Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Brief Submison on Charter Schools

Presented to the Parliamentary Sub Committee on Education, Friday 22nd February, 2013 at Auckland
As a citizen, I can go to any school website to find any information on that school; the latest Eduction Review Office reports, its board meetings. I also have the right to go up to any school, knock on the door and ask to see this and any other information.
In the 21st century is unthinkable to exempt Charter Schools from inspection and to deny these personal freedoms, including the right of entry and the right to free and fair enquiry. It implies that there may well be something to hide, that things are not as they should be and opens one's mind to many areas of suspicion. No school, pupil or teacher deserves this; therefore to exempt Charter Schools from the same compliance as other educational facilities is nonsensical.

Under the proposed rules, the lack of an inspection regime or the ability to monitor would mean that these schools could get any compliant lawyer or accountant to sign off anything. There must be inspection and public scrutiny. 

The lack of transparency about Charter Schools is a real concern. The safety of all, especially children and the quality of the education they receive, must be the first responsibility of the state. This can only happen within a transparent model. These schools will be publicly funded. Tax payers should be able to inquire where the taxes are spent and we expect the government to take all tax expenditure seriously.
We citizens enjoy long established and respected vehicles in New Zealand that we can use to make our own inquiries if we have a concern. Two of these public bodies are the ombudsman office and the official information act.

Taxpayer’s funds will be placed at an increased and unnecessary risk by allowing these school accounts and public funding to be outside of public inspection. I have served in Non Government Organizations and other bodies. In all my experience we reported to our funding agencies and had our accounts audited. We held an Annual General Meetings and had our pre-school and after-school activities and programmes inspected by the Education Review Office and also by other regulatory bodies such as local government and national government health and safety offices. This is not unusual. 
These practices provide confidence to the funding agencies and the public at large that their funds are being used properly and that these institutions have buildings that are safe and fit for purpose and that the accounts are proper.

To allow less defies logic and is well below the public expectation of what are known rules regarding public funding. These accepted standards should not be lowered and if anything is to be changed it would be better to lift the standard. If parliament decides that this is an acceptable practice it has failed the public interest.