Thursday, February 14, 2013

Unconstitutional and dangerous

That's the Ombudsman's view of National's plan to exclude its charter schools from the Ombudsman's and Official Information Acts:

The bill exempts partnership schools from the Ombudsman's Act and the Official Information Act, but Dame Beverley Wakem told the select committee that is unconstitutional.

Dame Beverley said the acts ensure that state-funded agencies are accountable and people have a fundamental right to the complaints process provided by the Office of the Ombudsman.

The full submission is here [PDF]. It makes the simple point that state-funded agencies with statutory powers are covered by both acts to ensure accountability and transparency. Its good enough for National's private prisons, and its good enough for schools as well. In addition, they point out that the Ombudsman has had an important role in ensuring schools provide a safe physical environment for their students (particularly around bullying), and in ensuring that they follow the rules around suspension and exclusion. Ousting their jurisdiction would prevent them from fulfilling those roles - allowing such schools to be dangerous and lawless.

Charter schools will be taking public money and exercising statutory powers. They should therefore be subject to the full constitutional safeguards around such activities. We should not permit National to carve out a secret realm beyond the reach of the law in the education system for its cronies.