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Education (Board of Trustees Freedom) Bill

Education (Board of Trustees Freedom) Bill
Wednesday 4 August 2010; 7.45pm
Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party

The origins for this Bill arise, of course, from the revolution that took place in Aotearoa in 1989 under Tomorrow’s Schools.

When that legislation swept into place, the responsibilities for the governance and management of our schools shifted from the Government to individual schools.

Each school was to be governed by an elected Board of Trustees which would be responsible not just for the management of the school but also for the legal compliance with National Education Guidelines.

This brought with it the power to employ teachers; to hold the principal accountable for performance issues; to manage finances, school property and the implementation of the curriculum.

This Bill, essentially, extends those 1989 powers to the fullest degree, enabling Boards of Trustees to manage their own affairs by having full control over the employment of teachers at their school.

Teachers’ salaries are currently paid out directly by the Crown. This Bill will remove that obligation from the Crown and place it in the hands of the Boards of Trustees via the grants process.

It is a radical move. In a technical sense it is literally the creation of a new section 91 which states that the payment of all teachers salaries must be paid out by the Board of Trustees from the grants paid to it under section 79 of the Act.

But more than that, it is about consolidating the autonomy and the self-determined direction of the local school; it is about establishing their total and absolute control.

Associated with that of course is the potential for discrimination or questionable practice by the Boards in hiring teachers granted their newly acquired authority under this Bill.

While we are keen to learn how the unfettered power and authority of Boards of Trustees would be monitored and scrutinised, we can not overlook the significant call from many kura, for autonomy, for self-managing, self-determining schools.

And I think it worthwhile to mention that the same legislation which brought in Tomorrow’s Schools in 1989 also brought in provision for communities to begin new schools is the Kura Kaupapa Maori movement.

Kura kaupapa as we all know now, is a means by which Te Reo Maori is the principal language of instruction and the history, values, beliefs, and practices of mana whenua are honoured and protected.

They are, in many ways, the ultimate expression of “mätauranga Mäori motuhake” (“full autonomy and status for Mäori knowledge and values”). Distinguished Professor Graham Hingangaroa Smith spells it out in more detail. He says that the three key themes of kaupapa Maori are:

• validity and legitimacy of Mäori; • the survival and revival of Mäori language and culture; • and Mäori autonomy over their own cultural wellbeing and their own lives.

It is this last principle which has really influenced us in considering this bill – I guess you could call it the tino rangatiratanga principle.

It is about the relationship between autonomy and mana motuhake, self-determination and independence. We consider the questions as to how kura can demonstrate meaningful control over one’s own life and cultural well-being.

And so, when the Maori Party came across this Bill we saw in it, the possibility to respond to the call from kura, which was to support the ability of Māori to make their own decisions, as an example of Māori educational independence.

And if there’s one thing the Maori Party is really keen to support, it is to provide a mechanism by which we can attract whanau, hapu and iwi to engage with Parliament in creating a vision for Maori educational independence, prosperity and success.

In line with our usual practice at first readings then, and in the hope that Maori will be able to contribute at the select committee stage, we will support this bill into the first reading, and this bill will allow the korero to be had.


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