Isaac responds to PPTA on OIA and Charter Schools

March 15th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

 the chairwoman of the Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua working group, responds to the PPTA guest post calling for charter schools to be included in the Official Information Act.

 It was only last year that NZEI argued schools should ignore the Official Information Act 1982 () requests regarding National Standards.  They publicly advocated for an exemption for National Standards data.  I am pleased the Education Unions suddenly have a profound new respect for the

Mr Haig of the claims the support of Hon Richard Prebble in his assertion that jurisdiction of the should be extended to Partnership Schools | Kura Hourua (PSKH) under the OIA and the Ombudsmen Act 1975 (OA).  

Richard Prebble may be retired but fortunately he’s still very much around, so I thought I would ask him.  Here is his response to Mr Haig.

“I introduced the first Freedom of Information Bill into Parliament so we could see what the Government was up to.  I have never supported the right of the state to spy on private organisations or citizens.”

“While I am at it, I strongly support Partnership Schools.  I’m not surprised Maori are welcoming the initiative since the state school system has failed them.  The PPTA must also take some of the responsibility.  Instead of opposing Partnership Schools, the PPTA should acknowledge that they are most unlikely to be worse than state schools have been for Maori and they are likely to be much better.”

Tom Haig was unwise to cite Richard Prebble to support his case, but the rest of Mr Haig’s arguments are no better.

The decision not to extend the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman to PSKH is right both in principle and in practice. 

The purpose of the OIA and the OA is to restrain the executive branch of government and other crown entities by providing access to “official” information and providing for an investigatory role over government administrative decisions.  Both the OA and OIA were introduced because of the significant power the state can wield over the lives of citizens. 

Partnership Schools | Kura Hourua are not subject to the OIA and OA because they are not part of government – they are non-governmental organisations.   

Sponsors can be either non-profit or for profit organisations, incorporated or non-incorporated, and might be community or iwi organisations or charitable trusts.   They may or may not get all their funding from government, but even if they do, that is not a principled reason for PSKH to be covered by the OIA and OA.

Over 5000 educational organisations receive full or partial funding from government but are not subject to the OIA and OA.   Thousands of other organisations providing services to the government are fully or partially publically funded and are not subject to the OIA or OA.  The reason is that they are non-governmental organisations.

Somewhat inconsistently, the Ombudsman made it clear to the Select Committee that they were not advocating extending their jurisdiction to the other 5000 educational organisations, only to PSKH.  

In an unfortunate analogy, the Ombudsmen said PSKH were like private prisons.  In a similar vein Mr Haig conflates compulsory education with compulsory attendance.  Both are wrong.

PSKH are not similar to a private management contract of a prison.  Prisons, be they public or under a private management contract, are uniquely coercive.  Prisoners don’t get a choice of prison and cannot leave at will.  Prisoners are there because of the coercive power of the state. That is why the OIA and OA apply and rightly so.   But no one will be forced to attend a PSKH, nor teach at one, and all will be free to leave.

The Ombudsmen offered an example of a three year parental dispute with a state school as another argument for the OIA and OA to apply.  On the face of it, three years seems a long time to come to a resolution when the education of a child is at stake.  Mr Haig’s post outlines a state school dispute invoking the Human Rights Act 1993 (which applies to PSKH).   The Ombudsman expressed a further concern over the potential improper use of the statutory power to expel, suspend and stand down a student.   

The PSKH model offers significant powers to parents to protect them and their children.

Not only can parents receive meaningful information about their child, the contract provides for an independent review mechanism that every parent can access.  This will apply to all disputes including disputes over the use of the power to expel, suspend or stand down a child.    

The sponsor will be able to tailor the dispute resolution process to provide for a speedy, efficient and independent way of resolving the dispute that focuses on the particular educational needs of the child.   This should provide for a better, more  timely mechanism for dispute resolution than the general jurisdiction of the Ombudsmen. 

The PSKH model has been designed to be transparent and more accountable.

Detailed reporting against specific, measurable academic , student engagement and other performance goals will be required as part of a PSKH’s contract with the Crown.   They will have to publish annual audited accounts.  Furthermore, any information held by the Ministry of Education, the Minister and the Authorisation Board will be subject to the OIA and OA, as these entities are part of government.  In addition, the Secretary of Education can ask for any additional information over and above that required under the sponsorship contract.  PSKH will be scrutinised by both the Education Review Office and the Authorisation Board who will apply a specific evaluation framework.  And unlike state schools they can be closed quickly for non-performance.

PSKH have a significantly more rigorous and effective accountability model than state schools.  That is why, on balance, the PSKH Working Group considered that subjecting PSKH to compliance obligations and costs under the OIA and OA over and above all their other obligations is unnecessary, would not advance the interests of children, parents or taxpayers and may detract from the vital educational mission of Partnership Schools | Kura Hourua. 

Thanks to Catherine for her reply.

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17 Responses to “Isaac responds to PPTA on OIA and Charter Schools”

  1. Kimble (4,095 comments) says:

    First paragraph.

    Read it again.

    Brilliant.

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  2. wiseowl (577 comments) says:

    A pet peeve of mine.”chairwoman’

    the ‘man’ in chairman is nothing to do with gender.!!!!

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  3. Nigel Kearney (747 comments) says:

    It’s quite wrong to link the OIA to receipt of taxpayer funding. If a government department buys a vehicle, we don’t all get to see every internal Toyota document. The test should be based on function, i.e. executive, legislative and judicial functions are covered and others are not. No school, hospital or similar organisation should be subject to OIA regardless of who owns or funds it.

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  4. RightNow (6,348 comments) says:

    I’ll just leave this here for Bill Courtney, who seems to think we should view the experience in New Orleans as a reason against charter schools:
    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2013/02/charter_schools_in_new_orleans.html

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  5. Psycho Milt (1,986 comments) says:

    Kimble: her first paragraph makes the implied argument that it’s hypocritical for the PPTA to want charter schools under the OIA because last year some other organisation said schools should ignore the OIA. That’s not just “non sequitur,” it’s more like “fucking obvious non sequitur, you dozy tart.”

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  6. symgardiner (11 comments) says:

    If the PPTA (or any union for that matter) wants to argue that all entities receiving funds from the govt should be covered by the OIA… be my guest. It might bring a bit of accountability to the unions themselves.

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  7. Kimble (4,095 comments) says:

    her first paragraph makes the implied argument that it’s hypocritical for the PPTA to want charter schools under the OIA because last year some other organisation said schools should ignore the OIA.

    The question is where was the PPTA’s defense of the OIA when NZEI, allies in the current protectionist scramble, called for schools to ignore it?

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  8. BeaB (1,959 comments) says:

    wiseowl
    I bet you don’t like ‘pakeha’ either. Most of us think ‘man’ when we read ‘man’. Is that really a pet peeve?
    Psycho Milt
    Catherine Isaacs is the least deserving recipient of your unpleasant abuse. Actually, I can’t think who deserves to be addressed like that.

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  9. Bill Courtney (107 comments) says:

    @ Rightnow,
    “I’ll just leave this here for Bill Courtney, who seems to think we should view the experience in New Orleans as a reason against charter schools:”
    Rightnow,
    Try these for getting a little more balance into your blinkered view of the New Orleans Miracle:
    http://dianeravitch.net/2013/01/23/debunking-the-new-orleans-miracle-part-1/

    http://dianeravitch.net/2013/01/23/debunking-the-new-orleans-miracle-part-2/

    http://cenlamar.com/2013/03/13/louisiana-department/

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  10. RightNow (6,348 comments) says:

    Bill, much is made in the first two links about debunking statements/statistics from one Leslie Jacobs (I don’t really know who any of these people are).
    There seems to be nothing about what was reported in the post I linked to. I suspect that you didn’t read what I linked to or follow any of the links at that post.
    Perhaps in future I shouldn’t bother reading what you link to. Seems to have been a waste of my time.

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  11. RightNow (6,348 comments) says:

    Just to be clear – while your links make it clear there is objection to the claims by Leslie Jacobs, I would fully expect that from the disaffected educators. Their arguments appear to be based around interpretation of statistics (sounds like a case for National Standards) but it seems more of a she said/she said argument to me. Go and read the post I linked to and see if you can find opposing evidence for that.

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  12. wrightingright (132 comments) says:

    “I introduced the first Freedom of Information Bill into Parliament so we could see what the Government was up to. I have never supported the right of the state to spy on private organisations or citizens.”

    Love it!

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  13. Bill Courtney (107 comments) says:

    Rightnow,
    Sorry for the delay – dealing with a sick Volvo etc.

    I think you missed the point of the “Fact” I listed. Isaac tried to repeat the claim that charter schools will not be compulsory, so I gave two examples where they effectively have become compulsory: New Orleans being one and the current Michael Gove moves in the UK being another. I note you have not commented on the UK move, which, in many ways, is far more dangerous.

    Going back to New Orleans, I did respond to the original DPF posting and included a link to an article discussing the Scott S. Cowen Institute paper released recently. This is significant for several reasons, not least the fact that the Cowen Institute is a big believer in charter schools. But also, it gives some valuable feedback on how the parents are now finding an all-charter school “market”. The problem identified is that there is a wide range of charter schools out there, so guess what is happening? As John Ayers says, the report helps to shine light on the “unintended but very serious consequences of an all-charter, all-choice system. It’s well worth a read.

    Here’s a good quote:
    “School choice is intended to give parents access to higher quality schools that best meet the needs of their individual children, but choice among limited high quality options may not feel like choice at all”.

    And that’s the rub about what Americans call “Choice”. It sounds like a great idea – straight out of Milton Friedman’s classic 1955 paper and all – but, in reality, it just doesn’t work. That’s why there is so much nonsense about throwing “statistical” reviews back and forth that really don’t prove anything. Even though the promoters of charter schools – in the USA and now in NZ – lay claim to clear evidence that they do work, upon closer examination a lot of these studies do not stack up. The only genuine statement that is correct, in my view, is that the evidence is mixed, at best. There are at least as many horror stories about bad charter schools as there are about bad public schools.

    I have to go now and may return later with more thoughts on what charter schools are really all about: the privatisation of public education. Choice is a euphemisim for “market model”. Let’s focus on what the real agenda is.

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  14. Rightandleft (574 comments) says:

    All of this takes for granted that there is no innovation going on in state schools right now. It assumes that all state schools are properly funded and are just sitting around maintaining the status quo. The fact is the state schooling system is not failing at all. Many schools are pushing through groundbreaking programmes like Te Kotahitanga and Positive Behaviour For Learning (PB4L). Schools like Omriston, Albany Senior and Alfriston are trying out very cutting edge 21st Century learning techniques.

    Are there state schools that are not performing well? Of course there are. But the much simpler solution is to have them learn from the state schools that are excelling in low-decile areas and with Maori and Pasifika students. The other part of the solution is to improve funding levels at these schools so they aren’t dependant on “donations” that are anything but. Better targeting of funding to ECE and Special Ed are also more likely to have a positive impact for the so-called long-tail. Hattie’s oft-cited research didn’t rate charter schools very highly at all.

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  15. pq (728 comments) says:

    Catherine Isaacs and her elitist attitudes and actions were a major reason the ACT party collapsed. As far as I have been able to determine she is despised throughout the teaching profession. She was certainly despised by working people within ACT, but then we didn’t count, let us be rid of her and reconvene

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  16. Mark (1,302 comments) says:

    This is a policy that has been by a party that cannot even garner the support of 0.5% of NZ’rs. National don’t want it but it gives them a bit of entertainment in needling the teacher unions. It has very mixed results overseas at best and will be deflecting money from the State system which hardly needs attention deflected from getting it right.

    Already we have integrated schools which deals with private providers such as the Catholic schools, Hutt International Boys school, Wanganui Collegiate (now) so why not use the integrated schools legislation rather than try to reinvent the wheel.

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  17. Andrew Dodson (1 comment) says:

    “I introduced the first Freedom of Information Bill into Parliament so we could see what the Government was up to. I have never supported the right of the state to spy on private organisations or citizens… the OA and OIA were introduced because of the significant power the state can wield over the lives of citizens. … Partnership Schools | Kura Hourua are not subject to the OIA and OA because they are not part of government – they are non-governmental organisations….

    I am not sure what you are arguing here. Are you saying that education is not important? and that citizens should not be concerned about what is happening behind closed doors about education? Presumably because the partnership school can self regulate in some fashion?

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