ACT: Labour or PPTA “wholly owned subsidiary”

In their latest Free Press newsletter the ACT Party refers to links between the Labour Party and the Post Primary Teachers’ Association:

Not Labour
Labour have asked more parliamentary questions about Partnership Schools than any other education topic this year.  Despite the fact that Partnership Schools are getting exceptional results for disadvantaged children.  Savage and Fraser were giants who built Labour to give the disadvantaged a fair go.

Today’s Labour are more interested in their PPTA supporters.

Wholly Owned Subsidiary
Last Wednesday Labour’s education spokesperson asked a question on Partnership Schools.  After the primary question, which is published before question time, questioners try to surprise the Minister with supplementary questions.

Labour’s whole line of questioning was revealed in a PPTA press release that came out minutes after he asked his questions.

Here’s the questions in Parliament, Labour’s Education spokesperson to Minister of Education Hekia Parata:

9. Partnership Schools—Contract Funding

[Sitting date: 01 July 2015. Volume:706;Page:15. Text is subject to correction.]

9. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education : Does she stand by her statement “I am satisfied that all the contract funding to partnership schools will be spent on meeting the contracted outcome for each school, which is to deliver educational achievement”?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Yes, I do stand by my full statement, which I gave in this House in February last year: “I am satisfied that all the contract funding to partnership schools will be spent on meeting the contracted outcome for each school, which is to deliver educational achievement. In exchange … partnership schools get greater flexibility to raise student achievement, are subject to a higher degree of scrutiny … and have greater accountabilities than schools in the mainstream system.”

Chris Hipkins : How can she claim that the funds being given to partnership schools are being used for education, when He Puna Marama Trust received $3.9 million in Government funding to the end of last year, yet its audited accounts show it spent only $1.4 million on education, leaving $2.5 million unaccounted for?

Hon HEKIA PARATA : I think that the member is quoting selectively from the accounts. The first distinction to make is that He Puna Marama Trust is a trust that is the sponsor of Te Rerenga Parāoa Whangariki Te Rerenga Parāoa, and that is only one of the entities that it is responsible for. It also is responsible for 5 to 6 early childhood centres. It also runs an academy, and it is responsible for delivering outcomes, and I am happy to read to the member the 100 percent of National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 1 achievement that that school delivered. I will need to find the specific—something like 93 percent for National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2, which is what it is contracted to deliver. [Interruption] To educational achievement—at nearly 100 percent on all three.

Chris Hipkins : Does she think it is a good use of taxpayers’ money to provide He Puna Marama Trust with a grant of $1.8 million to set up a school, given it leased a premises that the accounts show is costing it only $68,000 a year?

Hon HEKIA PARATA : I am very happy to answer that question, because the member has failed to grasp, for some considerable amount of time, that partnership schools are set up on a different funding basis. It is cashed up, based on the inputs—[Interruption] Good, are we all following along here? Yes. So it is based on the inputs that we fund—schools—and is benchmarked against decile 3. But I can see that the Opposition actually does not want the intrusion of facts on its shouting. That is what happens with partnership schools. We take the formula provided for mainstream schools. We benchmark against decile 3. We cash it up. We provide it with a contract. That contract is specific and public, and then we report the outcomes, and perhaps the Opposition would like to shout with glee for the number of kids who have gotten great educational qualifications that otherwise they might not have gotten.

Chris Hipkins : If the partnership schools are indeed “cashed up”, as the Minister explains, where has the extra $2.5 million that He Puna Marama Trust was given to run a partnership school gone?

Hon HEKIA PARATA : A number of the partnership schools have been leasing properties while they prepare to build. That is the case in the particular school whose accounts the member is selectively quoting.

Chris Hipkins : How is it fair that charter schools are being allowed to make multimillion-dollar surpluses, or have multimillion-dollar amounts unaccounted for, while just down the road students and teachers are having to put up with classrooms that are increasingly covered in black mould, and other schools throughout New Zealand where parents are being asked to subsidise their kids’ education that the law says is supposed to be free?

Hon HEKIA PARATA : It is quite inaccurate for the member to suggest that there are funds that are unaccounted for. They are accounted for, but the member just does not like the way they are using their funds. They have a long-term contract. They have cashed up inputs based on the same benchmarking. They have all made different choices that this House has heard about before. Vanguard, for instance, has put over 50 percent of its funding into the employment of staff. Other schools have made choices about lease versus purchase properties. In the end, our interest is to ensure the well-being of the students and the education quality the schools are delivering. That is what the annual reporting represents.

Chris Hipkins : How many months has it been since she gave the Whangaruru charter school 1 month’s notice, and given the Prime Minister’s statement that if charter schools failed, the Government would be quick to close them down, why is that school still operating?

Hon HEKIA PARATA : Because of both the operation of natural justice and its contract. I gave it a month’s notice, during which time I commissioned a review by Deloitte and the Education Review Office—

Chris Hipkins : In January.

Hon HEKIA PARATA : No, I gave them that in March.

Grant Robertson : More than a month ago.

Hon HEKIA PARATA : Yes, if you will just follow along with me, I will explain the process. So then I commissioned a report by Deloitte and by the Education Review Office, which I have received. Now I am in a process with that school, working through it.

And here is the PPTA press release:

Massive surplus for cash cow charter

1 July 2015

A Whangarei charter school has banked an operating surplus of more than $2.4million, thanks to funding well above the amount regular schools receive.

Audited financial accounts released to the charities commission show the He Puna Marama trust, which opened a charter school last year received $3,897,323 in government funding to the end of 2014.

Just $1,464,093 of this has been spent on setting up and running the school, which last year was funded for 50 students and six teachers.

PPTA president Angela Roberts was disturbed to see such a surplus when there didn’t seem to be a spare penny to spend on other schools in the area as their buildings rotted around them.

“It must be wearying for the rest of the Whangarei community to see all this surplus when other local schools are falling down,” she said.

While the trust was given $1.8 million as an establishment payment towards the end of 2013 to begin operations, only $123,000 of this was spent. In 2014 the trust received $2 million for property, staffing and operations, and just $1,355,782 was spent.

The salaries for six teaching staff came to $622,740, contributing to a drain of teachers from surrounding schools.

“I am aware state schools are losing valuable staff – they can’t possibly compete with that type of money,” Roberts said.

This is the same charter school that came under fire earlier this year for the purchase of a $100,000 waka. At the time the school leadership hit back at critics saying that other schools simply ‘need better accountants’ if they cannot afford to buy such things.

The audited annual accounts of He Puna Marama are available from the Charities Commission register

There does seem to be some similarities.

Of course Labour and the PPTA can share information and campaigns as much as they like, but it does give an indication why Parata, National and ACT have difficulty dealing with the PPTA on things like Partnership/Charter Schools.

Teacher unions politically threaten charter organisations

Remarkable action from teacher groups actively opposing charter schools by making political threats.

Teacher unions trying to head-off charter schools

Teacher unions have written to aspiring charter school operators in a last-ditch attempt to warn them off setting up the schools.

Radio New Zealand’s education correspondent said the letters are the first time the Post Primary Teachers Association and the Educational Institute have directly lobbied groups wanting to set up the schools, which the government is calling partnership schools.

The letters say the schools could be cancelled as early as November next year with no compensation because opposition parties have vowed to abolish them.

They are being sent to 35 organisations that expressed interest in the schools, four of which are known to have made it to negotiations with the Government.

PPTA president Angela Roberts said charter schools will damage nearby state schools.

Directly promoting party politics with threats – regardless of the pros and cons of charter schools I think this is disgraceful behaviour from the teacher unions.

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.