Billion dollar education bull

It must be ‘scare the parent’ time of year.

Not only do they have to pay for new or replacement uniforms for their children, hang out for the end of the holidays and fork out for books and everything else their children are required to have, they are also bombarded by billion dollar bull.

Stuff: ‘Free’ education cost set to mount to more than $1 billion

The price of a free school education will soar to record heights this year.

Official figures show “voluntary donations” from parents and others will this year have collectively provided more than $1 billion to bankroll schools since 2000.

The article doesn’t actually say what the figure was for last year nor what it is expected to be this year, instead quoting a debatable (* According to the Education Ministry, income and expenditure items may not have been categorised consistently between schools or within the same school over time) total covering fifteen years, which is pretty much meaningless.

Commentators have described that as a watershed figure with some arguing New Zealand’s “free education” system is broken.

Commentators?

Patrick Walsh of the Principals Association of New Zealand and principal of John Paul College said the notion of a free education should be abandoned.

“I think the basic principle is you undertake a study … of what it costs to actually run a school, all the operational costs including staffing, and you either fund it to the level it actually costs, or you say the pie isn’t big enough to support that and we will now allow schools to charge parents for some of the services.”

This would legitimise what is currently happening, as the donations were essential to give students a high quality of education, he said.

Principals want more more, so they are lobbyists rather than commentators.

Labour leader Andrew Little wants voluntary donations scrapped altogether, with the government prioritising education to meet any shortfall.

The gradual shift to schools depending on parents paying donations was “not right”, he said.

Labour is a party with close associations with educator groups.

But David Seymour, ACT Party leader and education under-secretary, said while some were frustrated at the current funding system, looking at the alternatives showed it was actually a good system.

An alternative political view.

Labour’s idea to scrap parent funding made no sense, he said.

“They haven’t thought through the practicalities for one moment. What they’re talking about is effectively a ban on parents giving extra money to their school to do extra activities.”

A Ministerial/political view.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said school fundraising and donations were voluntary and there were no plans to change that.

No sign of ‘commentators’. It looks like an early year political play.

Then, possibly in response to criticism of the Stuff article, came the Herald with Parents paid $161m for children’s ‘free education’.

Parents paid $161.6 million towards their children’s “free education” in 2014. Of that, $61.4m was spent in Auckland.

New numbers obtained by the Herald on Sunday reveal mums and dads are giving more and more money to schools every year.

Voluntary donations are expected to top the $1 billion mark when school goes back in a few weeks’ time.

There’s that $1 billion number again. Where has that come from?

Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins today branded “free” education a joke.

“Parents and other donors are propping up our schools to the tune of $1 billion with the country’s wealthiest schools receiving the bulk of the money.”

Mr Hipkins said when schools couldn’t deliver the basics without donations it was time to sit up and take note.

No explanation here that the $1 billion is a 15 year accumulative total. Has Hipkins promoted the $1 billion bull to media?

PPTA president Angela Roberts, says she is “gobsmacked” by the sheer amounts some schools are receiving and the situation shows Kiwi kids are not on a level playing field when it comes to the right to a free education. It must be addressed in an upcoming ministry funding review, Roberts said.

“Some of those schools’ numbers are hard to comprehend. There is such inequality depending on where in the country a student is or how much money their parents make,” Roberts said.

“Is it a level playing field? Of course not. You only have to look at the resources some high decile schools have access to and a lot of it’s for bells and whistles – maybe a trip to Argentina for the polo team.

“Meanwhile, some students are going to school without breakfast and are from very vulnerable families. They’re the ones who need more funding but the way the system works, it’s only exacerbating problems like this.”

So does the PPTA want to ‘level the playing field’ by banning donations?

Of course they want more money given to all schools. Lower decile schools already get extra funding.

“The review is considering all aspects of school resourcing,” said Andrea Schollmann, head of education system policy at the Ministry of Education.

Schollmann also said lower-decile schools benefit from substantial extra government funding to help overcome “barriers faced by students from lower socio-economic communities, with the ministry providing lower-decile schools extra funding of $115m per year”.

But never enough for the PPTA or for Labour (when they are in Opposition).

But Roberts said that’s not enough.

“It’s not going to fix the imbalance when some families are living out of a car,” she said. “There is no way their children can still get access to richer opportunities, the bells and whistles that some schools enjoy.”

What do they want to do? Heavily tax donations to ‘rich’ schools and redistribute that to poorer schools?

Or ban donations so parents can’t improve their children’s education, and get the Government to give more funds to poor schools? It’s not clear. This sounds like a general political play.

There is one multi-billion dollar total given:

The Government was set to invest $10.8 billion in early childhood, primary and secondary education, more than the combined budget for police, defence, roads and foreign affairs.

That’s a lot – per year – but never enough.

At the same time the education funding system was under a far-reaching review that was examining all types of funding, including grants, staffing and property.

Is that what Hipkins and the PPTA and the Principals Association of New Zealand are lobbying for?

All most parents will be concerned about at this time of year is getting uniforms sorted for their kids and getting them back to school as the holidays wear them down.

The billion dollars is just meaningless bull.

Police fail to act against abuse of drunk girls

The failure of the police to charge offenders who deliberately got young girls drunk, took compromising photos and posted them online is very disappointing.

NZ Herald reports: Warnings for Roast Busters II

“The boys had a competition where they would get young girls drunk and they would dangle their genitalia over their faces and take photos,” he said.

“The competition was how many girls you could get into those compromising photos.”

“The police were involved. The boys involved received a warning and weren’t prosecuted.”

It may be that the schoolboys involved have been thought to have been dealt with adequately outside of the courts, but this sends a terrible message.

And if one of my daughters or grand daughters was abused like this and it appeared that the offenders were let off lightly I’d be very annoyed.

If the police ever do decide to send a message and prosecute appalling behaviour like this the offenders may be unlucky to have been chosen to be example setters.

But it’s far worse for past and future victims if this sort of behaviour is swept under society’s carpet.

New Zealand Secondary Principals’ Association executive member Patrick Walsh, chairman of a high-powered Government group to counter cyber-bullying among school students, is dismayed no one was prosecuted.

Walsh, who declined to reveal the school involved, was told of the incident by the principal of the teens’ school.

I think the school was revealed in initial media reports when this story broke.

“What they are doing is criminal and totally unacceptable. In my view they do need to be charged, convicted and a message [sent] to teenagers across the country that this is totally unacceptable.”

I agree.

Police would not comment on the case but said: “We take all allegations of sexual misconduct and assault very seriously and investigate them appropriately.”

That’s not how it looks here.

Walsh said the the cases backed disturbing findings from an earlier survey that showed the Roast Busters case was not an isolated incident.

He said the time had come to stop a destructive teen culture, adding there was a hardcore group of schoolboys who thought they were entitled to harass, bully and intimidate others using technology.

“I don’t think they should go to prison. [Instead] fines, community work and compulsory attendance at programmes to address their attitude should be part of the penalty.”

Parents and schools have a responsibility to make it clear to children and pupils that abusive behaviour like this is totally unacceptable.

Auckland University law lecturer Dr Bill Hodge said there was scope under the new Harmful Digital Communications Act to put the statute to the test in incidents like those.

“This seems worse than bullying but it would seem to fit into that and would be something worth exploring,” said Hodge.

But it needs the police to actually act appropriately and deal to behaviour like this.

Culture of violence in schools

New Zealand’s culture of violence is spread through much of our society. That it is apparently protected by schools trying to protect their reputations at the cost of teacher and pupil safety is, if true, disgraceful.

The secret story of violence in schools

A teacher is punched in the face, another is shoved in the chest and their lunch stolen, one is regularly verbally abused while another has their car vandalised.  But at the schools’ request, none of it is reported to police.

Post-Primary Teachers Association president Robin Duff called the situation “intolerable”.

He said, in the PPTA News, the teachers’ union could not continue to be “complicit in this conspiracy of silence” that concealed the level of violence within schools.

He said competitiveness in schools gave them an incentive to hide issues of violence towards teachers and staff, and some schools didn’t want police involved because it could lead to negative publicity.

The national executive was “particularly concerned” to learn that some schools were actually forbidding teachers from reporting instances to police.

This is similar to families who keep violence secret to avoid exposing their reputation or mana to scrutiny. But…

The Secondary Principals’ Association was reluctant to support the  PPTA’s move.

President Patrick Walsh said he had not seen any evidence of a conspiracy of silence, nor was he aware of principals banning teachers from reporting assaults to police.

An open inquiry would find out if he’s right or not.

Walsh said some schools could be worried by bad publicity associated with assaults, but principals would be foolish to cover up violence against teachers because it could result in a personal grievance case against the school.

But there are serious claims that it’s happening.

Until we deal with our violence problems openly and honestly the culture will continue to ruin people’s lives – can it will continue to cost some lives.

Dirty school secrets, like dirty family secrets, need to be exposed and addressed. This takes courage, but it’s something we as a country need to do.