Matt McCarten: Time to expel education minister

26 Feb

By Matt McCarten Email Matt

Except for Prime Minister John Key, does anyone disagree that our current Minister of Education is becoming even more of a liability than she was before he decided not to sack her?

She’s out of her depth. When you didn’t think it could get worse for her, three Christchurch intermediate school principals this week claimed she had promised their schools would stay open for at least two years, no matter what, so they could plan for certainty.

Education Minister Hekia Parata. Photo / Ben Fraser

Education Minister Hekia Parata

It turns out she had proposed to the Cabinet that the schools close. Any wonder the principals were questioning her integrity?

If that wasn’t bad enough, we also watched her embarrassing contortions this week when she stubbornly refused to apologise to teachers over the Novopay debacle.

She is on constant defence as teachers and their unions pile on the heat.

Rodney Hide on this page last week tried to whip up an attack to help her. According to him, the teacher unions’ crime is that almost every teacher in the country voluntarily joins, giving them the power and resources to effectively oppose policies of Government.

He laments that the education unions have more members and a greater income than all the political parties put together. Ten times the income and twice the membership, actually.

That more teachers will become a member of a union than citizens join a political party says a lot about our politicians.

Just as a reminder, during the last election National did not mention education policies such as charter schools, yet the great educationalist John Banks insisted it become government policy as part of Act’s coalition deal. Act’s entire electoral nationwide vote was less than the membership of just one of the education unions.

The education unions have the legitimacy and mandate to raise concerns about charter schools. They actually have an obligation to blow the whistle over this covert campaign to privatise our schools.

The teachers’ concerns are mirrored by the Treasury, Ministry of Education, the Auditor-General and even the Ombudsman, who all have expressed reservations about charter schools.

Yet our Education Minister continues selling us a system where businesses can get paid by taxpayers to run for-profit schools with unregistered and unqualified teachers. These charter schools could be exempt from any Ombudsman oversight or the Official Information Act.

I wonder what our former Act leader and perk-buster would have made if Labour had tried giving taxpayers’ money away without accountability? It drives the Government and its private education business supporters crazy that teachers are winning the public opinion battle.

They claim teachers unfairly influence parents against government policies. It never seems to occur to them that maybe teachers choose a career in education because they care about teaching and their students and are right.

And maybe parents trust teachers because they reflect the needs of their children. And maybe Parata and Act leader Banks aren’t the most credible representatives when it comes to selling education ideology.

This Government hates the education unions because they are controlling the debate on education.

The Novopay fiasco and an error-prone minister make it easier. The education unions are powerful. More importantly though, they are smart. That’s why they’ll win.

Surely the minister can’t keep hanging on?

By Matt McCarten Email Matt

- Herald on Sunday

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