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Posts Tagged ‘Charter Schools’

Life in Level 2: Two Tier Welfare; A Green School; Right Rage, Wrong Reason

8 September 2020 4 comments

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A Green School…

If the media and some of my fellow Green Party members could pause and breathe for a moment – a word or two (thousand) on the recent announcement by Green Party co-leader and Associate Minister of Finance, James Shaw, on the $11.7 million expansion project at the privately-run Green School in Taranaki.

Briefly, the project was financed as part of the Covid19 Response and Recovery Fund (CRRF), which, as Treasury explains;

As part of Budget 2020 the Government established the CRRF and set aside $50 billion to support a response to and recovery from COVID-19. The CRRF is a funding envelope for budget management purposes, rather than an actual sum of money ring fenced in the Government’s accounts. The fiscal implications of several new measures have been managed against the CRRF during April and early May. As at 14 May 2020, the Government had committed $29.8 billion of the CRRF, of which $13.9 billion had been announced prior to Budget Day as part of an ongoing response to COVID-19, leaving $20.2 billion of funding remaining.

On 14 May 2020, the CRRF Foundational Package was announced, totalling $12.0 billion in operating expenditure and $3.9 billion in capital expenditure over the forecast period.

Basically, the CRRF has funded everything from an advertisement warning parents of the perils of internet pornography on young people – to the wages subsidy to private companies. Radio NZ has benefitted with a $21.75m funding boost. The $900 million loan to Air New Zealand is also covered by this Fund.

The Fund has also paid out $52.5 million dollars to the racing industry along with additional payments from the Provincial Growth Fund;

The support package consists of:

    • $50 million dollar relief grant for the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA)
    • Up to $20 million in funding to construct two new All Weather race tracks.
    • $2.5 million dollars for the Department of Internal Affairs to fast track work on the online gambling revenue, and address loss of revenue impacts on community and sport groups.

“Of the immediate grant, $26 million will be used by RITA to pay its outstanding supplier bill which it hasn’t be able to do because of strangled revenue. The other share of this package will ensure RITA, and each of the racing codes, can maintain a baseline functionality and resume racing activities.” said Mr Peters.

“The racing industry is seriously underestimated for its economic contribution. For this reason the Government will also consider recapitalising the industry to help promote a quicker recovery and achieve a greater economic outcome.

The Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA) is closely linked to the racing betting industry through the TAB;

“As we transition to TAB New Zealand we do so knowing that, despite the enormous challenges presented by COVID, RITA has delivered on the Racing Minister’s expectations which were set out last year. The Board is grateful for his ongoing commitment and support, as well as from those across Government and Parliament who have supported the charge to reform the industry over the past two years.” – Executive Chair Dean McKenzie

There has been little “uproar” that the Covid19 relief fund has been used to prop up the gambling industry in Aotearoa New Zealand.

It is from this same Fund that the privately run “Green School” was funded. With over one hundred jobs to be created from this project and flow-on benefits to the community, this is precisely why the Covid Fund was established.

However, the project funding has been condemned by a wide range of groups and individuals, such as Taranaki Secondary Schools’ Principals’ Association chairperson, Martin Chamberlain;

“We would like a retraction of it because it’s clearly a logistical error. The Green School is a privately-owned institution and any benefit coming to it goes into one individual’s pocket.”

Education union NZEI Te Riu Roa, national secretary, Paul Goulter, added his opposition;

“We just don’t see any role for public funding for private schools and in terms of the Greens, they have exactly that same policy so it certainly came out of left field.

We would obviously like to see the funding pulled. I have a deep suspicion that’s not possible at this stage.”

Former Green MP, Catherine Delahunty, lobbed her own political “grenade” into the loud chorus of outrage;

“Although this project, this money, came out of the Provincial Growth Fund, for infrastructure, schools are infrastructure, and I think that it’d be great if James as minister who made this mistake owned it, and did his best to make sure that the money went to the people that actually need it.

I feel very strongly about this. Public quality education took a total bashing under the National government and has not yet recovered. They brought in national standards, charter schools and underfunding like we’ve never seen before.”

And just to give the knife a twist, she added;

I think that James as minister has become isolated from the party to some degree, in the sense of his instinct didn’t tell him that this was never going to fly with the Green Party, and that our policies are never to fund private schools.

According to Ms Delahunty, other former Green MPs Denise Roche and Mojo Mathers were also “furious”.

To be crystal clear, this blogger has no truck with Charter schools. Even taxpayer funding of private schools is problematic for a variety of reasons; equity; selective use of tax money to subsidise private business; public support of elitism; etc. This blogger has roundly condemned Charter schools in the past and these views have not changed one iota: they are a sly, back-door agenda to privatise education. (See “Previous related blogposts” links below.)

In “normal times”, the criticism levelled against James Shaw would be valid.

But as anyone who has been paying attention to global events can point out, these are not “normal times”. Not when the entire country is effectively cut off from the rest of the world and unemployment is set to skyrocket.

When a government sets aside $50 billion for a recovery fund – with hardly a murmur of dissent from former hardline, free-market, minimalist-government, neo-liberal acolytes – we are living in “interesting times” indeed.

But is the pile-on that has been directed at James Shaw warranted?

Or is it just that: a political pile-on?

Part of the criticism levelled at the Green School is that it is apparently a “hot bed” of new agey weirdness, conspiracy fantasists, preparing to inculcate bizarre anti-science ideas into the minds of impressionable young people.

However, the Green School website makes no references to UN covid-conspiracies, crystals, “DNA activation”, angels, etc. Which is unusual, as conspiracy fantasists usually make no secret of their bizarre, quasi-religious beliefs.

The story originally ‘broke’ on Stuff media on 27 August and related solely to funding a private school which was apparently at odds with Green Party policy. Which hardly seemed newsworthy as the three-party coalition government often implemented policies that were at variance – and conflicted with – their own respective policy-agendas.

The turn to weirdness came a few days later. A search engine check of where the link to crystals and conspiracies came from points to a media article dated the 31st of August;

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green school

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Yes, Newshub. That fountain of newsworthy and accurate information.

It appears that the school itself did not organise the so-called “sacred event”. It was run by school parents, Christof and Alaya Melchizedek.

The sensationalised story was later picked up by Stuff media; Newsroom; and Radio NZ. Right-wing blogger, David Farrar, at Kiwiblog had fun with it as well. (Though can’t blame David for that.)

The worst that can be levelled at the school in this instance is that they have been “tarred” by the same brush as two conspiracy-minded parents. It is not the first time a school or University has been criticised for hosting an event, despite having no real connection to the organisers.

Wellington High School faced a back-lash from students and others in the community in late 2004/early 2005 when it was revealed that Destiny Church was holding meetings at the school’s hall. As organisors of the protest explained;

“The time has come for Destiny Church to leave our school. Since September we have urged them to leave, we have been more than patient and yet our tolerance has been abused. Destiny Church and its affiliated political party, Destiny New Zealand, are a destructive force who preach hate out of schools’, and this is not ok!”

It is, however incredibly ironic that in a school where there is a support group for homosexuals and sexually questioning members of our society, that this church would continue to rent Wellington High. Destiny Church does not reflect the community or culture of Wellington High School, if anything they are the antithesis of what it is our school stands for.”

Being unfairly tarred by a brush of bigotry is one reason by Massey University wanted nothing to do with former National Party leader and serial-racist, Don Brash and banned him from speaking on their grounds;

Massey University vice-chancellor Jan Thomas saying she didn’t want a “te tiriti led university be seen to be endorsing racist behaviours”

A scrutiny of the Green School’s website not only shows a glaring lack of conspiracy fantasies; bizarre “spiritual” beliefs, etc – but that the only things planted were not crystals – but plants;

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Regenerative Agriculture Workshop

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Gumboots and grass and not a crystal in sight.

Fifty million-plus dollars thrown at the racing and gambling industry – no one bats an eyelid.

Twelve million to be spent on a school – and people lose their minds.

Should we be sending our kids to the race track, perhaps?

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…And a Two-Two Welfare System

On the 26 of May, Welfare Minister Carmel Sepuloni introduced the Social Security (COVID-19 Income Relief Payment to be Income) Amendment Bill. As RNZ reported;

The government is introducing a new relief payment for those who have lost their jobs due to Covid-19, while they find new employment or retrain.

The payment would be available for 12 weeks from 8 June for New Zealand citizens or residents who had lost their job as a impact of the virus since 1 March.

Those who apply would be required to actively seek suitable work, and take steps towards employment, including making use of redeployment or training.

It will pay $490 a week for those who lost full-time work and $250 for part time workers – including students.

The payments will be untaxed.

People with working partners may also be eligible, as long as their partner is earning under $2000 per week.

The new “income relief payment” was essentially a beefed-up unemployed benefit for workers losing their jobs due to the covid19 epidemic. It would be administered by the Ministry for Social Development.

It was passed in the House, through all three readings, in one day.  Six days later, it was given Royal Assent.

Minister Sepuloni launched the Bill in the House and explained why it was necessary;

“We know that many people who may be faced with job loss might not qualify for a benefit. In ordinary times, we’d expect many of these people to quickly find other work or manage their costs over time without extra support. However, these unprecedented times we face mean many of these families and individuals will be under pressure to get back on their feet quickly to meet their living costs but will be doing this in a different labour market than they have faced before. This payment will provide a cushion for up to 12 weeks for people who experience a job loss between 1 March and 30 October this year and whose partners earn under $2,000 per week. The payment has two rates: $490 for those previously in full-time employment, and $250 for people previously in part-time employment. We know that some people may need additional income support; so, if eligible, recipients can access supplementary and hardship assistance from the Ministry of Social Development.

This bill ensures that entitlement to this additional assistance will accurately reflect people’s circumstances by taking this payment into account when determining eligibility.”

Finance Minister Grant Robertson also advocated strongly for the new benefit;

“We do understand how tough it has been for people who have experienced a sudden drop in income and are now looking for further job opportunities and to retrain.”

The fact that this is the third time that governments have needed to do something like this in the wake of a crisis is an indication that we need to look at a possible enduring solution when it comes to people who experience an immediate drop in income.”

The “income relief payment” differs from the usual unemployment benefit in two major areas:

  1. The amount of the “income relief payment” is $490 per week (tax free) – almost twice that of the regular, maximum  unemployment benefit of $250.74
  2. Partners of unemployed receiving the “income relief payment” can be in paid work (up to $2,000 per week!) and this does not affect the IRP. Partners of pre-covid beneficiaries earning the original, lesser unemployment benefit (net, $250.74 p/w) cannot be in paid work, or else it will affect their payments. It also attracts unwanted attention from MSD who constantly pry into beneficiaries private lives.

The Covid Unemployed are apparently an elite, special group of beneficiaries for whom the regular payment of $250.74 – without employed partners – was beneath their dignity.

This blatant discrimination did not go un-noticed by beneficiaries support groups and other former Green Party MPs.

Beneficiary advocate, Kay Brereton, said:

“The benefit is simply not enough to survive on. It is galling.  It acknowledges that by setting the rate at almost twice the rate that someone can get on a single rate of jobseeker.”

Thinktank The Workshop co-director, Jess Berentson-Shaw, pointed out the obvious;

“I don’t think we need to reinvent the wheel here. The things that help people outside of a pandemic are the same things that help people in a pandemic.”

Former Green MP, Sue Bradford was scathing;

“There has rarely been a more blatant case of discrimination against beneficiaries than Grant Robertson’s announcement yesterday that people who have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus will receive weekly payments of $490 per week for 12 weeks and $250 per week for part time workers.

This is great news for those who qualify. Fabulous. That $490 per week is almost double the $250 per week you get on the standard 25+ Jobseeker Allowance and much closer to anything approaching a liveable minimal income.

On top of that, the new benefit also allows people in relationships to access support if they meet the criteria and their partner earns less than $2000 per week before tax.

And unlike the usual system, the new payments do not appear to be age dependent. So the historically ridiculous assumption that the younger you are, the less money you need to live on does not apply to this new category of claimants.

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Labour has revealed once again its decades-long predilection for categorising people into the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor, an ideology straight out of the 19th century England from which many Pākehā settler forebears came.”

Pre-covid welfare beneficeries were also less than enthusiastic about the new level of benefit payment.

Mother of two teenagers, and living in a state house, Agnes Magele is barely able survive on $243 a week;

“Sometimes I go to food banks if I have to. I have to do what I have to do so that and my kids get by each week. It’s really, really hard to live on that small income from the benefit.  It’s like a real kick in the gut.

It sounds like the government is saying that the people who have lost their jobs through Covid are deserving of an extra $250 on top of a normal benefit, as opposed to those who have already been on a benefit. It would help me pay off my debts a little bit faster and a lot of bills too [if she were getting $490 a week]. I’ll be able to afford to get me and the kids decent, decent food each week.”

The above RNZ story reported on how other beneficiaries were trying to cope.

On RNZ’s The Panel, on 1 September,  Phil O’Reilly – former Chief Executive of Business NZ and member of the Welfare Expert Advisory Grouprepeated his criticisms of current benefit levels;

“Being on welfare is an entirely stressful experience.

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It’s pretty clear that the payments being made just weren’t sufficient.”

Mr O’Reilly can hardly be described as a card-carrying socialist.

Former Greens co-leader, Metiria Turei, who sacrificed her parliamentary career revealing how she had been forced to rort the welfare system to survive had one succint thing to say about her former Party and the two-tier welfare system they had voted for;

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It was a lie that cost her her career. And now from the outside Turei is kicking the fight up a gear - calling her former party's Government partners a "pack of c**ts".

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Meanwhile, in the same story, Mediaworks/Newshub reported that;

The Green Party is revolting against the Government’s new payments for those who lose their jobs to COVID.

Co-leader Marama Davidson has called it unfair to beneficiaries who are paid much less – and a former co-leader has used a much stronger word to describe the Government.

Revolting“?

Calling it unfair“?

Far from it. Parliament’s Hansard’s reveal that Green MPs supported the Social Security (COVID-19 Income Relief Payment to be Income) Amendment Bill;

“It’s a pleasure to rise and speak to this bill and just to point out that the Opposition make it very clear that there is no choice for us, because, if it’s between at least making progress for some versus the drive to the bottom on that side, then, actually, this is a step forward. It may not be what we want, and it’s not, but, boy, is it better than the alternative.

What I want to say is that the Greens—at the heart of our position is a belief that everyone should have enough to be able to sustain themselves and that we want a welfare system that is resilient and works for everyone. And we are a long way from that, and we have a lot of work to do. That work has started, but we’re not happy with where it’s at. We want more work to go on.” – Jan Logie, First Reading

“So I really just also want to say we are supporting this bill, and the reason for that is, well, we want everyone else to come up to this. I do just want to talk to the fact that the reason for that is we know that people in our communities are struggling. We know that the queues for food parcels and outside Work and Income offices are growing and that the Auckland City Mission –

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This is at the heart of what this initiative is. I think that is in the long term a conversation for us as a country, where we’ve heard very clearly that people do not want a two-tier welfare system—and we agree with that—and that people really are now coming towards realising we need to increase main benefits and ensure everyone can live in dignity. Where does our support sit for the interconnection between redundancy and that welfare system? The Green Party does believe there is work to explore in this space, and at this moment in time, this policy is a response to that. ” – Jan Logie, Second Reading

“Our first position was to further increase benefits and to remove the conditionality of access to those benefits so that the existing system that we had could be strengthened to work for all of us through this time.

We didn’t achieve that. Does that mean that we should turn our backs on a group of people being able to access support? That’s our choice. Our answer was, considering on our principles, no. We should not turn our backs on some people being able to get more just because we were not able to achieve our goals for this transformation for our society. We will keep working towards that, and you hear that through this debate. We are not stepping away from that whatsoever; however, we do recognise that this delivers more to people in need, and we are not going to subject more people to the flawed aspects of our system when we don’t need to.Jan Logie, Third Reading

Their support may have been luke-warm at best, but on all three readings the Greens voted in favour of the Bill, along with Labour and NZ First. Their eight votes in Parliament enabled this law.

Despite their stated intention to support what is currently a two tier welfare system to “keep working to raise all welfare levels” – nothing else has happened. Pre-covid beneficiaries struggle to survive on $250.74 (net); Post-covid beneficiaries recieve almost twice that.

On top of which the partners of post-covid beneficiaries can  earn up to $2,000 a week, unmolested by MSD.

Try applying those same rules to pre-covid unemployed.

Meanwhile, The University of Auckland, Child Poverty Action Group, Auckland Action Against Poverty, and FIRST Union collaborated on a project to determine how well pre and post-covid beneficiaries were doing on their respective benefits. Spoiler: the results were entirely predictable;

The Covid income relief payment provides $490 a week for people who have lost full-time work because of the pandemic, whereas some people on the jobseeker benefit get just $250.

University of Auckland sociologist Louise Humpage said early findings suggest the $25 a week increase to benefits announced by the government in March is making little or no difference to low income households.

They did get some benefit from the doubling of the winter energy payment, but that is only a temporary initiative.

But people on the higher Covid income relief payment reported fewer occasions where they have been unable to meet basic costs.

“They seem to have reserves from elsewhere,” Humpage said.

“We asked questions about, ‘do you have passive income?’, ‘do you have a house that you own?’, and at present, they seem to be buffered by those extra resources.”

The RNZ story pointed out the blinding obvious;

Humpage said the early findings suggested that benefit levels need to rise.

“I think there is general consensus that benefits are too low at present and I think this Covid-19 payment is a reflection that it’s actually too low for most people.”

What an unsurprising conclusion.

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Right Rage, Wrong Reason

In voting for the Social Security (COVID-19 Income Relief Payment to be Income) Amendment Bill, the Green Party has failed all those people who were on welfare benefits pre-covid.

This was a platinum-plated opportunity to either raise benefits for everyone, regarding of pre or post-covid status – or not to support the new $490 per week “income relief payment” for anyone.

Had they presented this choice to Labour it would have been an interesting challenge. Would Labour have dared to call the Greens bluff?

If so, the result would have been spectacular – for the Middle Class. For perhaps only the second time in recent history (the first during the Global Financial Crisis), comfortable middle class New Zealanders would have had a painful, jarring lesson in what it means to live on basic welfare.

If you think the amplified whinging from a tiny minority of quarantined Returnees was bad enough – the shrieking howls of outrage and entitlement from recently unemployed middle class class workers might have been heard through the vacuum of space to the far side of the Moon.

Even the term “income relief payment” de-stigmatises unemployment welfare for the middle class. Pre-covid enemployed still recieve “the benefit”.

The Greens missed that opportunity.

Suggestions that the Greens had to swallow a dead rat would be an insult. It is the pre-covid unemployed who were fed dead rats with the passing of the Social Security (COVID-19 Income Relief Payment to be Income) Amendment Bill.

Writing for Newsroom, Sam Sachdeva said this;

As a whole, the saga plays into two distinct but damaging stereotypes of the Green Party and its supporters: as chardonnay socialists whose talk about supporting the poor isn’t backed up by action, and as Morris-dancing, science-hating kooks.

Neither is entirely accurate, but each has enough of a grain of truth that there is a risk of the mud sticking.

He has a point.

As much as the Green Party is doing “god’s” work to drive home the existential threat of Climate Change; their ongoing efforts to clean up our environment; and to prevent the further degradation of our land, forests, and waterways – their half-hearted actions regarding critical social issues sometimes leave much to be desired.

The spectacle of Green Party MPs and some supporters venting their rage to such a degree as to force James Shaw – a thoroughly decent politician – to utterly humiliate himself with a public apology – while barely uttering a word in protest against an indefensible two tier welfare system that reeks of double standards, discrimination, and coded beneficiary bashing – is breath-taking.

If flogging a private school is what some of my fellow Green Party members are willing to die-in-the-ditch for instead of  working for our fellow New Zealanders at the bottom of the financial heap, then they’ve been sipping too much from the kool-chardonnay.

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Disclosure:

This blogger is a Green Party supporter.

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References

RNZ:  Government to pump $11.7m into privately-run Green School in Taranaki

Treasury: Summary of Initiatives in the Covid19 Response and Recovery Fund (CRRF) Foundational Package

Stuff media: Coronavirus – What is the $50b Covid Response and Recovery Fund being spent on?

Beehive:  Emergency support for Racing’s recovery

TAB NZ:  Transition to TAB New Zealand complete

RNZ:  Critics pile on Green private school funding boost

NZ Herald:  Schools ‘horrified’ at Greens backing $11.7m grant for exclusive private school

RNZ:  Catherine Delahunty criticises govt’s $11.7m funding for ‘green’ private school

RNZ:  Critics pile on Green private school funding boost

Green School: Specialisation

Stuff media: Greens caught bending party policy to grant $11.7m to private school in Taranaki

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Couple who called COVID-19 ‘manufactured natural disaster’ held ‘DNA activation’ event at Green School

RNZ:  Green School at centre of $12m funding debacle struggling with backlash

Stuff media: Couple who endorsed Covid-19 conspiracy theories hosted ‘sacred ceremony’ at Green School

Newsroom:  Shaw’s sorrow crystal clear as Greens face heat over private school

Kiwiblog:  The $12 million school hosted a DNA activation event!

NZ Herald:  High school students rally against church

Scoop media: Campaign to remove Destiny Church from our schools

Otago Daily Times:  Brash back on campus after ban

Green School: Community and Activities

Parliament:  Social Security (COVID-19 Income Relief Payment to be Income) Amendment Bill

RNZ:  Relief payments for people who lost jobs due to Covid-19 announced

Parliament:  Social Security (COVID-19 Income Relief Payment to be Income) Amendment Bill — First Reading

MSD:  Jobseeker Support cut-out points (current)

RNZ:  Welfare advocates not happy with Covid-19 unemployment benefit

RNZ/The Pundit:  Sue Bradford – Labour betrays its traditions – and most vulnerable – with two-tier welfare payments

RNZ:  Covid-19 unemployment pay ‘real kick in the gut’, beneficiaries say

Welfare Expert Advisory Group: Phil O’Reilly

RNZ: The Panel – Phil O’Reilly – 1 September 2020 (alt.link)

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Former Green Party leader Metiria Turei puts Government on blast over new payment scheme

Parliament:  Social Security (COVID-19 Income Relief Payment to be Income) Amendment Bill — Second Reading

Parliament:  Social Security (COVID-19 Income Relief Payment to be Income) Amendment Bill — Third Reading

RNZ:  Covid income relief payment recipients fare better than those on the dole, survey finds

Newsroom:  Shaw’s sorrow crystal clear as Greens face heat over private school

NZ Herald:  Green Party co-leader James Shaw fronts on private school funding controversy

Other Blogs

The Pundit:  Labour betrays its traditions – and the most vulnerable – with two-tier welfare payments

Previous related blogposts

Privatisation of our schools?!

Q+A – 5 August 2012

Christchurch, choice, and charter schools

Charter Schools – John Key’s re-assurances

Charter Schools – contrary to ACT’s free market principles?

Privatisation of our schools?!

Charter Schools – Another lie from John Banks!

Charter Schools in a Post-Truth Era

A little warning regarding Charter Schools

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(*or Middle Class, in this case)

Acknowledgement: Tom Scott

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 September 2020.

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= fs =

While the Left fiddles, the Right beats their war-drum

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While the Left has been fiddling about with much gnashing of teeth and tears of concern over the right of two Canadian neo-fascists to speak at an Auckland City council venue – National’s focus has been laser-like at regaining power in 2020.

Like rust, the Right doesn’t sleep. Their failure to install a fourth-term National government came about only because of a fatal mis-step by (most likely) someone in the National Party/Government in a clumsy, ham-fisted ploy to undermine Winston Peters and cripple NZ First in last year’s general election.

Whoever released Peters’ superannuation over-payments to the media did so with political malice-aforethought. It was an agenda to neuter Peters and his party, and it was executed with callous precision.

It failed  because Peters was canny enough to counter with a parry that revealed the ploy for the ruthless strategy that it was.

The black-ops plan succeeded in only alienating Peters and reminding him that National was not to be trusted. With thirtythree years political experience, Peters had no intention to be anyone’s “useful idiot”.

With no potential coalition partner on the horizon (unless one is manufactured by a National MP splintering from his party), National’s only remaining options are;

  1. Coalition with the Greens. Chances: worse than winning Powerball Lotto.
  2. Winning 50%-plus of the Party Vote. Chances: somewhat better than Option One.

National opened it’s 2020 election campaign with three salvos of highly publicised policy released with much fanfare at it’s recent conference.

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Charter Schools

For most middle and upper-middle class voters Charter Schools are a non-issue. Their children either attend State schools, Integrated Schools, or Private Schools. The common thread between all three is that they are established; staffed with qualified professionals; and the curriculum is bog-standard (with minor variations-on-a-theme.)

Charter Schools would appear to further  ghettoise education for lower socio-economic families – a fact already well-known as “white flight” from low-decile State schools.

National’s hard-line stance to increase Charter School numbers should it be re-elected to power is curious because it would not appear to be much of a drawcard  for propertied middleclass voters who tend to vote along self-interest lines.

Which indicates that the policy has other intentions; a toxic “witches’ brew” of  ideological (further) commercialisation of education and a subtle, well-camouflaged attack on teacher’s unions.

So: not specifically designed to be a vote-winning policy. More of an  weaponised attack-policy on State education and unions.

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Classroom sizes

Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising policy to be released was classroom size reduction. Made by current National Party leader, Simon Bridges on the day of the Conference opening on 29 July, he committed National to this radical (for Tories) social policy in clear english;

“All our kids should get the individual attention they deserve. That’s why I want more teachers in our primary schools, to ensure smaller class sizes for our children.

Schools currently get one teacher for every 29 nine and ten year olds. It’s lower than that for younger children.

Those ratios should be reduced.”

Mr Bridges’ newfound concern for classroom sizes harks back to several speeches made by former PM, John Key, in 2007 and 2008, where he lamented growing social problems in New Zealand.

In 2007;

“As New Zealanders, we have grown up to believe in and cherish an egalitarian society. We like to think that our children’s futures will be determined by their abilities, their motivation and their hard work. They will not be dictated by the size of their parent’s bank balance or the suburb they were born in.”

And again in 2007;

“During his State of the Nation speech on Tuesday, Mr Key indicated National would seek to introduce a food in schools programme at our poorest schools in partnership with the business community.

[…]

“I approached Wesley Primary School yesterday, a decile 1 school near McGehan Close, a street that has had more than its fair share of problems in recent times. I am told Wesley Primary, like so many schools in New Zealand, has too many kids turning up hungry.

[…]

“We all instinctively know that hungry kids aren’t happy and healthy kids.”

In 2008;

“This time a year ago, I talked about the underclass that has been allowed to develop in New Zealand. Labour said the problem didn’t exist. They said there was no underclass in New Zealand.”

Once elected into power, National quiety dropped it’s concern for social problems. Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, did not even want to countenance measuring growing child poverty in this country. It suddenly became the fault of the poor.

Now Simon Bridges has dusted off National’s Manual for Crying Crocodile Tears.

Ironically, in tapping into parental fears of over-burdened schools and their children suffering because of over-worked teachers, Mr Bridges’ policy commitment stands diametrically opposed to National’s doomed policy announced on 16 May 2012 to increase classroom sizes;

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The policy was announced by gaff-prone former education minister, Hekia Parata, who  clumsily (if honestly) admitted that the move was purely for fiscal reasons;

”The reality is that we are in a tight economic environment. In order to make new investment in quality teaching and leading, we have to make some trade-offs… ”

Teachers – and more importantly, voting middle-class parents were having none of it. National’s cost-cutting of welfare, health, and state housing was one thing. But interfering with their Little Johnny and Janey’s education? Like hell.

Especially when it was revealed that then-Prime Minister, John Key’s own children attended private schools with… smaller class sizes!

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The over-powering stench of hypocrisy further infuriated the voting public. The policy lasted twentyone days before it was hastily dumped;

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Simon Bridges was unequivocal:  a National government would spend more on education;

“National will invest more to make sure our kids get the best quality start to their education, but we will also demand nothing but the highest standards.”

However, National has not explained how they will pay for the cost of additional teachers. Especially as National continues to  advocate for a billion dollar mega-prison to be built;  promised to dump the Coalition’s fuel taxes, and has not ruled out offering election tax-cut bribes.

As National has been fond of demanding: where will the money come from for extra teachers? Is this National’s own multi-billion dollar fiscal hole?

It was left to Labour’s own education minister, Chris Hipkins to point out;

“It’s very expensive to make even a modest change to class sizes and I think that’s something we want to talk to the teaching profession about.”

However, barely a day after his Conference speech, Mr Bridges was already backtracking;

Simon Bridges admits his promise of smaller class sizes may not mean fewer students per classroom.

The National leader announced a new policy to reduce the teacher-student ratio, as a centrepiece of his conference address over the weekend.

However, many primary schools run “modern learning environments” with several classes in the same room.

Bridges told Kerre McIvor National’s policy is about the number of staff per student, not the number of students per room.

” So in those modern learning environments, that may mean more teachers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean smaller classrooms.”

At least Hekia Parata’s plan to increase classroom sizes lasted three weeks.  Mr Bridges’ ersatz “commitment” did not last 24 hours.

The Coalition should be making mincemeat out of Mr Bridges’ policy u-turn.

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Crime

An oldie, but a goodie.  Tories understand how to tug the fear-strings of a sizeable chunk of the voting middle-class. National and other conservative parties around the world are (in)famous for manipulating middle-class fears on crime for electoral purposes.

One of their 2011 election hoardings explicitly exploited  those fears;

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A recent video campaign on National’s Facebook platform has gone a step further into whipping up fear and paranoia;

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This is a shameful, naked ploy to play on peoples’ fears.

It was backed up by former mercenary, and current National Party “Justice” Spokesperson, Mark Mitchell, who tried to offer “alternative facts” relating to crime figures;

The Government needs to stop looking for excuses to go soft on crime and come up with a plan to reduce crime, National’s Justice Spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.

“No doubt the report today from the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor saying that being tough on crime is to blame for rising prison costs and inmate numbers is music to Andrew Little and Grant Robertson’s ears.

“They’ve been looking for excuses to loosen up bail and sentencing laws so that the Government doesn’t have to go ahead with building the new Waikeria prison and can boast about reducing prison numbers.

“But the cost of prisons cannot be an excuse not to put people in prison, if that’s where they need to be. The priority must be to ensure that victims are kept safe from violent criminals.

“We know that the overall crime rate has been decreasing, but a lot of that is due to a reduction in lower-level offending.

“Violent crime has actually gone up four per cent since 2011 and this is largely the type of crime that people get sent to prison for. This is also the type of crime that has the most serious and long-lasting impact on victims’ lives.

Which is confusing as not too long ago, National was trumpeting several propaganda infographics on their Twitter account;

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Mr Mitchell is at pains to point out that  “we know that the overall crime rate has been decreasing, but a lot of that is due to a reduction in lower-level offending” – yet the infographics above make no such distinction. On the contrary, the second “broken bottles” infographic makes clear the figures relate to “Total Recorded Crimes”.

Perhaps they should get their propaganda straight.

In a startling admission, Mr Mitchell confirmed that ““violent crime has actually gone up four per cent since 2011″. It appears that the “Three Strikes Law” – enacted the previous year in 2010 – has failed to reduce criminal offending.

The questions that  Coalition government ministers should be putting to their National Party colleagues are;

  1. Is it not irresponsible to be exploiting fear about crime for electoral purposes? How will knee-jerk rhetoric assist an intelligent debate on imprisonment and rehabilitation?
  2. If crime, imprisonment, and rehabilitation require cross-party concensus, will National continue to pursue electioneering on “tough on crime”?
  3. If National pursues a get-tough-on-crime election platform in 2020, and if they are elected to government – how will they pay for hundreds more prisoners jailed? Will National borrow a billion dollars to pay for a new mega-prison? Will health, education, DoC, and social housing budgets be cut? Will National increase GST, as they did in 2010 (despite promising not to)?
  4. What is the limit that National will tolerate for an increasing prison population?

National has made clear that it intends to play the “tough-on-crime” card at the next election. The propaganda campaign has already begun.

The Coalition Parties need to formulate a clear strategy to combat fear-mongering by a National party desperate to regain power.

The question that should be put to National is; where will the billions of dollars for new prisons come from?

The prison population has all but doubled in eighteen years, and tripled since 1987, as successive governments have ramped up “tough on crime” rhetoric and pandered to fearful low-information voters;

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Tough-on-crime may be National’s default strategy. If addressed correctly, it can also be their weakness.

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References

NZ Herald: Steven Joyce says he would have advised against leaking Winston Peters’ super details

The Daily Blog: Real reason why National are considering cutting ACT off

NZ Herald: National Party conference kicks off with nod for Simon Bridges from former Australian PM John Howard

Massey University: Education Policy Response Group (p30)

Fairfax media: Parents’ choice driving ‘eye-opening’ segregation in New Zealand schools

NZ Herald: National will cut primary school class sizes if it gets into Govt, Simon Bridges tells conference

NZ Herald: John Key’s ‘A fair go for all’ speech

Scoop media: National launches its Food in Schools programme

NZ Herald: John Key – State of the Nation speech

NZ Herald: Measuring poverty line not a priority – Bennett

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

Fairfax media: Bigger class sizes announced

NZ Herald: Key called hypocrite over class sizes

Fairfax media: Backlash forces Government class size U-turn

Fairfax media: Smaller class sizes under Nats, says Simon Bridges in major speech

NewstalkZB: Simon Bridges explains smaller class size policy

Radio NZ: No promises from Hipkins on reducing class sizes

NZ Herald: Simon Bridges says scale-back of Waikeria prison flies in the face of latest prison projections

NZ Herald: Sir John Key downplays Simon Bridges’ polling ahead of National Party conference

TVNZ: Simon Bridges says he’ll dump regional fuel tax if elected

Fairfax media: Does the Government have any money for this Budget? Yes

NZ Herald: Murder and mutilation comments emerge on National’s new ‘tough on crime’ social media campaign

National Party: Prison costs cannot be excuse to go soft on crime

Twitter: National Party – The crime rate is falling under National.

Parliament Legislation: Sentencing and Parole Reform Act 2010

Fairfax media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

Fairfax media: National leader Simon Bridges talks up ‘tough on crime’ stance

Fairfax media: 20 Years of ‘tough on crime’ stance sees prison population surge

Additional

Radio NZ: Charter school report silent on educational achievement

Other Blogposts

The Daily Blog: What everyone seemed to miss in their criticism of the National Party Conference

The Daily Blog: What the 2018 National Party Conference tells us

Previous related blogposts

Weekend Revelations #3 – Greg O’Connor and criminal statistics

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 August 2018.

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Charter Schools in a Post-Truth Era

16 December 2016 2 comments

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Charter Schools’ NCEA Results  in a Post-Truth Era

On 8 December, Radio NZ’s Benedict Collins reported  that Charter Schools had been using dodgy statistics to inflate their apparent “success” rate;

Charter schools use a different method of calculating their NCEA pass rates to state schools – one which inflates their success.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has been warned by her ministry that an imperfect impression of charter schools’ performance is being created as a result.

Advice to Ms Parata shows that when charter schools are measured using the same roll-based methodology as state schools, their pass rates plummet.

The Vanguard Military charter school on Auckland’s North Shore reported a 100 percent Level 2 NCEA pass rate, but that fell to 60 percent when the school’s results were calculated the same way as state schools report.

Labour’s education spokesperson, Chris Hipkins quite rightly slammed the fake results;

“It’s disappointing that we’re not getting apples for apples comparisons but it’s even more disturbing that many kids are leaving these schools without the qualifications the Government says every child needs.

The latest Ministry annual report data also shows charter schools’ National Standards results are actually in decline.

Last year charter schools were awarded performance bonuses for their results while state schools are staring in the face of major funding cuts next year.

It’s simply not fair that students are leaving these school with minimal qualifications while charter schools receive special treatment as state schools struggle.”

ACT’s David Seyour – current Leader of the neo-liberal party responsible for Charter Schools – gave this bizarre explanation for the why the figures had been willfully fudged;

“The reason that there is a difference, just remember, is that we have been pioneering holding schools to account through a contract, and it was necessary if you wanted to do that to have a different system of measurement.”

Seymour tried to regain the moral high-ground by hitting back at Hipkins to defend the bogus data;

“More importantly, Hipkins seems oblivious that there is more than one way to measure NCEA performance. Indeed, there are a range of different measures, including NZQA and what the Ministry reports on Education Counts.”

Seymour fails to explain why it was necessary to use “more than one way to measure NCEA performance“.

As PPTA President, Angela Roberts said;

“Charter schools are a bad idea, for a multitude of reasons, but to hear that their so-called success rates are not based on fair measures is disheartening. We question why the Government put in place a different system for measuring student success for charter schools in the first place.

Benedict Collins also revealed that officials expressed disquiet at the way Charter School performance was being measured;

Education officials are to change the way charter schools report their NCEA results to bring their methodology in line with state schools.

[…]

Education Minister, Hekia Parata has been warned by her ministry that an imperfect impression of charter schools’ performance is being created as a result.

Advice to Ms Parata shows that when charter schools are measured using the same roll-based methodology as state schools, their pass rates plummet.

Parata – herself no stranger to controversy within her education portfolioclearly wanted to tidy up the perception that National and ACT were trying to deceive the public;

“I want there to be a consistent system, for the purposes of reporting to the government, which is about roll-based, which means everybody who is enrolled at that school counts and how well did they do, versus only those who sat NCEA”

Yet, this is not the first time that National and government departments and organisations have been caught out falsifying data.

Police crime-reporting in a Post-Truth Era

A bizarre story of Police employing bogus statistics broke in the NZ Herald in July, 2014;

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Police made burglaries vanish - greg o'conner - national - crime statistics

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It took journalist Eugene Bingham two years to uncover information requested under the Official Information Act;

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Two-year search for 'ghost crimes' truth - greg o'conner - national - crime statistics

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When the Herald finally received the information they had requested, a startling item of incriminating nature was discovered;

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Calls for 'ghost crimes' inquiry after police note revealed - commissioner bush

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A damning internal police document has emerged that appears to show senior officers discussed not releasing embarrassing details about the “ghost crimes” controversy in which 700 burglaries vanished from official crime statistics.

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The memo, known within police as a job sheet, states John Tims had been advised by then-deputy commissioner [Mike] Bush and assistant commissioner Allan Boreham not to respond to the [OIA] request. Brady [see image above] wrote: “(Tims) had been advised to let the request sit and when and if (3rd Degree) followed up with a request the matter would be addressed then.

“The direction to me was to not respond to the Official Information Act request and file the file as it is.”

Up until then, National had been  gleefully trumpeting the fictitious “fall in crime”;

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Twitter - National - Lowest crime in 35 years - propaganda

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On TVNZ’s Q+A, on 25 October 2015, Michael Parkin interviewed outgoing Police Association President, Greg O’Conner.

O’Connor was unusually candid  when he made clear the extent to which statistics are fudged to make politicians and State officials look good;

@3.10

“Well, it’s uh, lies, damned lies, and statistics. If you look at the crime stats, um, which is those recorded stats, you’ll say the government and police administration are right. If you look at the stats around calls for service, they’re the phone calls that police receive in communications centes, etc, and just an example, family violence, domestic disputes; up by 10% a year pretty much, and across the board, 20% increase. So it’s the calls for service, to the extent that the communications centres couldn’t manage last summer. There’s a fear, and we’re obviously we’re trying to make sure it doesn’t happen this year. So the two are going in completely different directions.”

Parkin pointedly asked if the statistics are being manipulated. O’Conner’s response  was startling in it’s honesty;

@3.55

“Of course they are. Every government department – I mean, what happens is that, the stats themselves are fair, but I mean I see it as a debate [like] about health, y’know, medical – the waiting lists have going down, but people get kicked of waiting lists and so it’s, you achieve – Put it this way, with crime stats, what we’ve set out to do is the way to cut crime stats is to hit your bulk crime. So if you have any success there, of course, that’s going to be big numbers down. And what you ignore is your small  numbers. You ignore, in fact, interestingly enough you ignore drugs. You ignore a lot of your serious stuff that you only find if you go looking. And in the past that’s got us into real trouble. Got us into trouble with the child abuse files, in particular, and you remember, that they were put aside. Because they weren’t politically known. They were business as usual. All of a sudden we were concentrating on the crime and crash reduction, um, and we ignored that stuff. And so you’ve got to be careful. And this is where the politicisation of policing is really dangerous. It’s not done by the Minister saying ‘you gotta do this and you gotta do that’, it’s done by funding.”

Herald journalist, Eugene Bingham, also reported;

“ It transpired others knew about the allegations around the same time, including the local MP and then-Minister of Justice, Judith Collins.”

Judith Collins featured heavily in Nicky Hager’s ‘Dirty Politics‘, and recently stood as a candidate for the next Leader of the National Party.

Mainstream media is often criticised for reliance on superficial ‘news’ reporting; ‘clickbait‘; and dubious ‘stories‘. On this issue, the Herald and Eugene Bingham revealed to New Zealanders the extent to which State agencies will go to “massage the truth” to present deceptively favourable impressions to the public.

Statistics NZ in a Post-Truth Era

In August of this year, I reported how Statistics NZ had radically changed the manner in which it defined a jobseeker;

Change: Looking at job advertisements on the internet is correctly classified as not actively seeking work. This change brings the classification in line with international standards and will make international comparability possible.

Improvement: Fewer people will be classified as actively seeking work, therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate.

Statistics NZ explained the ramifications of the “revised” definition of unemployment ;

  • Decreases in the number of people unemployed and the unemployment rate

  • Changes to the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate range from 0.1 to 0.6 percentage points. In the most recent published quarter (March 2016), the unemployment rate is revised down from 5.7 percent to 5.2 percent 

  • Increases in the number of people not in the labour force 

  • Decreases in the size of the labour force and the labour force participation rate

A person  job-searching using the internet  was “not actively seeking work“. Predictably, at the stroke of a pen, unemployment “fell” over-night from 5.7% to 5.2%.

It was “manna from heaven” for the incumbent government which has  been besieged on several fronts for worsening social and economic indicators.

Despite being little more than a dressed-up “accounting trick”, politicians could claim with a straight-face that “unemployment was falling”.

Which did not take long.

Statistics NZ announced it’s changes on 29 June 2016.

Four days later, our esteemed former-Dear Leader, John  Key, gloated on TVNZ’s Q+A  to Corin Dann;

“The unemployment rate in New Zealand is now falling pretty dramatically.”

By August, both Key and Bill English were joyfully quoting the “new unemployment stats”.

On 8 August, Key was quoted on Interest.co.nz;

“On the other side, we need these people in an environment where unemployment is 5.2% and where growth is still very, very strong. You’ve just got to be careful when you play around with these things that you don’t hamstring certain industries that need these workers.”

So not only was Key quoting the  “new, revised” unemployment stats – but his government was now actively predicating their immigration policy on the bogus data.

Three  days later, in Parliament, English also gleefully congratulated himself on the “fall” in unemployment;

“The Reserve Bank is forecasting an increase of about 1 percent more growth in the economy over the next 3 years, compared with what it thought 3 months ago. It is forecasting that unemployment is going to continue falling from 5.2 percent this year to 4.5 percent by 2019 and that job numbers will increase by more than 2 percent on average over the next 2 years. A significant component of that, of course, will be the construction boom, where thousands of houses will be built over the next 2 or 3 years. These forecasts are in line with Treasury’s forecast for the labour market and show an economy that is delivering more jobs, lower unemployment, and real increases in incomes when in many developed countries that is not happening.”

Whilst it is expected for politicians to mis-use questionable data for their own self-aggrandisement (and re-election chances), worse was to come.

On 10 August,  Radio NZ‘s Immigration Reporter, Gill Bonnett, reported;

“The unemployment rate stood at 5.2 percent for the three months ended in March.”

Bonnett did not  quote a reference source for that statement. Most likely it was Statistics NZ and it’s now-“revised” figures.

It is unfortunate that some journalists seem unaware of the new regime which portrays unemployment lower than it actually is. The fact that Statistics NZ has fudged their  data which now skews unemployment should be common knowledge throughout the mainstream media.

Especially when National ministers are now “patting themselves on the back” for a “fall” in unemployment that never happened, as their Twitter-feed showed on 2 November;

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And three days later;

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As I wrote on 14 November about Statistics NZ’s decision to change it’s criteria for unemployment,

Ms MacPherson’s [Government Statistician] assertion that Statistics NZ has changed it’s definitions of unemployment and jobseeking  “to maintain consistency with international best practice” is not an acceptable explanation.

If “international best practice” does not recognise on-line jobseeking as constituting a definition of unemployment – then that in itself is worrying and suggests that global unemployment may be much, much higher than current international statistics portray.

As a consequence of Ms MacPherson’s decision to exclude on-line jobseekers from official stats, this blogger concludes that official unemployment data is  severely flawed and unrepresentative of our real unemployment numbers.

In simple terms; the numbers are a sham.

Unemployment statistics will no longer be presented in on-going up-dates of the Jobless Tally.

When data cannot be relied upon to be accurate, it ceases to have value, except as propaganda.

Those who welcome the Post-Truth Era

On 10 July this year, Radio NZ’s Colin Peacock asked if “a ‘post-truth’ era is upon us?”  He quoted journalist Andrew Vance’s misgivings about the way half-truths and outright lies were now becoming more and more a feature of current political discourse;

…TVNZ’s website, political correspondent Andrea Vance said “the polls don’t punish National for straying from the truth”, and she pointed to the success of fact-free campaigns by Donald Trump in the US and Brexit backers in the UK.

“We are living in a ‘post-truth’ era and it has infected New Zealand politics,” said Ms Vance, who worked for newspapers in the UK before reporting on politics here. 

She’s not the only one who thinks so.

Massey University philosophy professor Bill Fish also sees echoes of the UK’s “post-truth” Brexit campaign in New Zealand politicians’ attitudes towards expert opinion and evidence.

“This is different,” Ms Vance told Mediawatch. “With Trump, Brexit and what’s happening here you’ve got political players actively deceiving the public. Politicians have always been selective with truth, but now it is brazen. I’ve been doing this for 17 years and its getting worse. It’s also crept into the public service. This lack of accountability and obfuscation feels like it’s sanctioned by political masters”.

Post-Truth has it’s sibling, “fake news” – which has shown to be an effectively vicious political weapon in the recent Presidential elections.

The phenomenon of Fake News – promulgated and spread repeatedly predominantly by conspiracy and alt.right websites – recently came to violent conclusion in the US when a 28 year old “lone gunman” (did he act alone or was it a conspiracy?) attacked  Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant in northwest Washington;

Edgar M. Welch, a 28-year-old father of two from Salisbury, N.C., recently read online that Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant in northwest Washington, was harboring young children as sex slaves as part of a child-abuse ring led by Hillary Clinton.

The articles making those allegations were widespread across the web, appearing on sites including Facebook and Twitter. Apparently concerned, Mr. Welch drove about six hours on Sunday from his home to Comet Ping Pong to see the situation for himself, according to court documents. Not long after arriving at the pizzeria, the police said, he fired from an assault-like AR-15 rifle. The police arrested him. They found a rifle and a handgun in the restaurant. No one was hurt.

In an arraignment on Monday, a heavily tattooed Mr. Welch, wearing a white jumpsuit and shackles, was ordered held. According to the criminal complaint, he told the authorities that he was armed to help rescue children but that he surrendered peacefully after finding no evidence that “children were being harbored in the restaurant.” He was charged with four counts, including felony assault with a deadly weapon and carrying a gun without a license outside a home or business.

According to alt.right websites  Comet Ping Pong contained a secret underground facility where  “young children were used as sex slaves as part of a child-abuse ring led by Hillary Clinton“.

None of it was true, but in an  ironic twist, the gunman  who attacked Comet Ping Pong is now himself viewed as part of a conspiracy cover-up to protect the non-existant pedophile ring;

The viral nature of the misinformation was illustrated again late Sunday, not long after the police arrested Mr. Welch and called Pizzagate a “fictitious online conspiracy theory” in their report. Some individuals on Twitter said Mr. Welch was an actor used by the mainstream media to divert attention from the alleged crimes at Comet Ping Pong. Followers of a shuttered Reddit thread on Pizzagate dissected the episode on a new online network called Voat.

Witch-hunts based on paranoid conspiracy theories become more bizarre when they turn on – and cannibalise – their own followers.

Even here in New Zealand, individuals were not immune to the moral-panic fanned by the flames of  Fake News. Some commentators uncritically reposted the pedophile allegations.

Pointedly, no citations were ever provided to the parroted allegations. (Mainly because the allegations were a fabrication. Perhaps even a conspiracy in itself, to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.)

As Clinton herself warned, Fake News can have disastrous “real world consequences”;

“This is not about politics or partisanship. Lives are at risk. Lives of ordinary people just trying to go about their days to do their jobs, contribute to their communities. It is a danger that must be addressed and addressed quickly.”

This seems to have been recognised by the Trump transition team who took action against one of their own, caught spreading Fake News;

President-elect Donald J. Trump on Tuesday fired one of his transition team’s staff members, Michael G. Flynn, the son of Mr. Trump’s choice for national security adviser, for using Twitter to spread a fake news story about Hillary Clinton that led to an armed confrontation in a pizza restaurant in Washington.

At first Vice President-elect Mike Pence denied that Flynn had ever worked for the Trump team, saying on MSNBC that he had “no involvement in the transition whatsoever”;

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However, soon after,  a transition spokesman, Jason Miller, admitted that  Flynn had worked for the transition team. Miller said Flynn would no longer be involved.

From Flynn’s Fake News to Pence’s dishonest denial – the truth eventually came out.

Curiously, Michael Flynn’s father – Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn – is also well-known for his John Key-style of “truthiness”;

“He has regularly engaged in the reckless public promotion of conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact, with disregard for the risks that giving credence to those theories could pose to the public,” Representative Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said on Tuesday.

“Someone who is so oblivious to the facts, or intentionally ignorant of them, should not be entrusted with policy decisions that affect the safety of the American people,” Mr. Smith added.

The Mainstream Media

As Fake News websites and “stories” proliferate, the mainstream media may actually take on a fresh breath-of-life.

In a functioning democracy; with the need for  vital checks and balances; the msm will become more critically vital to determine what is real and what is fantasy. Which also adds greater pressure on msm to ensure that it’s stories are well-researched and cite accurate facts and data.

Relying on dubious sources (such as the Herald did with the now-discredited Donghua Liu allegations) or questionable data from governmental bodies such as Statistics NZ, Police, etc, is no longer be sufficient.

This will be an opportunity for the msm to re-gain their relevance in a post-truth era of Fake News and deliberate political prevarication.

The question is; will they seize that opportunity?

Fake News, Post-Truth, Lies, Charter Schools

Charter Schools are an ideological response to State schools. It is an exercise designed to confirm that profit-driven, private-run education services are more effective and deliver better results than that offered by the State.

One of the core tenet’s of the New Right is that private enterprise/endeavour is superior to anything available from the State.

In 2002, businessman Phil Barry, author of  The Changing Balance Between the Public and Private Sectors, published by the Business Roundtable (aka NZ Initiative), wrote in the NZ Herald;

“Private firms tend to be more efficient than their state-owned counterparts, especially in competitive industries.

Privatisation of SOEs is likely to lead to improvements in their efficiency and to more open and competitive product markets, benefiting consumers, taxpayers and the economy as a whole.

The evidence does not suggest that private ownership is always more efficient. Some state enterprises can perform very well, at least for a period.”

And in 2012, then ACT-leader, John Banks said in Parliament;

“Public or private ownership of assets has been studied to death in many, many studies, and the jury is in. Private enterprise runs businesses better than the Government can.”

For many on the neo-liberal Right, education is a business not a public good and therefore should be no different to electricity supply (semi-privatised); Air New Zealand (semi-privatised – again); or a whole host of other services and assets that were once owned by the tax-payer but have been sold off over the last thirty years.

But to ensure that the basic tenet that “private enterprise runs businesses better than the Government can” is believed to be true by the public – and especially the voting public! – it must be shown to be true.

If it cannot be proven to be true, using accurate measurement and data, then fudging the truth will have to do.

In essence, that is what  ACT’s David Seymour was saying when he lamely attempted to justify  the inflated success rate for Charter Schools by claiming different standards of measurement;

“The reason that there is a difference, just remember, is that we have been pioneering holding schools to account through a contract, and it was necessary if you wanted to do that to have a different system of measurement.”

“…there is more than one way to measure NCEA performance. Indeed, there are a range of different measures, including NZQA and what the Ministry reports on Education Counts.”

When there “there are a range of different measures” you simply pick the one that gives you the results you want.

Which raises the question: what does it say about an ideological experiment if it requires a lie to sustain it?

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Note: certain portions of this story have been re-published from previous blogposts.

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References

Radio NZ: Charter school NCEA reporting to be brought into line

Scoop media: Ministry reveals shocking charter school results

NZ Herald: Charter schools not deceiving public over NCEA exam results, David Seymour says

The Northern Advocate: Charter school pass rates plummet when brought in line with state schools

NZ Herald:  Police made burglaries vanish

NZ Herald:  Two-year search for ‘ghost crimes’ truth

NZ Herald: Calls for ‘ghost crimes’ inquiry after police note revealed

Twitter: The crime rate is falling under National

TVNZ: Q+A – Police Association president steps down

Fairfax media: Firefighter injured after cat decides it does not want to be rescued from tree

Radio NZ: Stuff of substance in a clickbait climate

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – Revisions to labour market estimates

TVNZ: Q+A – Interview with John Key

Interest.co.nz: Key deflects calls for migration review; says migration needed with 5.2% unemployment

Scoop media: Parliament – Questions & Answers – 11 August 2016

Twitter: National (2 Nov)

Twitter: National (5 Nov)

Radio NZ: Is a ‘post-truth’ era upon us?

New York Times: In Washington Pizzeria Attack, Fake News Brought Real Guns

Snopes.com: Chuck E. Sleaze

The Daily Blog: Slippery

Buzzfeed News: Hyperpartisan Facebook Pages Are Publishing False And Misleading Information At An Alarming Rate

The Guardian: Hillary Clinton warns fake news can have ‘real world consequences’

New York Times: Trump Fires Adviser’s Son From Transition for Spreading Fake News

Twitter: MSNBC – Morning Joe – Mike Pence

NZ Herald: Phil Barry Private ownership outperforms public

Parliament: State-Owned Enterprises and Crown Entities (Protecting New Zealand’s Strategic Assets) Amendment Bill — First Reading

Additional

New York Times: As Fake News Spreads Lies, More Readers Shrug at the Truth

Wikipedia: List of fake news websites

Radio NZ: Unemployment rate falls after Stats NZ revision

Other Blogs

The Standard: Charter schools fiddling their results

Previous related blogposts

The Donghua Liu Affair: One Year On

Roy Morgan Poll: Unemployment and Under-employment up in New Zealand!

Weekend Revelations #3 – Greg O’Connor and criminal statistics

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies – ** UPDATE **

National exploits fudged Statistics NZ unemployment figures

“Spinning” in a post-truth era

2016 – Ongoing jobless tally and why unemployment statistics will no longer be used

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 December 2016.

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A little warning regarding Charter Schools…

 

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we're trialling an ideological approach

 

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The thing about Charter Schools – which was one of John Bank’s “legacies”  before he ended up in Court cleaning his ears – is that teaching staff do not have to be registered. Despite official advice from the Ministry of Education, which stated,

“The overall potential for a negative impact on students’ education from teachers who do not meet the minimum standards for the profession is high,” the statement said. “Teacher registration is one of the most influential levers in raising teacher quality across the profession in both state and private schools.”

Amidst fears of people with unknown histories; dubious qualifications; and other unknown unpleasantries, ending up in Charter School classrooms, our Dear Leader John Key seemed… relaxed by it all;

“But I don’t think we should be hung up by any one particular angle. There will always be a push back by the teachers union that will be fearful of that, but as I say if you look at the history of New Zealand schools we have had plenty of people who have been teaching our youngsters who haven’t been registered qualified teachers. If those partnership schools don’t succeed the Government will be just as quick to close them down as we have been to establish them.”

Key has said he would not be bothered if his children were taught by unregistered teachers. Not bloody likely – Key’s offspring were taught in the most expensive private schools money could buy. No chance of Key’s offspring rubbing shoulders with middle class kids in State schools or working class kids in Charter Schools – the Key Clan could afford The Best.

So what of Charter schools?  Despite the mealy-mouthed reassurances from the likes of Key, Parata, and Banks – a simple reality remains; they will be employing unregistered teachers. Which leaves us with a situation like this, as reported by Radio NZ on 27 May;

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Pupil praised, teacher deregistered

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Coming soon to a Charter School near you: a teacher who has been sacked from his job and de-registered. But there is nothing to stop this man from being -re-hired  by a Charter School.

Nothing.

  1. Un-registered, he is no longer listed with the Teacher’s Council. (Unless the Council maintains a separate Black List of de-registered teachers and is readily available to education institutions?)
  2. He has not been charged or found guilty of any offence, according to the story above – so any Charter School conducting a police background check will come up with nothing.
  3. The man’s identity has not been released, so even a simple Google search will come up with nothing.
  4. All he needs to do is remove the last school he worked at (from which he was sacked), and he effectively has a “clean” C.V.

The policy of allowing unregistered teachers is a ticking time-bomb, and this blogger can already see tomorrow’s headlines; “Unregistered teacher at XYZ Charter School molests pupils“.

There will be the usual ‘noises’ of “improving procedures and protocols” being made. But without registration, the pupils of Charter Schools will be vulnerable to predator-“teachers” who fancy a 12 year old boy or girlfriend.

In effect, Parata and Banks – with the blessing of Dear Leader – have handed paedophiles their next victims on a tax-payer funded plate.

As usual, it is the most vulnerable in our society who will be paying for National/ACT’s shonkey, ideologically-half-baked policies.

We have been warned.

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References

Fairfax media: Ministry advised against unregistered charter teachers

TVNZ News: Key – Don’t worry about unqualified teachers

NZ Herald: Ministers’ kids skip big classes

Radio NZ:  Pupil praised, teacher deregistered

Previous related blogposts

Privatisation of our schools?!

Charter Schools – Another lie from John Banks!

From around the world

Salon: Education reform’s central myths

allthingslearning: Can a teacher “create” LEARNing THAT LASTS?

BBC: Academies told they can hire unqualified teachers

New Statesman: The American revolution in English schools

Huffington Post: In Support of the Whole Child

Other Blogs

No Right Turn: Charter schools are bad schools

Local Bodies: NZ Charter Schools Defined

The Standard: Incoherent education policy

The Standard: Robber’s charter

The Daily Blog: Does it get any more rich than this?

 


 

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Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 May 2014.

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A proposed Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) agenda – part tahi

23 January 2014 27 comments

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new-zealand-national-party_3382 adapted 2014

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An incoming Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?*) coalition government will have much work to do – especially in it’s first three years.

In the six years that National has been in power, they have passed many odious and often repressive pieces of legislation. Labour and the Greens have already committed to repealing some of these laws and policies.

As a Labour-led coalition government addresses growing problems of child poverty; income inequality; a shortage of decent, affordable housing; and chronic unemployment (currently at 7.1% according to the 2013 Census), a legislative programme will demand a long list of progressive reforms.

In no particular order;

“The Hobbit Law”

Enacted on 29 October 2010, the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill/Act ( aka “The Hobbit Law”) was passed by National in just 48 hours. If Parliament was an Olympic event, Key and his cronies would’ve won a Gold Medal  for the breath-taking speed at which this Bill was rammed through the House under “Urgency”. The law effectively stole the rights of workers to be treated as employees (rather than “sub-contractors”) and negotiate collectively.

It was part of a package of corporate welfare for Warner Bros, which included a $67 million subsidy, courtesy of the taxpayer. That was despite the first installment of The HobbitAn Unexpected Journey making over US$1 billion, world-wide.

Never before in our history has a government yielded to such naked, open pressure to change our labour laws to suit a foreign corporation. The term “prostitute” doesn’t begin to cover the heinous nature of this sell-out by a New Zealand government to a trans-national corporation.

A year later, Labour announced it would repeal this odious piece of legislation. I expect them to keep their word. If only to send a clear message to firms wanting to do business in this country that our laws are not for sale.

Charter Schools

Sponsored by the one-man-band ACT Party, Charter Schools are private companies using tax-payer’s money to make a profit. No wonder Russell Norman likened John Key to Robert Muldoon – this is Muldoonism at it’s best/worst (depending on your point of view).

The Charter Schools policy was never put before the public during the 2011 general election, and there is no mandate for it. The ACT website’s Education Policy contained a vague, oblique reference to “reforming education towards a more market-like and entrepreneurial service” – but no specific regard to “Charter Schools”.

There are many things wrong with the Charter Schools policy – chief amongst them that they are not accountable under the Official Information Act; nor are registered teachers required; companies running Charter Schools need not hold any education experience; public scrutiny is weak to non-existent; and overseas evidence shows that Charter Schools are not a solution to education problems.

In fact, they may owe more to ideology than to any robust study and even Treasury – no bastion of progressive thought – has voiced criticism on the proposal,

However they also show Treasury is not convinced the benefits of introducing the schools will outweigh the costs and risks.

The papers express scepticism that increasing competition between schools will improve the education system.

The documents show both the Treasury and Ministry of Education opposed the Government’s plan to allow partnership schools to hire unregistered teachers.

Treasury told the Government that teacher registration is an indication of a minimum level of quality.

Labour has firmly stated that legislation enabling  Charter Schools will be repealed.

Excellent. As it should be. This is not about educational “excellence” nor parental “choice”. This was an ill-conceived, ideologically-driven, nutty policy from a small, dying political party that gained 23,889 (1.07%) popular votes at the last election. As such, the education of our children cannot be left to the idealogical whims of what is, in reality, a fringe group of right-wing, free-market zealots.

Terrorism Suppression Act

This was a legacy from the Clark-led Labour government and it was a knee-jerk, ill-conceived, poorly executed piece of repressive garbage that belongs more in Pinochet’s Chile or Ceausescu’s Romania, than in a social democracy such as New Zealand. The Act was a ‘nod’ to our so-called “allies” in Washington and London, post September 11, when paranoia about global terrorism was at it highest.

The law was used to facilitate the Urewera Raids in  2007 (along with raids in Auckland, Wellington, Palmerston North and Hamilton). Eighteen people were arrested.

None stood trial under the Act itself, and instead four individuals were eventually charged under more mundane firearms offenses. The Court threw out out “evidence” which had been illegally obtained.

The Terrorism Suppression Act itself was described by Solicitor General, David Collins, QC, as, “unnecessarily complex, incoherent and as a result almost impossible to apply to the domestic circumstances observed by the police in this case“.

Considering that the Urewera village of Rūātoki was held in lock-down by para-military garbed and armed police, with many innocent people including women and children confined for a lengthy period under armed guard, this was nothing less than a suspension of our rights as citizens, and a step towards a neo-fascist state (though one suspects there are some New Zealanders who would happily welcome such a regime) .  The only acts of terrorism on that day in October, seven years ago, was by the State and it’s frightening, menacing,  para-military which forced it’s way into people’s homes and threatened them with lethal weapons.

Thirty years previously, movie-maker Sam Donaldson presented us with Sleeping Dogs – a cinematic version of C.K. Stead’s novel, Smith’s Dream. The storyline was of a nightmarish, dystopian near-future, of New Zealand as a repressive police state, with all dissent brutally crushed.

That future arrived on 15 October 2007.

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armed paramilitary police

“We are from the government. We are here to help.”

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In December 2013, the Human Rights Commission published a report on the raids – called “Operation 8 by Police – which stated, in part, that  innocent people had been  exposed to unnecessary trauma. Earlier that same year, the  Independent Police Conduct Authority stated that  the police  had  illegally stopped vehicles, detaining people in their homes, and taking their photographs,

Three children under 10 had rifles with red laser lights pointed at them and were kept under armed guard in a shed for nine hours without food or water during the Urewera police raids in 2007.

“They smashed through our front gate and came running up towards us telling us to come out with our hands up,” Tu Temaungaroa Moko, now 14, said yesterday after the Independent Police Conduct Authority branded police actions during the raids unlawful, unjustified and unreasonable.

Tu was bundled into the back shed with his mother, Awhi Tia Koha, and brothers Te Ahoaho Hellman, now 15, and Taihakoa Rawiri Moko, now 9, and kept there by two armed police.

“We had tried to hide in the bedroom, we were scared stiff, we didn’t know what to do,” he said.

The armed police arrested their father, Moko Hellman, and searched the house.

“They tipped food on the floors, wrecked the furniture and pulled everything out of cupboards and shelves.”

All the search recovered was several rounds of .303 ammunition belonging to the boys’ grandfather, Tu said.

The IPCA report published yesterday says police had no right to block roads, search vehicles, detain and photograph locals, or detain residents while their homes were searched.

This was shocking, brutal,  and unacceptable behaviour by the State.

This law must go. It has no place in a civilised society that purports to respect civil rights and justice. There are adequate firearms laws enough with which to pursue and prosecute those who mis-use guns, or conspiracy laws to deal with more nefarious activities.

The Terrorism Suppression Act gives too much power to the State, and it’s para-military arm, and  events in 2007 demonstrated that such tyrannical laws can easily be mis-used.

This law was a product of a Labour government. It is an obscenity. It must be repealed by a new Labour government.

Search and Surveillance Act

Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Amendment Act

Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Act

As if the Terrorism Suppression Act wasn’t sufficient power with which the State could coerce it’s citizenry, this National-led government found it necessary to implement more draconian laws. The  Search and Surveillance Act, Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Amendment Act, and the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Act all gave government extraordinary powers to monitor New Zealanders and to carry out searches on the flimsiest pretexts.

In 2012, National passed it’s Search and Surveillance Act, which as TV3 reported,

It gives police the right to search or keep people under surveillance without a warrant in urgent or emergency situations, changes the right to silence and empowers judges to decide whether journalists can protect their sources or not.

That Orwellian piece of legislation was followed up a year later with not one, but two, new laws allowing the State to further spy on New Zealanders.

As I wrote on 30 June last year, despite the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 being fairly clear on the issue, the Bureau still had the mistaken belief that they were somehow entitled to spy on New Zealand citizens and permanent residents.

Either in ignorance, or another of his pathetic lies, John Key maintained this fiction,

In addition, the Act governing the GCSB is not fit for purpose and probably never has been.  It was not until this review was undertaken that the extent of this inadequacy was known.”

Acknowledgement:  John Key – PM releases report into GCSB compliance

Despite the fact that the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 is actually quite clear – especially Section 14 which states –

Neither the Director, nor an employee of the Bureau, nor a person acting on behalf of the Bureau may authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person (not being a foreign organisation or a foreign person) who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.

– the myth was perpetuated that the law is “unclear”.

The GCSB was never mandated to spy on New Zealanders. John Key’s National government changed all that with it’s one-seat majority in Parliament, and not only legitimised the Bureau’s spying on 88 New Zealanders – but has given it authority to spy on us all.

The GCSB Act was followed in quick succession by the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Amendment Act which, as

The TICS Bill is a replacement for the Telecommunications (Interception Capability) Act 2004. This law forced communications providers (ISPs, telcos, data networks, etc) to provide “lawful intercept” capabilities so that the Police, SIS and GCSB could access communications once they had a suitable warrant. The new bill expands and clarifies these requirements.

[…]

The Bill specifies that the law applies to companies whether based in New Zealand or overseas. It then goes on to give the Minister the power to ban the resale of an off-shore telecommunications service in New Zealand if it does not provide interception capabilities. This could stop the resale of foreign-hosted VPNs, instant message services, email, etc.

[…]

Network operators must decrypt the intercepted communications if they have provided the encryption, but there is no obligation to do so if the encryption is provided by others.

What does this mean for providers such as Mega (file locker) or LastPass (password storage) who have a business model based on the fact that they supply a cloud product that uses encryption but have deliberately designed it so that they can not decrypt the files themselves? This gives users the assurance that they can trust them with their data. Will the government close them down unless they provide a backdoor into the system?

The TICS Act is insidious because it forces telcos to comply with politicians and spy agencies demands for access to our communications. In effect,any company such as Telecom, Vodaphone, Slingshot, Chorus, etc, which offers a telecommunication service becomes a spy-agent  for the State. Not content with the Police, SIS, and GCSB, private companies become extensions of the State to surveil the populace.

Orwell himself could not have dreamed of a more unbelievably cunning plan.

Little wonder that telcos, Apple, Google, etc, opposed this draconian piece of law-making,

Opponents may be facing an uphill battle against spy bill fatigue as TICS goes through the house.

But there are a couple of intriguing twists.

One is its provision for the ICT Minister to require service providers (such as Apple with iMessage, Microsoft with Skype and Google with Chat, Talk etc) to make communications on their services interceptable. Apple and Google have submitted against the legislation. Will they ramp up their opposition as TICS works its way through Parliament – especially given Vikram Kumar’s revelation that they could be forced to allow the GCSB back-door access, with the orders kept secret? And would the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Google or Facebook actually decide to give New Zealand a swerve?

These three laws are inimical to an open, free, society that prides itself on respecting privacy and civil rights for its citizens.  Because, really, just how many bad people does New Zealand have, as enemies,  to warrant such hard-line laws that would be more at home in a nation at war with it’s neighbours?

All three should be repealed forthwith, by an incoming Labour-led government.

To be continued at:  A proposed Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) agenda – part rua

(* At this point in time, NZ First’s leader, Winston Peters,  has not indicated which bloc – Labour or National – he intends to coalesce with. As such, any involvement by NZ First in a progressive government cannot be counted upon.)

Continued at:  A proposed Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) agenda – part rua

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1511630_1406893186223465_285310898_o

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 January 2014.

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References

Statistics New Zealand: 2013 Census QuickStats

Fairfax media: Controversial Hobbit law passes

Radio NZ: Government defends Hobbit subsidies

Dominion Post: The Hobbit hits $1billion mark

Fairfax media: Nats criticise Labour’s ‘Hobbit’ law stance

NZ Herald:  Norman – Key ‘acting like Muldoon’

The Press: No mandate for charter schools

ACT Party: Education Policy

Stanford University: CREDO Report on Charter Schools

Radio NZ: Treasury papers reveal reservations on charter schools

Labour Party:  Charter school applicants put on notice

Wikipedia: 2011 Election Results

Parliament: Terrorism Suppression Act 2002

NZ History: 2007 ‘Anti-terror’ raids in Urewera

NZ Herald: Terrorism Act ‘unworkable’

Radio NZ: Mana ‘trampled’ by Te Urewera raids, says HRC report

Waikato Times: Police ‘unlawful, unjustified, unreasonable’ in Urewera raids

TV3: More surveillance powers for Govt and police

NBR: Govt proposes GCSB control over NZ communications in new TICS Bill

NBR: As GCSB Bill becomes law, focus turns to Telco Intercept Bill – which has a protectionist twist

Additional

NZ Herald: Banks wrongly held back charter school information

Fairfax media: Facts about Terrorism Suppression Act

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Citizen A: With Martyn Bradbury, Marama Davidson, & Colin Craig

2 August 2013 3 comments

– Citizen A –

– 1 August 2013 –

– Marama Davidson, & Colin Craig –

This week on Citizen A host Martyn Bradbury, Marama Davidson, and Colin Craig debate the following issues:

  • What do the revelations about possible spying on journalists Andrea Vance & Jon Stephenson tell us about the state of NZ Democracy in the week the GCSB Bill passes its second reading?
  • Should foreigners be able to buy land in NZ?
  • Should religious education be part of State schools?

Citizen A broadcasts weekly on FaceTV and webcasts on The Daily Blog,   and  LiveNews.co.nz

Citizen A broadcasts weekly on FaceTV and webcasts on The Daily Blog, Live.TheDailyBlog.co.nz & LiveNews.co.nz. – See more at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/07/19/citizen-a-with-chris-trotter-selwyn-manning/#sthash.wbOjqgy3.dpuf

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Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)

The Daily Blog

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John Banks; a sexist pig as well as soon-to-be-ex-MP

This requires no further commentary,

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Well, except this. Banks witters on about our kids needing a “world class education”.

It’s a shame he never learned simple lessons to do with common courtesy.

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National Party Corporate welfare vs real welfare

People welfare, bad!

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It’s fairly obvious what National thinks of New Zealanders who find themselves on the welfare safety net. Especially when those on welfare are there because of a global financial crisis brought on by unfettered,  laissez-faire capitalism (aka naked greed)  hitting a wall, and sending economies worldwide deep into recession.

But never mind. National has an answer for such dire events.

It’s called,

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Corporate welfare, good!

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Even as National continues to persecute, demonise, and blame the unemployed, solo-mothers (but never solo-dads), invalids, widows, etc, for their lot in life (because as we all know, the unemployed, solo-mothers (but never solo-dads), invalids, widows, etc, were directly responsible for the Global Financial Crisis that began in Wall Street’s boardrooms) – John Key and his cronies continue to lavish truck-loads of tax-payers’ money on corporate welfare.

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1. ETS Subsidies for farmers

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In June 2012, Business NZ CEO, Phil O’Reilly, wrote in the NZ Herald,

There has been a lot of redesign and tinkering with the ETS.  Established in 2008, reviewed and amended in 2009, reviewed again last year and about to be amended again – it’s no wonder that businesses involved in the scheme have review fatigue.”

See:  Phil O’Reilly: Emissions trading scheme must bring investors certainty

Mr O’Reilly may well complain. But he is unfortunately too late. On the morning of  3 July, Dear Leader John Key announced that  the 2015 postponement (of elements of the ETS) had formally become an “indefinite postponement” (ie;  gone by lunchtime on that day).

Key stated,

We’re not prepared to sacrifice jobs in a weak international environment when other countries are moving very slowly.”

See:  Slow economy puts ETS plans on hold

Yet that hasn’t stopped National from levying ETS on the public. No fears there, evidently, of  impacting on the pockets of ordinary Kiwis, and in effect, susidising farmers to the tune of  $400 million per year since 2009.

In effect, this is a transfer of wealth from  ordinary taxpayers to polluters [edited]. After all, what else can it be called when the public have to pay for an ETS – but farmers, industries, coal & oil companies, etc, – the very groups that produce CO2 and methane –  are exempt?

See:  Public to pay tab for polluters

So much for Tim Groser – Minister for Climate Change Issues and International Trade – insisting,

The National-led Government remains committed to doing its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it is worth noting that we are the only country outside Europe with a comprehensive ETS.”

National’s “committment” to reducing greenhouse gas emissions  has gone up in smoke and carbon dioxide.

As the Sustainability Council NZ reported in November 2009,

  •  Households would bear half the total costs under the amended ETS
    during its first five years (52%),
    while accounting for just a fifth of all
    emissions (19%). Together with small-medium industry, commerce and
    services, and transport operators, they would pay 90% of the costs resulting
    from the ETS during CP1 while being responsible for 30% of total emissions.
  •  Pastoral farmers would gain a $1.1 billion subsidy and pay an amount equal
    to 2% of their fair share of the Kyoto bill during CP1, while large industrial
    emitters would gain a $488 million subsidy (at a carbon price of $30/t).

See:   ETS – Bill to a Future Generation

On top of that, National appears unwilling to release actual financial data when it comes to the ETS.  Critical data has been withheld, as the Sustainability Council discovered last year,

Governments are legally required to provide an update of the nation’s financial position just before elections but those accounts do not recognise carbon obligations until they are in an international agreement, hence there is nothing concrete on the books until after 2012.

See:   Simon Terry: Carbon books reveal shocking gaps

And the Council report goes on to state,

The Sustainability Council requested a copy of those projections eleven weeks ago.
After various delays, the Treasury delivered its projections the day before the election
– late in the afternoon and with much of the key material blanked out.
What arrived is the carbon equivalent of a finance minister presenting a budget and
saying:

“Here is the estimated tax take for the next 40 years, and here is the total
spending. But we are not going to tell you how much tax is coming from any sector,
and we are certainly not going to tell you how tens of billions of dollars worth of
carbon subsidies and other payments are expected to be distributed. And no, we are
not giving you the figures for the past four years of the ETS either”.

It looks to be the closest thing in the public domain to New Zealand’s carbon books
and yet: future agricultural emissions are a state secret; future deforestation rates are a
state secret; even projected fossil fuel emissions are a state secret – all blanked out. “

See:  Show Me the Carbon Money

So what do we have here?

  1. Ongoing subsidies to polluting industries, with said subsidies paid by you and me, the taxpayer.
  2. Secrecy surrounding future  ETS  agricultural, deforestation, and fossil fuel emissions.
  3. Constant deferring of including polluters in a scheme that was designed specifically for dirty industries and farming practices.
  4. Importation of  unlimited, cheap,  foreign carbon credits.

Final point:

It seems a crying shame (as well as a fair degree of sheer madness) that we are paying subsidies to industry – whilst  not offering the same deals to  the  generation of renewable energy  and further research into renewable energy options (wind, solar, tidal, etc).

Ironically, the one subsidy that might have helped our economy and environment was scrapped in 2011, making Solid Energy’s biofuel programme uneconomic.  (See: Biodiesel loses subsidy, prices to rise)

Instead, the taxpayer continues to subsidise polluters. On 27 August 2012, National finally ditched agriculture’s involvement in the ETS, giving farmers, horticulturalists, etc, a permanent “free ride”  from paying for their polluting activities. (See: Farmers’ ETS exemption progresses )

This is the inevitable  result of electing a corporate-friendly political party into government.

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2. Subsidies to Private schools and Tertiary Providers

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Subsidies to private tertiary education providers continues to increase,

The Government is investing a further $29.503 million in the Private Training Establishment (PTE) sector over four years. This increases the funding rates for private training providers in line with the Government’s promise to treat them more equitably with public providers. The resulting funding difference is now half of what it was previously. “

See: Tertiary Education Commission – Private Training Establishments

So, if you’re a private company offering to train someone a course in “xyz” – expect a hand-out from a corporate-friendly National.

In the meantime,

  • Student allowances are removed for post-graduate study the parental threshold for accessing allowances is frozen for the next four years.  The Government says the changes will save $240 million in the first year and up to $70 million a year thereafter.  The Budget cuts all funding for adult and community education in universities, saving $5.4 million over four years.

See: Radio  NZ –  Benefits for research, science and engineering

  • It also saves $22.4 million over four years by ending funding used to help tertiary education providers include literacy and numeracy teaching in low-level tertiary education courses...”

See: Radio  NZ –  Benefits for research, science and engineering

  • Sunday Star-Times recently reported one in five young people left school without basic numeracy and literacy skills, despite the future workforce depending on advanced expertise. “

See:  Not adding up on Easy Street

  • Early childhood education subsidy cuts worth tens of millions of dollars are likely to be passed on to some parents through increased fees.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has kicked a total revamp of ECE funding into a future Budget, opting instead to stop cost increases to the Crown by cancelling the annual upward inflationary adjustment in rates.

The subsidy freeze takes effect on the next funding round, stripping about $40 million out of ECE payments to 5258 ECE centres. About 1427 of those centres are eligible for “equity funding,” however, and will get a boost through $49m extra directed to them over four years in a bid to enrol more children from the lowest socio-economic parts of the country.

But the scrapping of an annual inflationadjustment for other centres will be an effective funding cut as inflation pushes the cost of running ECE centres up. “

See:  Parents face burden of preschool squeeze

National’s most recent hand-out went to private school, Whanganui Collegiate,

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Govt ignored advice before private school's integration

See: Govt ignored advice before private school’s integration

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For a Party that advocates the “free market”, it certainly seems odd that they’re willing to throw bucketloads of our taxes at businesses such as private schools.  After all, what is a private school, if not a profit-making business?

And don’t forget Charter Schools – which is the State paying private enterprise/institutions to run schools – whilst making a profit (at taxpayer’s expense) in the process. Why don’t exporters get this kind of support?

That was certainly Gerry Brownlee’s attitude when Christchurch’s post-earthquake housing crisis became apparent,

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Christchurch rent crisis 'best left to market'

See: Christchurch rent crisis ‘best left to market’

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3. Media Works subsidy

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In 2011, this extraordinary story broke,

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Prime Minister defends loan to MediaWorks

Published: 8:28PM Friday April 08, 2011 Source: ONE News

The Prime Minister is defending his decision to loan $43 million of taxpayer money to private media companies.

John Key claims the loan scheme was designed to help the whole radio industry.

But a ONE News investigation has revealed MediaWorks was the big winner after some hard lobbying.

Key is known for being media friendly, but he’s facing criticism from Labour that he’s become too cosy with MediaWorks which owns TV3 and half of New Zealand’s radio stations.

It has been revealed the government deferred $43 million in radio licensing fees for MediaWorks after some serious lobbying.

Key and the former head of MediaWorks, Brent Impey, talked at a TV3 Telethon event.

“I just raised it as an issue but we’d been looking at it for sometime. My view was it made sense. It’s a commercial loan, it’s a secured contract,” Key said.

It’s believed the loan is being made at 11% interest.

But in answer to parliamentary written questions, the Prime Minister said he had “no meetings” with representatives of MediaWorks to discuss the deal.

Two days later that answer was corrected, saying he “ran into” Brent Impey at a “social event” in Auckland where the issue was “briefly raised” and he “passed his comments on” to the responsible minister.

See: Prime Minister defends loan to MediaWorks

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Aside from another example of Key’s mendacity, when he originally claimed to have had no contact with Mediaworks,

… in answer to parliamentary written questions, the Prime Minister said he had “no meetings” with representatives of MediaWorks to discuss the deal.

Two days later that answer was corrected, saying he “ran into” Brent Impey at a “social event” in Auckland where the issue was “briefly raised” and he “passed his comments on” to the responsible minister.

See: IBID

… this affair was another example of selective subsidies being offered to some business – whilst others are left to their own devices to survive,

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The axe falls - Industry boss blames cuts on Govt

Source

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We’ve lost 41,000 jobs in the manufacturing and construction sectors over the last five years. To which National’s Minister-Of-Everything, Steven Joyce’s response was,

Nobody’s arguing that being a manufacturer isn’t challenging. In fact, in my history in business, every time you’re in business it’s challenging.

“But going around and trying to talk down the New Zealand economy and talk about a crisis in manufacturing, I don’t think is particularly helpful.

See: Exporters tell inquiry of threat from high dollar

There is no doubt that economic conditions in the post GFC- world are challenging for some firms. The role of Government is to do things that help make firms more competitive and that is what our Business Growth Agenda is all about.”

See: Opposition parties determined to manufacture a crisis

Or Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy saying,

Our trading disadvantage has meant that we need to do more with less, and to work smarter.”

See: Innovation in New Zealand’s Agribusiness sector

To which exporters responded with this,

We’re told to get smarter and I find that irritating and insulting. I’m about as smart as they get in my little field. How the hell do these people get smarter? For a politician to tell somebody else to get smarter – he’s risking his life.”

See: Exporters tell inquiry of threat from high dollar

Not very helpful, Mr Joyce.  Though Opposition Parties may appreciate that you are pushing your core constituents into their waiting arms.

That’s how you alienate your voter-base.

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4. Sporting subsidies

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The Rugby World Cup

  • Prime Minister John Key today announced a $15 million grant for an upgrade of Christchurch’s AMI Stadium for the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

See: Govt announces $15m for AMI Stadium (30 April 2009)

  • Dunedin Mayor Peter Chin says he is “chuffed” the Government will contribute up to $15 million to cover shortfalls in private sector funding for the $198 million Otago Stadium project.

See: Chin ‘chuffed’ at $15m for stadium

  • The Government blew out a $10 million budget to host VIPs at the Rugby World Cup – even though just a handful of foreign leaders attended.

See: $5 million overspend on World Cup VIP budget

  • An extra $5.5 million will be spent on the Rugby World Cup to make sure there’s not a repeat of the chaos that unfolded on the evening of the tournament’s opening ceremony.
  • Including the $350m spent to upgrade stadiums and provide IRB-approved facilities around the country and millions more pumped into infrastructure and preparations, the bill for the tournament has easily surpassed the $400m mark.

See: World Cup ‘absolutely worth’ price tag

Yacht Races

The Major Events Development Fund will invest $1.5 million on each of two Volvo Ocean Race Auckland stopovers to be held in 2015 and 2018 following an announcement today by Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce

See: Govt to support 2015 & 2018 Volvo Ocean Race Auckland stopovers

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Meanwhile, Health Minister Tony Ryall refuses to provide additional funding for specialised medicines for patients with rare disorders. See: Letter from Tony Ryall, 5 December 2012

The message is crystal clear; National will subsidise rugby games and yacht races. But don’t expect help if you discover you have a rare disease.

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5. Warner Bros subsidy

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After Jackson made public noises in October 2010 that ‘The Hobbit’ could be taken offshore, there was a kind of mass-hysteria that pervaded the country.

Warner Bros wide-boys jetted down to meet Dear Leader, who kindly supplied a taxpayer-funded chauffeured limousine to bring the Holloywood execs to Parliament.

Dear Leader said “no more subsidies”.

Nek minit; Warner Bros demanded, and got, an extra $15 million. (see: Govt defends Hobbit jobs claim)

All up, the New Zealand taxpayer coughed up $67 million to give to Warner Bros. (Who sez crime doesn’t pay? Gangsterism obviously turns a healthy profit now and then.)

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Government defends Hobbit subsidies

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The film obviously didn’t do too badly at the Box Office – $1 billion is not too shabby by anyone’s standards,

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The Hobbit hits $1billion mark

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Can we have our money back now, please?

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6.  Broadband subsidy

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Funny isn’t it.   Pro-business lobby groups always complain about State intrusion into the market place… Except when subsidies are being handing out.

One wonders why, if the Free Market” is more efficient than the State, that $1.5 billion in taxes has to be paid to private telcos to do what that they should already be doing.

Perhaps this is why it took the State to build this country’s infra-structure over the last hundred years. Infra-structure such as electricity generation. (See related blogpost: Greed is good?)

Which National is now preparing to part-privatise.

Private companies will soon be owning what taxpayers built up over decades, and which private enterprise was loathe to build in the first place. (If you’re wondering whether I’m referring to state power companies or broadband – there doesn’t seem to be much difference.)

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Meanwhile, back in the Real World!

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Full story

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Dear Leader says,

Some argue that people on a benefit can’t work. But that’s not correct.”

Correct.

Because as Welfare Minister Paula Bennett stated candidly on Q+A on 29 April,

There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do. “

See:  TVNZ  Q+A: Transcript of Paula Bennett interview

Correct.

Which means that National’s  “reforms” to push 46,000 of  welfare is not just a meaningless exercise (the jobs simply aren’t there) – but is actually a political smokescreen to hide their own incompetance at forming constructive policies for job creation.

Unfortunately, there are too many right wing halfwits and Middle Class low-information voters who readily buy into National’s smokescreen. It’s called prejudice, and means not having to think too deeply on issues,

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Fortunately, it is the job of those on the Left to dispel these unpleasant notions for the Middle Classes. (National’s right wing groupies are a lost cause.)

Let’s start by posing the question; why is welfare for  corporations supposedly a good thing – but welfare for someone who has just lost their job, supposedly bad?

That’s what we need to keep asking the Middle Classes.

Eventually, they’ll start paying attention.

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking Blog

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 March 2013.

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Additional

Scoop: Where’s National’s ‘corporate welfare’ reform?

Fairfax media: Doubt stalls biofuels growth (14 March 2011)

The Press: Solid Energy ‘wasted millions’ on biofuels (31 Aug 2012)

Southland Times: Biodiesel loses subsidy, prices to rise (30 May 2012)

TVNZ: Prime Minister defends loan to MediaWorks (8 April 2011)

Radio NZ: Data reveals drop in manufacturing, building jobs (22 Feb 2013)

Previous related blogpost

Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How

Acknowledgements

Tim Jones of  Coal Action Network Aotearoa

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Peter Mazany: We don’t Need No Edukashun!

30 April 2013 3 comments

From the NZ Herald, on 26 April, Peter Mazany makes his case for running a Charter School;

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Peter Mazany - Charter schools 'vital' for some students

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Peter Mazany: Charter schools ‘vital’ for some students

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This op-ed piece sounds more like a self-promotional advertisement than anything truly news-worthy,

Our company Schoolsims NZ has submitted an application to start a Partnership School/Kura Hourua.

I and some of my colleagues have taught or have positions at tertiary institutions in New Zealand. I have received prizes for my work when teaching at the University of Auckland as the most distinguished teacher and as the MBA teacher of the year. I do not and will never have a teaching degree and without the partnership schools initiative, this opportunity to start a school and prove the value of our teaching and learning methods would never have been available. I am sure that some of the other applicants are in the same position.

We are working with about 50 schools and provide them with an effective form of simulation-based learning for NCEA accounting with a large computer-based component.

Our target is to double the effectiveness of teaching and learning in half the time and half the cost over a range of standards in NCEA accounting, business studies, and maths.”

Of particular mirth/derision, is Mazany’s statement,

I do not and will never have a teaching degree…”

He sounds positively proud of the fact he has no formal training/education in teaching!?

One wonders if he’ll be de-motivating his Charter School students to likewise not  seek further, higher education?

Why should children in Mazany’s Charter Schools seek higher education? Aftrer all, Mazany has set himself up as a role model.

But more chilling was this statement in his promo;

Our method can produce huge benefits in results, efficiency, flexibility, speed and cost.”

One can imagine the outcome of a regime that focuses on “results, efficiency, flexibility, speed and cost“,

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regimented school children

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This is education for our children. “Results, efficiency, flexibility, speed and cost” sounds more like an assembly line for pre-programmed automatons.

It will be a primary issue for an incoming Labour-Green government to remove all funding from  Charter Schools and to eliminate this bastardised, dumbed-down, profit-generating version of “education” from our society.

As an aside, I wonder if Mazany paid NZ Herald to publish what is, in effect, an advertorial.

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Hat-Tip

“Burnt out Teacher”, Man expanding business seeks wealthy partner(-ship school)

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Charter Schools – contrary to ACT’s free market principles?

25 February 2013 10 comments

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we're trialling an ideological approach

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When the blogger, Imperator Fish  asked in a blogpost headlined – Did You Vote For Charter Schools? – he wasn’t just using a catchy title. He was raising a valid point.

Nowhere on the ACT website is Charter Schools mentioned in any of their policies.

Not. A. Word.

Instead, ACT’s education policy page mentions the usual waffle about “more choice” and some disturbing rhetoric about “the benefits of making education more market-like and entrepreneurial” (1), and principals setting salary for teachers “like any other employer” (4),

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ACT - Education policy

Source

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If that is ACT’s Charter Schools policy, the message is hidden deep amongst the swirl of right-wing rhetoric.

Curiously, for a Party that allegedly has an innate aversion to taxpayer-funded subsidies for business enterprises such as farming, exporting, manufacturing, etc, etc, etc – they seem more than eager to subsidise private schools (3 & 5).  Which seems more than contradictory, since one has to question what is the difference between private schools and other private businesses.

If ACT is comfortable  (indeed, eager) to subsidise private schools, including their Charter School agenda, why not subsidise private hospitals? Private power companies? Private radio and TV broadcasters? Private mining compnies?

There appears to be no rhyme or reason to exempt private schooling and Charter Schools from ACT’s policy opposing state subsidies for business.

Unless they’re chasing votes for the Middle Class Aspirationists?

ACT’s “Principals” are quite clear when it comes to using taxpayers’ money,

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ACT - Principles policy

Source

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Paragraph 5 clearly outlines that the role of central government is to provide “economic support for those unable to help themselves and who are in genuine need of assistance“. It’s hard to see where private enterprise such as private schools and Charter Schools fit with this notion.

Paragraph 8 states that ACT supports  “a free and open market economy“. Are state-funded subsidies to private business conducive to “a free and open market economy“?

Ditto for paragraph 9, which states that ACT will  ” limit the involvement of central and local government to those areas where collective action is a practical necessity“. Is ACT telling us that taxpayer subsidies to private enterprise is a “practical necessity”?

Rob Muldoon thought so, and his government paid millions to farmers through various subsidies, making them beneficiaries of the State.

ACT’s plan will be that whilst Charter will be owned and operated by private institutions (religious groups, businesses, etc), that they will be funded by the taxpayer. And Charter School operators will be able to run these “schools” at a profit.

If this ain’t the State subsidising private enterprise – when very few other businesses are able to enjoy similar benefits – then I fail to see the difference.

After all, we’ve lost 23,000 construction jobs and 18,000 manufacting jobs. If any sectors need state support, via subsidies, shouldn’t it be  Construction and Manufacturing?

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Data reveals drop in manufacturing, building jobs

Source

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(It’s a shame that the loss of 41,000 construction and manufacturing has been offset by the creation of approximately 68,000 personal/community services – traditionally low-paid roles. See: PM – No money for aged care workers)

The question this blogger is asking is; if Charter Schools are a viable business proposition, why is the taxpayer  paying for it?

Perhaps someone from ACT can explain it to us?

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Previous related blogposts

Privatisation of our schools?! (13 Dec 2011)

Charter Schools – Another lie from John Banks! (2 Aug 2012)

Q+A – 5 August 2012 (5 Aug 2012)

Christchurch, choice, and charter schools (15 Sept 2012)

Charter Schools – John Key’s re-assurances (2 Nov 2012)

Other Blogs

Imperator Fish: Did You Vote For Charter Schools?

Sources

Fairfax media: Education shake-up ‘biggest for years’ (7 Dec 2011)

The Press: A controversial way of learning (7 April 2012)

NZ Herald: Editorial: Partnership opportunity for teachers (17 Oct 2012)

NZ Herald: Charter schools escape scrutiny (17 Oct 2012)

References

ACT Policies: Economy

ACT Policies: State Owned Assets

ACT policies: Spending Cap

ACT Policies: Education

ACT Policies: Principals

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Christchurch will cost National the Election

20 February 2013 19 comments

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cartoon - parata - I will do my homework

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There are three things that will cost National the election in 2014 (or earlier).

The first is jobs. The Market is simply not creating new jobs as neo-liberal dogma dictates it should. And with National’s Hands Off policy in the economic, their 2011 promise to create 170,000 new jobs (see: “Budget 2011: Govt predicts 170,000 new jobs” ) is something that will be used to beat them over the head more and more as Election Day looms.

The economy. A Hands Off policy in good times, when unemployment is low and growth is reasonably good, can be expected and understood.

In bad times though, taking your hands of the economic tiller poses one question; if government doesn’t act proactively (as other governments are doing around the world) – then what is the point of having a government?

And lastly, events with education-related problems will remain an open, painful sore for the Nats. Whether it’s the quasi-privatisation of education through dodgy “Charter Schools”; the unrelenting Novopay cock-up; or proposed closures/amalgamations of 19 schools in Christchurch – this will be an on-going sign for the public (and voters) that National does not have the co-operation of the community and can ride rough-shod over people’s concerns.

As Colin Espiner wroter in Christchurch’s “The Press” on 19 January,
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“The secret to great comedy, they say, is timing, and if “they” are right, then this Government is not very funny.

With Friday looming as the second anniversary of the most devastating of the Christchurch earthquakes, Education Minister Hekia Parata’s school closures announcement could not have come at a worse time.

I don’t think anyone who wasn’t in the city on that day can truly appreciate the impact it had on the people of Christchurch, and continues to have to this day. Certainly Hekia Parata doesn’t.

I accept that in the wake of the quakes some decisions about the future of schooling in Christchurch needed to be made. Actually I think everyone accepts that.

I also accept that some of those decisions won’t be popular, but needed to be made. As John Key said yesterday, “the Government needs to address this issue for the long-term good of the community”.

But there are ways and means of doing something that isn’t going to be pleasant. Dentists use anaesthetic before drilling a hole in your tooth. And they warn you beforehand.

The manner in which this Government has approached the issue of Christchurch’s post-quake schooling has been woeful. Actually, that’s being too kind. It’s been careless, haphazard, unfeeling and downright incompetent.”

Source:  Timing of school closures couldn’t be worse

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After a while “strong government” becomes arrogant, uncaring government. And that’s when voters rebel.

A recent IPSOS/Fairfax poll, which showed a drop in support for the Nats  at 44.9% (1.3% points down on their previous poll in December) made this interesting obserservation;

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” With the election probably still at least 18 months away, the big battleground will be for undecided voters, who made up 11.1 per cent of those surveyed.

Pollster Duncan Stuart said a breakdown of undecided voters suggested many were “soft” National supporters, who had started looking around. “

Source: National no longer a sure winner – poll

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In other words, we are seeing a re-play of the final two years of the Shipley-led National administration, in 1998 and 1999, when public odium because so strong that voters couldn’t stampede fast enough to the Ballot Booths to vote for Labour and the Alliance. There is only so much “hands off” government the Middle Classes  will tolerate before their ‘comfort zone’ is breeched.

In the late ’90s, the ‘touch paper’ was health.

This time it will be jobs and education.

After two major earthquakes; a loss of 185 lives; thousands of homes and businesses damaged or destroyed; upheavals in peoples’ lives; increasing numbers of homeless living rough; slow processing of insurance claims; and many who have simply quit the quake-ravaged city – the current agenda from National, and implemented by Hekia Parata, is like a rolling, political slow-quake, of additional stress on the city.

Cantabrians must be looking skyward and beseeching the Heavens, “What have we done wrong to earn all this?”

That stress is leading to desperation and behaviour that in other, saner times, good people might never think of doing,

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Dark side of opposition to school mergers

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Source: Dark side of opposition to school mergers

The stress on families, teachers, and others in areas targetted for school closures/amalgamations must be phenomenal.

New Zealanders watching all this, up and down the country, must be secretly sighing relief that they aren’t the one’s in the firing line of  Christchurch’s twin curses of natural disaster and political upheaval.

Yesterday (19 February) National electorate-MP, Nicky Wagner stated on Radio New Zealand,
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“The National MP for Christchurch Central, Nicky Wagner, accepts she may lose votes as a result of the education overhaul. But she says she believes the right decisions are being made. The MP won her seat with a majority of just 47 votes.  
She said,  
‘‘ We need to make really good decisions for Christchurch. We need to make good decisions in education but in all other ones and to make the most of every opportunity, and personally if it’s a matter between a good decision and being voted in again I’d take the good decision any day.’’   “

Source: Radio NZ, 10pm news bulletin, 19 Feb 2013

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Ms Wagner’s  nonchalence in losing her seat in favour of  taking a “good decision any day” may come true sooner than she anticipated.

Cantabrians will be happy to assist.

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Additional

Fairfax media: 71pc want Parata gone – poll

Fairfax media: Parata’s ‘lie-telling’ infuriates principals

 

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Charter Schools – John Key’s re-assurances

2 November 2012 20 comments

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1. The Prime Minister’s ‘committments’

Three months ago, Dear Leader gave assurances that National would dump Charter Schools if they failed to “work”.  He said,

If they don’t work then the Government will close them down very quickly – if they do work then it will be great for the children involved.” – source

Key then added,

If you look at the US where they are the most prevalent – there are about 5,500. Not all of them are successful but many of them are.” – Ibid

Those two statements are unfortunate for two reasons;

2. The Prime Minister’s ‘credibility’

Without beating about the bush and indulging in ‘niceties‘, John Key’s credibility is shot to hell.

As detailed in  previous blogposts and elsewhere on other blogs and in the MSM, John Key has not always told the truth, nor fulfilled his committments.

Past pledges and promises have been broken. Promises such as,

There are also instances where statements made by Key which have stretched our credulity,

More here.

And often indulges in flatout bullshit such as this little gem  on the public ownership of natural resources,

… So if you accept that viewpoint, then I think you have to accept that elements like water and wind and the sun and air and fire and all these things, and the sea, along with natural resources like oil and gas, are there for the national interest of everyone. They’re there for the benefit of all New Zealanders, not one particular group over another. “

See: TVNZ Q+A Interview with Prime Minister John Key

Politicians have a poor reputation when it comes to telling the truth. In the case of our current Prime Minister, in this blogger’s opinion, he has made bending the truth; with-holding information; and outright lying into a whole new artform.

No wonder there is a joke floating around cyberspace, on Facebook, blogs, and elsewhere,

Q: How can to tell John Key is lying?
A: His lips are moving.

Which probably explains why politicians are viewed with such disdain; League Tables that really count!

3. The Prime Minister’s ‘truthfulness’

Key said,

If you look at the US where they are the most prevalent – there are about 5,500. Not all of them are successful but many of them are.”

As usual, Dear Leader’s comments can never be taken at face value.

The truth is that a Stanford University CREDO analysis of Charter Schools in the US revealed the disturbing fact that only 17% of American charter schools did better than non-charter schools.

See: Stanford University: Charter School Performance in 16 States (USA)

The rest achieved same, or worse results,

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Source: Wikipedia Charter Schools (based on CREDO study)

So who will trust John Key on this issue?

Who will trust Key’s committment when he says “if they [Charter Schools ] don’t work then the Government will close them down very quickly” – when he doesn’t even give us accurate information about the efficacy of Charter Schools?

Telling us that “not all of them are successful but many of them are” – is disingenuous. It is a deliberate ploy to mislead the public.

And proves yet again – if evidence was needed – that this man is the most untruthful Prime Minister we have had since —?

4. Furthermore…

John Key assures us, hand-on-heart, that “if they [Charter Schools ] don’t work then the Government will close them down very quickly“…

Which is all very nice (if he can be taken at his word, which is doubtful), but how will he know if Charter Schools “don’t work “?

Actually, we won’t know.

National intends to remove Charter Schools from all public scrutiny and will be exempt from Official Information Act requests. All information regarding Charter Schools will be kept secret by National,

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Full story

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To put it mildly, this is an extraordinary state of affairs. A radical new experiment in education will not be open to public scrutiny. According to John Banks, the architect of this crazy programme,

DEVELOPING AND IMPLEMENTING A NEW ZEALAND MODEL OF CHARTER SCHOOL

[…]

Ombudsmen Act and Official Information Act (OIA)

These acts would not apply to Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua because they are not Crown Entities. This is the same case for private schools.

This will help to ensure Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua are not susceptible to costly and vexatious requests. The contract will specify the information that must be provided to government, and this will be subject to the OIA.”

Source:  Office of the Associate Minister of Education (Hon John Banks) – Developing and Implementing a New Zealand Mode of Charter School

It’s interesting that a politician with the lowest reputation for honesty and openess in this country’s history – John Banks – has decided that Charter Schools will be exempt from OIA requests and Ombudsman oversight.

Banks’ attempted to justify this paranoid secrecy by suggesting that Charter Schools would be “susceptible to costly and vexatious requests“.

Laughable…

Extraordinary…

Worrying…

And scandalous.

5. Summing up…

So what do we have here?

  1. The  Prime Minister promises that  “if they [charter schools] don’t work then the Government will close them down very quickly “.
  2. Key assured the public that ” not all of them are successful but many of them are ” – ignoring the truth that only 17% of Charter schools in the US have been deemed “better” by a Stanford University CREDO study.
  3. There will be no public oversight of Charter schools.
  4. The Minister in charge of Charter Schools, John Banks, justified the removal of public oversight and secrecy on the flimsiest of excuses.
  5. The public will have to rely on the National Party for accurate and impartial reporting of Charter Schools progress. (Imagine Key’s reaction had Labour proposed such a thing! Imagine the cries of “nanny state” and “Helengrad”?!))
  6. Neither John Banks nor John Key are held in high regard in many parts of New Zealand society. Key is known for breaking promises; abandoning committments; and mis-representing the truth. John Banks was engaged in dishonest activities surrounding his mayoral campaign donations; lied about his activities; claimed “forgetfulness”; and was investigated by the police. He was not prosecuted – but only because his actions went beyond a statute of limitations. (Banks still refuses to publicly release a record of his police interview, despite his assertion of “nothing to hide, nothing to fear”.)

This blogger finds nothing reassuring in the utterances of John Key and John Banks.

An incoming Labour-Green-NZ First-Mana government has no option but to close down this dodgy programme, or at the very least, incorporate these schools into the state system.

Otherwise, Charter schools are a ‘time-bomb’ waiting to go off.

Does Shearer really, really want such a  legacy from John Banks?

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Previous related blogposts

Christchurch, choice, and charter schools

Charter Schools – Another lie from John Banks!

Dear Leader, GCSB, and Kiwis in Wonderland (Part Rua)

Sources

TV3: Key defends charter schools trial

Otago Daily Times: PM vows charter schools out the door if they fail

NZ Herald: Charter schools escape scrutiny

Radio NZ: Charter school group wants to register unqualified teachers

Additional

Many oppose proposed charter school

Charter schools: They’re not better for our kids

Other Blogs

Seemorerocks:  One video exposes Key, GCSB’s & Banks’ Dotcom lies

Not PC: John Key lies [updated]

Infonews:  National’s growing list of broken promises

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Parata preparing for another backdown? (Part Rua)

3 October 2012 15 comments

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After Education Minister, Hekia Patata’s dreadful performance on TVNZ’s ‘Q+A‘ on 30 September, it appears that her ‘minders’ have realised that she is not ‘selling’ the issues of  National Standards and Christchurch School closures, to the public.

In fact, her slip to Shane Taurima that National Standards data  was unreliable must have raised the eyebrows of every viewer in the country,

“ SHANE What’s the point of the information, though, if the Prime Minister, for example, he calls it ropey; the head of your own ministry, she has described it as unreliable.

HEKIA Well, what I have said all along is that it is variable. For the purposes of comparing schools, it is not reliable…”

As was her admission that school closures in Christchurch would add to the trauma already suffered by Cantabrians after two major earthquakes and 185 deaths,

 Well, look. School closures around the country under any administration around the country are always difficult. Here in Christchurch is a community that’s been under intolerable stress for a very long time

Parata didn’t just shoot herself in the foot in that interview – she kneecapped herself.

The consequence was that Parata appears no longer willing to be interviewed by the media.

She refused to accept John Campbell’s invitation to appear on his show on TV3 on 2 October – instead sending a bureacrat to front up, Ministry of Education chief executive, Lesley Longstone.

Longstone put on a brave face attempting to explain why so much of the Ministry’s information was completely wacko – as if they referred to schools in some other country (or maybe Planet Key) – but failed miserably,

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Source

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Little wonder that Parata refused to front. She would have been skewered and hung out to dry.

Again, this morning (3 October), Hekia Parata was invited to be interviewed on Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘. Again, she refused point blank.

See: Radio NZ – Warning from Australia on National Standards

Ok, it’s possible that she had another engagement that prevented her from appearing on ‘Campbell Live‘ last night. But what was so pressing that she could not be on the phone to Radio NZ’s Geoff Robinson at 8.09am?

The answer is; nothing.

National’s policies on school closures and National Standards is an absolute mess. Parata is up to her neck in policies that are hard to defend; based on shonky data; and offer no real benefit to the education of our children.

Let’s be quite clear here; if National’s  so-called “reforms” were such a great idea, Parata should be willing and eager to front at every opportunity to defend  her policies and explain why they will help our children; communities; and country as  whole.

Her new-found ‘shyness’ is indicative of only one thing; her policies are indefensible and deeply resented by New Zealanders. Furthermore, judging by the response she has received from parents and teaching professionals, she has lost the trust of those people who rely on her judgement.

Hekia Parata is the Minister of Education. Her education policies are her responsibilty.

If she is unable or unwilling to front up to the public, then she has no business earning her $257,800 ministerial salary (plus perks, plus gold-plated superannuation) .

When it comes to education, where does the buck stop?

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Sources

See:  Q+A – Education Minister Hekia Parata (video)

See:  Q+A – Education Minister Hekia Parata (transcript)

Radio NZ: 13 schools to close, others to merge in Christchurch

Wikipedia: New Zealand general election, 2011

Previous related blogpost

Christchurch, choice, and charter schools)

Parata preparing for another backdown?

Additional

School standards report card ‘ropey’

Schools claim merger data incorrect

Ministry admits some errors in data

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Christchurch, choice, and charter schools

15 September 2012 17 comments

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National is a Party of choice. National loves to give individuals choice. National hates the idea of  “Nanny State” taking away the individuals’ right of  choice and governments making decisions on their behalf. National believes that  individuals know better than the state.

“Choice is good”.

“State decisionmaking is bad”.

According to National.

Which is why, when National announced it would be adopting ACT’s policy of implementing Charter Schools (in poor areas only – but no doubt that was just a coincidence), choice was high on the list of rationale’s for this policy,

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Full Story

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Dear Leader John Key stated,

” It’s a step towards more choice, at the end of the day I expect the vast bulk of schools will be the same as they are now.”

See: Ibid

Little Dear Leader, Bill English, parrotted the Party line; Charter Schools offered choice,

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the member knows, the issue of whether teachers are qualified is being discussed in the context of charter schools, which will offer an element of choice, although a very small element of choice, in the general school system. All other schools will continue to run with registered teachers.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: In respect of the State-run schools, no. In respect of the charter schools, it is an aspect of providing choices for young New Zealanders that are not currently available to them. “

See: Parliament: Questions for Oral Answer

National MP for Maungakiekie, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, repeated the mantra (in case we missed it the first time),

With our Government’s focus on raising achievement for all our students, I see partnership schools as just another option for our parents and students. It will give them more freedom to choose the type of education that best suits their children’s learning needs.

See: Scoop.co.nz – Partnership Schools are Good for High Needs Communities

And the only human member of ACT with high-functioning mental processes, Catherine Isaac, chipped in (as it was ACT policy after all – even though it had never been announced during last year’s election campaign),

Well, what is different is that these schools are going to get greater freedom to innovate, to find different ways of engaging with children who are struggling to learn, and you need more opportunities, more freedom... “

See: Scoop.co.nz – Q+A – Corin Dann interviews Catherine Isaac and Ian Leckie

It is abundantly clear that National’s preference is always; choice. Lots and lots of choice!

Except…

When National takes away an entire city’s choice.

Like with Christchurch,

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Full story

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On 13 September, National announced the closure or mergers of dozens of schools in the quake-hit city of Christchurch. Amongst those closing or merging, according to  NBR and Radio NZ stories on 14 September,

Schools to close include:

  • Aranui High years 1 to 13
  • Aranui Primary
  • Banks Avenue Primary, or relocate depending on geotech report
  • Branston Intermediate
  • Burnham Primary
  • Burnside Primary
  • Chisnallwood Intermediate years 1 to 13
  • Duvauchelles Primary
  • Glenoor Primary
  • Greenpark Primary
  • Hammersley Park Primary
  • Le Bons Bay Primary
  • Linwood Intermediate
  • Manning Intermediate
  • Ricmond Primary
  • Wainoni Primary

Who will merge:

Avonside Girls High will merge with Christchurch Girls High as a “dual shift” or may close depending on geotech report.
Christchurch Boys High will possibly merge with Shirley Boys High as a “dual shift”.
Central New Brighton Primary will merge with New Brighton Primary.
Burwood School and Windsor School on Windsor School site
Discovery One School and Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti as Year 1 to 13 school
Freeville and New Brighton North School
Linwood Avenue School and Bromley School on Bromley School site
Lyttleton Main School and Lyttleton West School
Philipstown School and Woolston School (moving to new site)
South New Brighton School and Central New Brighton School
Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o te Whanau and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Waitaha

See:  Up to 13 Chch schools to be closed, as many as 18 will merge

See:  13 schools to close, others to merge in Christchurch

The shock news was delivered to a packed meeting of  principles and Boards of Trustees members by these three,

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DELIVERING THE NEWS: Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, Education Minister Hekia Parata and Secretary for Education Lesley Longstone deliver the news.

Source

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The proposed closures and mergers would result in hundreds of teachers losing their jobs; thousands of students uprooted and moved; and the remaining  centres of communities – which have lost many of their infra-structure and services – finally eradicated.

The response from many Christchurch education-sector workers, parents, and residents was unsurprisingly one of anger and disgust. It seems that what the earthquakes had begun – National was hellbent on finishing off.

For many, this was an unprovoked, unforeseen, craven attack on their communities,

I state here and now … Shirley Boys’ High School as a school exists and will continue to exist – mark it. There is no way in God’s creation that we cease to exist. (source)

We are not going to merge for the most practical reason. I have 1300 students in the school I think Trevor McIntyre at Christchurch Boys’ will have something similar.

To simply say that Shirley closes and suddenly Christchurch Boys’ High School is equipped to double in size is absurd. They don’t have the land, they don’t have the infrastructure. It’s nonsense. (source)”

– John Laurenson, Shirley Boys’ High School principal

I just don’t understand what’s going on . . . my boy’s got three years left and I didn’t want him to move.

We live nearby and yes, it’s damaged but this is our community so you can’t just pick us up and move us.”

Tracey Dearden, Parent

We’ve got five classrooms at our school, excellent staff doing wonderful things and just can’t for the life of me see why they would want to close Ouruhia.”

” I wonder how many people who were staying so their kids had stability and didn’t have to be uprooted from schools, will now leave and follow all the others to Brisbane… say 20 schools x 500 pupils/school… is a lot of affected families…. “

Anonymous

Men and women are in tears at the possibility of losing their jobs, their schools and communities.

Schools are the focal point of their communities. Schools are identified by the names of their community. Families now have to gravitate, take their children to other places, create new identities.

This is going to affect families in a major way. This is going to affect parents in a major way, just like it is going to affect teachers and children.”

Paul Kennedy, Cathedral Grammar school headmaster

Our house is TC3 and everything around this school is red-zoned pretty much, but Banks Ave has been the one and only constant in their lives since the earthquakes.

Children had gone through enough without having their school taken off them“.

Haley Thompson, Parent

We got more than we bargained for today.”

Philip Harding, Paparoa Street School principal

 “Where are the kids supposed to go? Haven’t we been through enough? Half the kids are on medication because of the earthquakes.”

Thea Turner, Parent

No parent is going to enrol their child in an intermediate school that they know is closing so already we’re looking at losing half our pupil population next year alone.

I need to look after my staff, maintain the quality of teaching and keep looking after the children because they’ve been heroes since the quakes . . . everyone has gone through so much and now we have to go through this.”

Geoff Siave, Shirley Intermediate principal

As this blogger pointed out above; National loves choice.

Except when it’s not convenient.

Then it will  act with all the ruthlessness of a mad Arab dictator or  ex-Soviet Asiatic republic that never quite “got democracy“.

National will give us the ‘choice’ of Charter schools, whether we want them or not.

Whilst at the same time it will gut the heart out of Christchurch, inflicting more heartache, stress, misery, and uncertainty on a city that has endured more than the rest of us could possibly imagine.

I leave the reader with this piece, taken from a National Party 2011 policy-document on education,

12. Support Canterbury

Rebuilding Canterbury is a top priority for National. We supported the people of Canterbury in the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes and we are committed to getting greater Christchurch back on its feet over the coming months and years.

National:

• Ensured all schools were up and running eight weeks after the February earthquake.
• Double-funded students who moved out of Christchurch for 2011. That is, we funded the Christchurch school they no longer attended and also funded the school outside of Christchurch they did attend.
• Created new exemptions so that Christchurch students would not unfairly miss out on NCEA qualifications.

National will rebuild the Canterbury school network

* Ensure schools make the most of their facilities and resources, and they collaborate rather than compete with each other.
* Ensure there is a range of education provision so parents can continue to have choice about what type of school they send their children to.
Schools in Christchurch will become part of the most advanced schooling network in New Zealand with facilities that support education in the 21st Century.

See: National Party – Education in Schools – Building Better Public Services

Choice.

We all have it.

Especially on Election Day.

Christchurch schools

Lest We Forget

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Additional

Scoop.co.nz: Christchurch schools to reopen as charter schools?

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Charter Schools – Another lie from John Banks!

2 August 2012 43 comments

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Somewhere in New Zealand is a building. It’s not signposted and it most likely looks like any other building in any other town or city.

The only difference is what this building contains.

This building contains all the stupid ideas that humanity has ever come up with in the last 100,000 years or so. It’s quite a big building, because there are so  many stupid ideas that have been collected; filed; and lovingly stored. There is practically  a stupid idea for every occassion.

This is the building where National and ACT Ministers go to get their next big, “bright”, idea.

This is where John Banks, along with Hekia Parata,  went in search of  the lunatic concept that is known as “Charter Schools”. It was stored in a little shoe-box, labelled,

“Dumb and Dumber – how to Dumb Down Your Child Using Taxpayer’s Money

Stupid Idea #2,717,990: Charter Schools”

The idea goes something like this;

  • Organisations  and/or private companies will set up schools – Charter Schools
  • Charter Schools would be managed by said Organisation/Church/Company, but funded by the taxpayer
  • Charter schools could be run for profit, or non-profit
  • Charter schools need not employ qualified, trained teaching staff
  • Charter School managers would negotiate salary levels and employment conditions directly with employees – so a “teacher” could be hired on minimum wage – $13.50 an hour
  • Charter schools would set their own hours, term dates, etc.
  • Charter schools can set their own curriculum
  • Charter schools could be run by religious groups such as the  Destiny Church cult

Education Minister Hekia Parata and Associate Education Minister, John Banks, today announced the framework for the New Zealand Model of Charter School  – or, as they have euphemistically branded them, the Orwellian-sounding  “Partnership Schools”, or pandering to culturally-sensitive niceties,  “Kura Hourua” .

In effect, ACT and National will be using tax-payer’s  money to fund private schools. Not since farming subsidies has National  come up with such an odd way to throw our taxes at private companies and organisations.

Private schools and educational institutions have always been a part of New Zealand’s social structure. They were usually religious-based, such as Catholic high schools; Jewish schools; or private training  institutions.

Many have now become “State integrated” schools,

There are three types of school: state, private (or registered or independent) and state integrated schools. State and state integrated schools are government funded. Private schools receive about 25% of their funding from the government, and rely on tuition fees for the rest.

State integrated schools are former private schools which are now “integrated” into the state system under the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act 1975  “on a basis which will preserve and safeguard the special character of the education provided by them”.

According to Ministry of Education statistics, of the 286,886 secondary students (Years 9–15) enrolled in New Zealand schools at 1 July 2011, 81.9 percent (235,048) attend state schools, 12.4 percent (35,631) attend state integrated schools, and 5.6 percent (16104) attend private schools.

See: Wikipedia Secondary education in New Zealand

The odd thing about Charter Schools is that they are an American construct, originating in 1988, and with the first Charter School law enacted in 1991 in the US.

See: Wikipedia Charter Schools

It could be  justified that Charter Schools is an  American attempt to employ  free-market principles to produce better education outcomes,

Caps on the number of charters in a state drag down performance as much as lax oversight, because they cramp the diversification of the market and discourage investment…

[abridged]

Since 1993 15% of charter schools have shut their gates, most because of low enrolment, a sign that the market is working.”

See: The Economist – Charting a better course

It’s hardly surprising that our American cuzzies would turn to their precious capitalist Market Place for solutions to their poor education system.

In a recent OECD PISA report, member states were ranked according to education outcomes for reading, mathematics, and science. The results were… educational.

See: OECD PISA report Education at a Glance, 2011

The graphic below is an abbreviated version of data gleaned from the report,

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It’s interesting to note that in reading achievement, Finland, New Zealand, and the US ranked;

# 3 Finland

# 9 New Zealand

#18 United States

In mathematics,

# 2 Finland

# 9 New Zealand

# 26 United States (below OECD average)

In science,

# 2 Finland

#10 New Zealand

# 23 United States

Any reasonable, rational adult could conclude that Finland must be doing something better with it’s  education system than either New Zealand or United States.  However, since  right wing political parties like National and their low-information supporters don’t always engage in issues on a reasonable, rational level, it’s usually left up to the public to persuade National to review policies that are incoherent and based more on dubious  ideology, rather than proven methods.

One simple fact; Finland does education better than us, and way better than our American cuzzies.

When it comes to charter schools, it’s mostly an American ‘game’. Few other countries follow it.  Finland certainly doesn’t,

“… What can we learn from Finland and South Korea?

Finland probably has the most successful school system in Europe. Tests of 15-year-old students from 34 nations find the Finns leading in reading, mathematical literacy and scientific literacy. Finnish schools have been in a reform mode for the past 40 years.

Yet, Ms. Ravitch says, “Finland rejects all of the ‘reforms’ currently popular in the United States, such as testing, charter schools, vouchers, merit pay, competition, and evaluating teachers in relation to the test scores of their students.”

The Finnish system is built on rigorously prepared teachers. Teacher training in Finland is an elite profession, open to only the most qualified and offered at only eight universities, which have formidable entrance requirements. Teachers are high achievers, well paid and highly respected.

Ms. Ravitch, who was in Finland last year, found bright and cheerful schools where students engaged in music, dramatics, play, and academic studies with 15-minute recesses between classes. She found that: “Free from the testing obsession that consumes so much of the day in American schools, the staff has time to plan and discuss the students and the program”. “

See: Lessons from Finland, Korea

How do our Finnish cuzzies do it, you may ask. Perhaps a clue can be found here, by Paul Frysh, from CNN,

The most important lesson the United States can take from Finland is the “preparation and development of high-quality teachers,” Paine said.

This starts with honoring the profession, he said.

“In Finland, it is a tremendous honor to be a teacher, and teachers are afforded a status comparable to what doctors, lawyers and other highly regarded professionals enjoy in the U.S.,” he said.

In addition, like other professions, teachers gain seniority and tenure primarily on the basis of training and experience, and teacher unions have a strong voice in shaping education policy — all very controversial in the United States.

The profession is held in such high regard that competition to get teacher training is fierce. Nationally, only about 10% of some 7,000 applicants to primary school programs are accepted annually to Finnish teacher training programs, according to statistics from the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.

And it’s not about the money.

“In Finland, they do attract the very best and brightest into the profession, and it has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with the respect that is given to the profession,” Paine said.

In fact, teachers in Finland are paid about the same as teachers in the U.S.

One young Finnish teacher, asked why he went into the profession, told Paine: “Because it is the most honorable of all professions. It is a patriotic, national calling to be a teacher.”

But what he learned in Finland, Paine said, is that the respect must be more than just lip service.

Administrators in Finland really listen to teachers, then back up their words by giving teachers autonomy and resources, said Paine.

“If you want enduring, lasting student learning, there’s no easy way around that but to invest your time and your resources, including money, as close to the classroom as you can possibly get and that’s with the teacher.”

Part of this investment is in initial teacher education.

In the U.S., most teachers accumulate debt paying for their education, teacher-mentoring is rare and training ranges wildly from a few weeks of training in alternative teacher training programs such as Teach for America to world-class four-year and graduate college programs.

In Finland, by contrast, teachers train for free, receive a stipend and begin hands-on teaching with a mentor almost immediately. All school teachers must hold a master’s degree in addition to four or five years of undergraduate training to be permanently employed, and teachers without a master’s are given time and resources to get it.

And it turns out that well-respected, well-educated teachers stick around longer.  “

See: West Virginia learns Finland’s ‘most honorable profession’: Teacher

So Finland did not achieve it’s high education outcomes through short-cuts and fads such as “charter schools” and  performance pay. Their strategy was a greater investment in the teaching profession itself. It wasn’t about the school structure – it was about the teachers – the men at women who actually front up, at the chalk-face, of our class-rooms.

By comparison, Charter schools have had a poor education outcome in the US, according to a 2009 report by Stanford University’s Centre for Research for Education Outcomes (CREDO),

The group portrait shows wide variation in performance. The study reveals that a decent fraction of charter schools, 17 percent, provide superior education opportunities for their students.

Nearly half of the charter schools nationwide have results that are no different from the local public school options and over a third, 37 percent, deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their student would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools.

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A study done by Stanford University found that charter schools on average perform about the same or worse compared to public schools.

Source: Wikipedia Charter Schools

These findings underlie the parallel findings of significant state‐by‐state differences in charter school performance and in the national aggregate performance of charter schools. The policy challenge is how to deal constructively with varying levels of performance today and into the future…

[abridged]

… Our national pooled analysis reveals, on the whole, a slightly negative picture of average charter school performance nationwide.

On average, charter school students can expect to see their academic growth be somewhat lower than their traditional public school peers, though the absolute differences are small. “

See: Stanford University: Charter School Performance in 16 States (USA)

So the question we now pose is; Why do it? Why borrow from a country that has worse education outcomes than us – instead of looking toward an education system from a country near the top of the OECD?!?!

Hekia Parata stated,

We want all our students leaving school with the skills they need to reach their potential in the modern economyPartnerships schools or Kura Hourua will be based on international best practice and will ensure high levels of accountability and flexibility, while being tailored to New Zealand’s education environment.  “

See: Ministers announce framework for Partnership Schools

In which case, who in their right mind emulates a nation’s education system that has a worse ranking on the OECD scale than we do?  Because if that’s the standard that John Key, Hekia Parata, and John “I-can’t-recall” Banks is searching for, then perhaps we should emulate Indonesia.

They’re at the bottom of the scale.

If anyone knows the answer to this question, you may have unlocked the enigmatic, convoluted inner-workings of a right wing politicians brain.

As for John Banks – he was interviewed on today’s (2 August) Radio NZ “Checkpoint” programme, where he stated,

“… because I know, Suzie [RNZ interviewer] , that for the kids that are not engaged in the education system today, abandoning them to the dole is not good enough. This does work in Britain, does work in America, does work in Finland, does work in Switzerland, and this special partnbership schools are going to work here.

Radio NZ Checkpoint: Associate Education Minister on charter schools

Unfortunately for Banks, his comments are not supported by evidence,

  1. Charter schools “does not work” in the United States. The CREDO report states quite clearly that only 17% showed any appreciable improvement in outcomes. The remainder showed either no difference (46%) or a worse outcome (37%).
  2. Finland does not use the Charter schools system; Finland rejects all of the ‘reforms’ currently popular in the United States, such as testing, charter schools, vouchers, merit pay, competition, and evaluating teachers in relation to the test scores of their students.”
  3. This blogger can find no evidence that Charter schools exist in Switzerland. Indeed, quite the oppposite; “In Switzerland, most children go to public schools. Private schools usually are expensive and people tend to think that students of private schools probably didn’t make it at the public school. Public schools include “Kindergarten”, “Volksschule” (elementary school), “Gymnasium” (secondary school) and “Universitäten” (universities). Most municipalities provide kindergarten, primary and secondary schools. Most cantons provide at least one secondary school. There are eleven universities in Switzerland, nine are run by cantons, two are run by the confederation“.  See: Information about Education in Switzerland
  4. Of the countries mentioned by Banks, only Britain has Charter Schools, which they call academies. This blogger can find no peer-reviewed study to confirm their effectiveness or otherwise.

Once again, John Banks appears to be lying to the public. Nothing that escapes his lips can be taken at face-value.

There are  further points that warrant attention,

Subsidies

ACT has, in the main, been quick to oppose  subsidies.  It is a Party that prefers the “free market” approach. Indeed, it went so far as to oppose subsidies for superannuitants for  GP visits, power bills, and insurance.

See: John Banks –  Speaking Truth To (Grey) Power

ACT has condemned Kiwisaver subsidies –  incentives for people to save for retirement  –  as a “bribe”.

Likewise, subsidies for doctor’s visits and University education were condemned as not in the “public good”.

See: Saving New Zealand: Building a More Prosperous New Zealand

ACT condemned the previous Labour’s job-creation programme, which invested $251 million subsidising young people into work, as an  “expensive band-aid”.

See: Labour Created Record Youth Unemployment

Yet, at the same time, ACT sees no contradiction in subsidising private organisations, churches, and corporations to set up and run Charter Schools?

One can only surmise that corporate welfare is still very much an integral part of ACT policy. “Money for mates” – business mates – is one way to put it.

If someone wants to set up a school, within certain Ministry of Education guidelines, then let them spend their own money on such a venture. This blogger sees no reason why the taxpayer should be spending our taxes on private enterprises. That is not why we pay our taxes.

Untrained Teachers

The prospect that Charter Schools will be staffed by untrained “teachers” beggars belief. This is not how a modern nation upskills it’s people – by engaging untrained staff instead of highly educated professionals.

If National is  going for the cheaper option, where untrained “teachers” are paid minimum wages to teach vulnerable, low socio-economic children – then what is the point of spending millions of dollars on teacher training?

Especially when Education Minister Hekia Parata recently  announced last week that a postgraduate qualification would become the new minimum requirement for all trainee teachers.

As Hekia Parata stated, on 16 May, National’s new policies would include,

1. Invest an additional $60 million over four years to boost new teacher- recruitment and training

2. Ensure that student teachers are equipped with the best teaching practices for 21st century learning

3. Shift to a post-graduate qualification for new teachers

4. And give stronger mentoring and coaching for those teachers working towards full registration.

See: Hekia Parata: Raising achievement for all in Budget 2012

Parata went on to say,

Even so, our National-led Government is committed to improving the quality of teaching through an ongoing investment of just over $300m over the next four years in professional learning and development.

 · Today I am pleased to announce that in Budget 2012 we will invest a further $511.9m of new money into quality frontline education services.

 · Quality teaching is about holding high expectations of, being able to relate to and finding what works for every single child in the classroom. That’s what every one of our teachers needs to be able to do.

So if National is pushing for new teachers to attain postgraduate qualifications – an expensive investment in on-going education – then what is the point of spending taxpayers’ money on setting up  Charter Schools staffed by untrained or poorly trained staff?!

On what planet does this make sense to anyone? Planet National?

The Finns certainly did not achieve their #2 and #3 rankings on the OECD scale by dumbing down the teaching profession and opting for second-best.

In contrast to Parata’s 16 May statement, it is sobering to note that the 2 August media release by Hekia Parata and John Banks, announcing the advent of Charter Schools, did not once mention teachers or improved teacher training.

Not once.

See: Ministers announce framework for Partnership Schools

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That little fact speaks volumes about National/ACT’s reliance on ideology rather than common sense.

John Key’s insistance that we shouldn’t get “hung up” on the issue of untrained teachers in classrooms simply boggles the mind.

See: Key: Don’t worry about unqualified teachers

In this instance, his casualness will have raised eyebrows and probably a few hackles.  His suggestion that “he would be happy with his children being taught by unregistered teachers” is a derisable joke – Key sends his kids to expensive private schools.

The stench of hypocrisy…

But I’ll leave the last word to investigative journalist/documentary maker, Bryan Bruce,

So… charter schools will not have to employ qualified teachers. What a brilliant idea!

Let’s see …next we could have charter doctors, charter dentists, charter architects, charter engineers… all totally unqualified.. and Hey! we could get rid of universities.. Think of all that lovely money we’d save.

Goodbye student loan – who needs one?

Hip hip! for our charter politicians John Banks and Hekia Parata . Hurrah !

Now our Charter kids won’t have to worry about the future.

They won’t have one.”

See: Facebook -Inside Child Poverty

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Previous Blogposts

Privatisation of our schools?!

Additional

Education shake-up ‘biggest for years’

Destiny Church may get funding for new school

Key defends state-funded private schools

On charter schools – Gordon Campbell

OECD:  Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science

OECD: PISA – Education at a Glance 2011

Ministers announce framework for Partnership Schools

Charter schools could employ unregistered teachers

Keep religion out of schools

Charter Schools Still A Pig

Government allows non-qualified teachers into school system

New charter school model ignores findings of research

Key: Don’t worry about unqualified teachers

Stanford University: Charter School Performance in 16 States (USA)

The Economist: Charting a better course

Radio NZ: Checkpoint – Plan to allow unregistered teachers into charter schools

Lessons from Finland, Korea

West Virginia learns Finland’s ‘most honorable profession’: Teacher

Majority against hiring unqualified teachers

From around the world

Salon: Education reform’s central myths

allthingslearning: Can a teacher “create” LEARNing THAT LASTS?

BBC: Academies told they can hire unqualified teachers

New Statesman: The American revolution in English schools

Huffington Post: In Support of the Whole Child

Other Blogs

No Right Turn: Charter schools are bad schools

Local Bodies: NZ Charter Schools Defined

The Standard: Incoherent education policy

The Standard: Robber’s charter

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Minister for whut?!?!

10 February 2012 6 comments

It appears that ACT is  in a world of it’s own…

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Source

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Don Brash resigned as Leader of ACT on 26 November – about two and a half  months ago.

But perhaps even more curious is this,

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Source

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There is no such portfolio as “Minister of Parliament for Epsom”.

At best, John Banks is the MP (Member of Parliament ) for Epsom.

And of course, there was this little item I blogged about back in December, last year,

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Source

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It’s interesting that ACT has managed to “update” the above page by adding a Facebook  “Like” button, and a Google “+1” button – but have not yet figured out that they have only one MP (John Banks) – not five, as pictured.

This would be mildly amusing (and not really worthwhile to blog about) – except that ACT is now on course to implement it’s unpopular and ideologically-based, “Charter Schools” policy (which was never mandated by voters, as it was never raised as a public issue), and has appointed Catherine Isaac (ex-ACT President, and ACT List candidate for 2011 Election) to oversee the implementation of Charter Schools.

This re-structuring of part of our education is a major change to our education system, and has the potential to impact on the lives of an entire generation of children.

It seems inconceivable that the implementation of this radical, controversial policy, is in the hands of people who don’t know how many MPs they have in Parliament; who their Leader is;  employ Parliamentary titles that don’t exis; and can’t be bothered to update on-line information.

What, exactly, should we trust about ACT?

This should be cause for concern for all New Zealanders.

For the record:

  • John Banks is not the “Minister” for Epsom – he is the Member of Parliament for Epsom.
  • The term “Minister for Epsom” does not exist.
  • ACT has one MP, not five.
  • None of the five persons depicted on the ACT webpage as “MPs” are MPs  (none stood for re-election in 2011).
  • Don Brash is not the Leader of ACT.

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Acknowledgements for this story

Previous Blog post

ACT woefully behind the times?

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A Very National Coup?

1 February 2012 4 comments

Some weeks ago, a furore erupted when NZ on Air boardmember, Stephen McElrea, complained about the broadscasting of a document on TV3, just four days before the Elections last year.

The documentary was a highly critical look at growing child poverty in this country.

The timing of the documentary’s broadcasting  was criticised by Stephen McElrea, who complained that it was highly politicised and could impact of NZ on Air’s “impartiality”. There were suggestion made that NZ on Air should have authority over when programme  should be broadcast.

Stephen McElrea is also John Key’s Electorate Secretary and a Regional Deputy Chair for the National Party,

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The public debate quickly re-focused on Mr McElrea’s appointment to NZ on Air’s Board, and how that impacted on that organisation’s impartiality.

NZ on Air has recently announced that it will not be seeking to influence broadcasting scheduling.

It is apparent that Mr McElrea’s position on NZ on Air’s Board has given the National Party a measure of influence within that organisation.

Today (1 February) an announcement was made that ACT  member;  former Party List candidate and former Party President, Catherine Isaac,  has been appointed to oversee the introduction of the government’s Charter  Schools programme in South Auckland and Christchurch,

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Source

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Ms Isaac is a businesswoman but with no education experience.

John Banks defends her appointment by stating,

Ms Isaac is a well-respected, competent business person who was also a member of a school board of trustees for six years.” – Source

Really?!

Using that bizarre style of  “logic”, a member of a District Health Board is qualified to conduct surgery if s/he has been in that role for six years? Medical school experience is not a requirement?

I wonder if John Banks would be comfortable with an untrained District Health Board member doing a wee bit of brain surgery on him… as long as said-member has been on the Board for six years?!

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I can see an opportunity here for some cost-cutting: we obviously won’t be needing Medical Schools anymore.

Aside from Ms Isaac’s unquestioned ability to make money, and a strong ability to sit on a School Board and discuss acquisition of toilet paper and pencils – precisely what experience in education dores she have?

And do parents feel comfortable in an unqualified, inexperienced person effectively re-structuring our schools?

It beggars belief that the government has allowed Ms Isaac’s appointment to proceed.  Surely someone on the Beehive Ninth Floor must have their “spidey sense” tingling, and considering the issue more deeply,

Hang on, this is not a good idea. This could make us look bad in the public eye. And if she f**ks up, we’ll cop the flak…”

It appears that Ms Isaac’s sole attribute for this position – like Stephen McElrea’s appointment to NZ on Air’s Board – is Party affiliation.

This is yet another naked positioning of power in our bureacracy. Like One Party states throughout history, National is maximising it’s influence by appointing Party cadres throughout the system.

This is comparable to the old Soviet Bloc, where people had to be card-carrying members of the local communist party before being appointed to a good job.

It appears that National is borrowing from those now-defunct systems?

We have also had the following appointees. Make of them what you will,

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Full Story

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Katherine Rich has been appointed to the Health Promotion Agency Establishment Board, which replaces the Alcohol Advisory Council.

The move has outraged advocacy group Alcohol Action. Spokesperson Doug Sellman says Ms Rich has been one of the most vociferous defenders of the alcohol industry.

Professor Sellman says supermarkets normalise alcohol as an ordinary commodity and sell it by the tonne at ultra-cheap prices up to 24 hours a day.Ibid

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The Labour Party agrees the appointment of Katherine Rich is too much a conflict of interest.

Health spokesperson Grant Robertson told Radio New Zealand while he holds Ms Rich personally in high regard, he believes her role with the Food and Grocery Council does clash with being part of such an agency.

“I think the linkage with her role supporting and advocating for the supermarkets is unfortunate and doesn’t sit well with the health promotion role that the future agency will have.”

However, in a written statement on Saturday, Health Minister Tony Ryall says Ms Rich, a former National MP, was appointed for her experience, balance and integrity.” Ibid

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(L-R) National MPs Simon Powell, Katherine Rich, former National leader Don Brash, National MPs Nathan Guy and Gerry Brownlee applaud John Key as he delivers his speech as the New Zealand National Party launch their election campaign at Sky City on October 12, 2008 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Source

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The Radio NZ report does raise an important question regarding her appointment to  the Health Promotion Agency Establishment Board, which replaces the Alcohol Advisory Council.

ALAC was an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of New Zealand’s considerable alcohol related (some say fueled) problems.

2009 BERL report estimated that “$4.437 million of diverted resources and lost welfare” could be directly attributed to alcohol abuse. That $4.4 billion  is reflected in  ACC, hospital admissions, crime, family violence, lost productivity, etc, and places a firm dollar cost on the harm that alcohol abuse is causing NZ society. These are costs we all pay for through ACC levies and taxes spent on medical intervention; policing; and the justice system.

Whilst working for the Food and Grocery Council, Ms Rich was a firm advocate of liberal laws surrounding marketting and retailing of alcohol.,

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) and Alcohol Advisory Council (Alac) strongly backed the recommendations.

Alac chief executive Gerard Vaughan said it set out a clear objective of reducing alcohol-related harm which stretched to structure and role changes for the district licensing agencies responsible for managing liquor licensing in their own communities.

Communities up and down the country were sick of the violence and vandalism that came with drinking and that proposed changes to licencing regimes would help address the problem, Mr Vaughan said.

Nearly 3000 submissions were received by the commission, many of which supported the tightening of laws around alcohol sales, purchasing and consumption.

But NZ Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said the report reflected “classic nanny state thinking.”

It failed to target those causing the problems and punished everyone, she said. The industry was already one of the most regulated, and more sensible ways to approach existing problems included better enforcement of current rules and better use of legal powers, along with industry-led initiatives.”   Source

New Zealand has a $4 billion-plus problem with alcohol abuse (BERL report) and Katherine Rich dismissed attempts to address this crisis as “classic nanny state thinking“.

It is worthwhile reflecting that since liquor laws were de-regulated in the mid 1980s (as part of the wave of Rogernomics “reforms”), that 25 years later things have gotten steadily worse.

And then we had this little “gem”, back in September last year,

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Full Story

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One has to question why  the position was not advertised, as is common practice? The State Services Commissioner  did find that he was satisfied with English’s appointment.

If so, this brings up a valid point; how can we differentiate between blatant political appointees and those made on merit, if the entire system is brought into disrepute? Public perception is growing that this government is stacking various organisation Boards with party apparatchiks – and judging by recent events, that perception is not misplaced.

This Blog will keep an eye out for more political Party appointees.

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Postscript

ACT’s ability to oversee the implementation of it’s radical “Charter Schools” policy is questionable, when it cannot even keep it’s own website up-to-date.

Question: How many MPs does ACT have in Parliament?

Answer: 1.

But not according to their website, which still shows their muster of five MPs from last year. Oh dear,

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(And John Banks nowhere to be seen.)

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Previous Blog stories

Has National declared class-war on New Zealand?

Privatisation of our schools?!

Additional

Scoop: Tom Frewen – NZ on Air Spooked by Political Interference

National: Northern Region

National: Helensville Electorate

ACT: Catherine Isaac

Radio NZ: ACT member appointed to oversee charter trial

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New Year’s Wish List for 2012…

29 December 2011 9 comments

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My New Year’s wish list for 2012. Nothing too extravagant – just a few things that, in my ‘umble opinion, would make New Zealand the egalitarian social democracy we once had – before someone thought that pursuing the Almighty Dollar was more important than building communites.

In no particular order,

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  Stop the asset sales process. This government has no mandate to privatise any of our SOEs. There is also no rationale for any privatisation, as dividends  exceed the cost of borrowing by the State.

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  Halt the Charter Schools programme. There is little evidence that Chart Schools achieve better results  than  non-Charter Schools, and at least one major research project on this issue indicates that Charter Schools are a waste of time.

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  Introduce “civics” into our classroom curriculum. I’ve never considered this a necessity – up until now – but our recent low voter turnout – coupled with peoples’ apalling knowledge of how how political system works – is disturbingly. A modern democracy can only flourish if the public participate; contribute; and take ownership of the system.  Apathy breeds cynicism, frustration, and ultimately disengagement, disempowerment, and a violent response.

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  Implement programmes to assist those in poverty – especially families with children. Meals in schools (breakfasts and/or lunch) would be a great start. Build more state housing. Support programmes that help get young people  into training, upskilling, and  other constructive activities.

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  Stop bene-bashing and tinkering with the welfare system. Our high unemployment is a symptom of the current economic recession – not the cause of it. Instead, government must focus on job creation policies; training and upskilling of unemployed; and spending on infrastructure that maximises new jobs – not reduces them.

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  It’s time to wind back our liberalisation of liquor laws in this country. That particular experiment has been a colossal failure. Split the drinking age to 18/20; ban ALL alcohol advertising; put in place minimum pricing; reduce hours of retailers and bars; give communities greater voice and control of liquor outlets; make public drunkeness an offence; and implement the other recommendations of the Law Commission’s report, ‘Alcohol In Our Lives: Curbing the Harm‘.

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  Increase funding for Pharmac so that sufferers of rare diseases, such as Pompe’s,  can have hope for their future, instead of mortgaging it merely to postpone death for another day. We can do this – we must do this.

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  Release and make public all relevant information regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Making such deals in secret is hardly the transparency-in-government that John Key says he supports.

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  Maintain and keep funding TVNZ7. The planned closure of this station – and replacement with a shopping channel – would be a blow to decent public television in this country. We can, and must do better, than simply a channel devoted to more mindless consumerism.

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  Cease from further cuts to the civil service. Sacking loyal, conscientious, workers is not the “capping” – it is adding to the unemployment dole queues. It is gutting the system that makes a modern society function and we are losing decades of collective skills and experience for no discernible purpose. We went through this in the late ’80s; early ’90s; and late ’90s – and our services suffered as a result.

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Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Stat!

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  The Ministerial committee on poverty is set to end homelessness by 2020. This is simply not good enough!!! Bill English was interviewed on Radio NZ  on 16 December, and his responses to Kathryn Ryan’s questions were not reassuring. This excerpt from the interview was most telling,

RYAN: “It’s to report every six months, the committee. What measures will it use?”

ENGLISH: “Well, look, we won’t  spend a lot of time arguing over measures, there’s any number  of measures out there ranging from gini co-efficients  to kind of upper quartile [and] lower quartile incomes. Lot of of that is already reported in the MSD social report that it puts out each year…”Bill English and the new ministerial committee on poverty

If the Committee doesn’t monitor itself, how will it be able to measure it’s success (or fail) rate?

Poverty and unemployment have to be the top priorities of this government. Nothing else is as important.

Like the way in which the Jobs Summit, in early 2009,  sank beneath the waves,  I do not hold out for much success though.

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  Less spent on roads – more on rail and other public transport. Our continuing reliance on imported fossil fuels will not help our economy or environment one iota.

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  No mining on the Denniston Plateau (or any other Conservation lands). This ecologically-sensitive wilderness area needs to be preserved for future generations.  If we want to make money our of our environment – tourism is the way to go, contributing to approximately 10% of this country’s GDP.  John Key. Minister of   Tourism (NZ – not Hawaii), take note.

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  No deep-sea oil drilling. The stranding of the ‘Rena’ and subsequent loss of  of 350 tonnes (out of around 1,700 tonnes) of oil into the sea is the clearest lesson we’ve been taught that NZ is simply not prepared to cope with a massive deep-sea oil spill. An event such as the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, last year in April, by comparison lost 780,000 cubic metres of oil. An event of that magnitude would be catastrophic to our countrry.

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  Free healthcare for all young people up to 18.  And children to have first priority when it comes to our resources and funding. The future of our nation depends on healthy, well-educated, balanced children growing up as productive members of our society. Who knows – if we look after our children properly, they might feel more connected to our country and more motivated to live here instead of leaving for Australia. If we want our children to have committment to New Zealand – we need to be committed to them.

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Those are a few of my New Year’s wish list.  There are probably others that I may add at a later date – but they’ll do for now.

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