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Public schools should be publicly owned

August 25th 2008 -- For immediate use

Public schools should be publicly owned, operated and funded

Public education in New Zealand should be owned, operated and funded by the government, the education union NZEI Te Riu Roa says.

NZEI was responding to National Party education spokeperson Anne Tolley's statement that National was looking at allowing private developers to build and own new state schools.

NZEI President Frances Nelson said schools' ability to undertake teaching and learning should not be compromised by an outside party such as a private developer.

The private developer would obviously put profit first which could bring huge uncertainty into education if they pulled out or sold off schools. In the long term, our children and their learning would be the losers."

Ms Nelson says schools and their building are at the heart of our communities and one of our most important public assets.

"If a Government moves away from public ownership of schools, the extent of its commitment to public education must be in question," she says.

She said while private developers building and owning schools would make the Government's books look good because the capital cost would be borne by the developer, the long term costs to the taxpayer of leasing it back from the developer could be higher.

Experience overseas showed that public-private partnerships had resulted in a number of problems. These included schools and their communities losing access to schools after hours because they were leased to other users to make them more profitable to the owners; commercial contracts with private developers that allowed less public scrutiny of the real costs; difficulties for schools in ensuring adequate upkeep and maintenance; and lower paid and less secure jobs for the employees involved in building maintenance.

ENDS

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