This includes far too many principals who damn well should know better.
Warning people – National and its cronies are set on a path to destroy New Zealand’s public education at all levels. The privatisation process is on full speed ahead. We have six months to stop it.”
Jeepers, he is rather concerned, and he has found a number of others thinking the same way…
I think I had best go and read the full thing. Bear with…
Okay, I’m back. So … maybe…. mayyyyybe…. just a thought, but maybe there are lots of folk out there that want to support and improve our public schools rather than cripple them and sell them off?
Like, off the top of my head, all those parents whose children will be at the mercy of this shackled and broken system, taught by a demoralised profession forced to focus only on test scores in maths and English.
And maybe the old who, when those kids are grown up, have to live in a world now run by them, at the mercy of the economy they create with their great test-taking skills (and high depression rate). Maybe they’d prefer well-rounded and well-educated people in charge instead?
Because, y’know, there could also be artists and dentists and musicians and physicists and counsellors and gardeners and dancers and doctors and hairdressers and chefs and inventors and, well to be honest, every single person in every single job and in every part of their lives needs more than to just be good at reading, writing and maths. Those things are great – essential – but they are not everything.
So, I think maybe I will stick with supporting public schools to remain just that – public.
For the good of everyone.
And the Telegraph reports that a number of Academy chains “have already been told that they cannot take on any more academies until concerns over standards have been addressed” (3) so it isn’t just this chain (E-ACT) that are under the microscope.
When the UK Labour party trumpeted Academies and Free Schools (charter schools) ten years ago, they promised a rise in standards, a brave new world of innovation and brilliance, and it has plainly failed to materialise.
Like New Zealand charter schools, Academies are funded by government and “have complete freedom to alter the curriculum, staff pay and to reshape the school day and academic year.” Around 3,500 English state schools are now Academies, and just like other English state schools, some are good, some okay and some just plain terrible. That said, even the worst of the school districts never had as many schools closed as “failing schools” as Academies have managed to clock up, and that in itself is rather telling.
“Of course some academies have done well, although increasingly the evidence suggests that this is more the result of changing intakes rather than a ‘magic dust’ sprinkled by sponsors.” (2)
What does this mean for New Zealand? We have been given the same promises, the same utopian vision, that other countries were given in order to usher in the privatisation of public schools. Well, it’s likely we will fare the same as England, the USA and Sweden, with a broad spread of quality and really no overall improvement in education quality at all. In fact, if PISA is your thing, the catapult down the rankings since privatisation for those countries has been quite monumental.
Which does beg the question why we are going down this path at all, if it doesn’t improve anything.
Well maybe privatisation does improve something? Improvement in education, it might be argued, never was the goal; maybe privatisation is itself the goal?
More public schools owned and run by private entities = More public funds going to the pockets of businesses and the 1%. Goal achieved.
If you think that’s pie in the sky, check this out:
EACT’s catastrophe is a personal humiliation for Sir Bruce Liddington, former Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education and head of the Academies Division.
He was one of the chief architects of the Academies Programme before sliding seamlessly into the private sector to pocket £300,000 (NZ$600k) pa. salary plus benefits as CEO of EACT Academy chain.
Add to that the number of investigations into financial irregularities and money mismanagement and a picture is revealed of fat cats misappropriating funds meant for educating students:
Kings Science Academy, West Yorkshire was last year investigated and ““serious failings” were found in the school’s financial management with allegations that £80,000 worth of public money had not been used for its intended purpose”. (1)
Priory Federation of Academies Trust – the Department for Education found evidence of “serious failings” in the running of the trust, which operates four schools. These included its chief executive paying for horse-riding lessons for his son out of trust funds, receiving “personal items of an inappropriate nature” (sex games and supplements) paid for on a Federation credit card, and the use of trust credit cards “to purchase items at supermarkets and meals at restaurants” in France. (1)
E-ACT was censured by the Education Funding Agency in May 2013 for lavish spending. It was reported to have £393,000 of “financial irregularities” … It paid for monthly lunches at the prestigious Reform Club, first-class travel for senior executives in defiance of a ruling they should go standard class, and spent £16,000 on an annual strategy meeting in a hotel – of which £1,000 was spent on drinks and room hire. (1)
And there we have it. For the architects of the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM), money-grubbing mission achieved.