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Cabinet Papers: Close Schools - Pocket Millions

Cabinet Papers: Close Schools - Pocket Millions

Despite Trevor Mallard's denials, cabinet papers released to me under the Official Information Act show closing schools - 300 in 10 years - is all about saving money, ACT's Education Spokesman Deborah Coddington said today.

"The Education Minister has repeatedly claimed school closures will raise education standards, but has consistently failed to provide evidence to back up this claim. That's because there is no evidence.

"Instead, cabinet papers dated 19 June 2003 state 'the closure and/or merger of 161 schools between 1992 and 2002 resulted in gross savings of $96,334,000. That averages out as $598,000 per school'.

"The paper states there will be 'up to 10 reviews each year for the next five to seven years' - a somewhat different time scale than the 10 years claimed by Mr Mallard," Miss Coddington said.

"Each review will involve 'approximately 100 schools per year, of which it can be expected that 25 to 40 schools will be disestablished. Based on the historical figures above this will result in gross savings of between $14,950,000 and $23,920,000 each year, or up to $71,760,000 over the three years represented by this budget bid'.

"That's a staggering amount of disruption and will rip the heart out of provincial and rural New Zealand," said Miss Coddington. "The Government should be devolving education funding to parents, with each child having an education entitlement, so parents can choose and school communities can do what they know best - educate youngsters - as opposed to being pushed around by Nanny State.

"The reviews, cabinet papers claim, are required to achieve 'stronger professional communities, upgraded facilities, larger rolls and improved integration with other local schools'. In fact, anyone who has visited school communities under threat, as I have done, will see there is not a lot wrong with the schools Mallard is closing or reviewing.

"For the cabinet papers to claim that 'without such reviews the schools involved can expect continued roll declines with associated losses of morale and a locally damaging contest for diminishing numbers of students' is poppycock. Many of these schools have increasing rolls, and the Minister refuses to disclose the research that he uses to predict roll numbers dropping by 60,000 students.

"Parents of children affected by these reviews have paid taxes to have their children educated, not to have the money grabbed off them by a Government obsessed with amassing a surplus. The Minister should admit these reviews are scandalous, out of control, and dangerous, and call a halt immediately," Said Miss Coddington.

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