The Barnett Government’s announcement of the establishment of Independent Public Schools is of major concern to the SSTUWA.
A joint meeting of the SSTUWA, CPSU-CSA and LHMU Senior Officers was held with the Director General Sharyn O’Neill on Friday 14 August 2009. It was evident at this meeting that the “rules/ operation procedures” are in many instances being made up on the run. Further, no real consideration has been made of the impact on industrial instruments or various policy positions agreed between the parties.
Without consultation, this program was expanded in 2010 before any real examination of the intial trial had begun.
It should be of major concern to school communities, parents and the broader community. Why? These are just a few issues:
- Lack of genuine consultation with key stakeholders in the development stage
- Undue haste in nominating to be part of the “scheme”, making a farce of the notion of “community consultation”
- Real concerns about the impact on equity and access issues in the public education system
- No discussion on the industrial ramifications for SSTU, CPSU-CSA and LHMU members
Despite Minister Constable assuring the Executive in term 1 2009 that consultation would occur around the Liberal Government’s pre election policy Empowering Local Communities, Government has proceeded without consultation.
In just under four (4) weeks school communities were to have discussed the notion of “Independent Public School” and determined if they will throw their hat in the ring.
What Are They?
- These schools have operated in different countries since 1988 as independent, self-governing, academy or, most commonly in the US and Canada, charter schools. There are significant differences in how they operate but common features are that they are independently- operated schools that are funded by governments (with corporate, university or parent sponsorship in some cases). Most have control over selection of student population, budgets, teaching resources and in many cases curriculum. They can be new or existing schools. The rationale for change is often that the schools are failing, dysfunctional or in urgent need of additional resources.
- WA has proposed up to 30 independent schools by 2010. Principals will hire and fire and can get rid of students as well as manage schools budget and assets. These schools will also have greater curriculum control. There is no rationale for this approach other than to reduce bureaucracy and free the schools to “innovate”. It is the educational equivalent of the gated community.
Victorian Self-Governing Schools A Disaster
- Similar to WA in that there was none of the preconditions for these type of schools in other countries. Kennett made an incentivised offer to schools to take part.
- Created a two-tier system of government schools with the government abandoning its responsibility to ensure equality of opportunity for all students and shifting responsibility for schools to local school councils. Public polling showed majority opposition and it was viewed as a cost-cutting move with no educational rationale.
- School councils had to become employers taking on administrative, business and industrial responsibilities offloaded by the Education Department. They had to take on legal liability, deal with industrial disputes, workers compensation, salaries etc. Led to differential salaries for principals, removed award protection, security of employment and introduced minimum conditions significantly worse than those of departmental employees. (AEU Victorian branch)
- Allowed Government to shift blame and responsibility for juggling budgets to school councils who were encouraged to seek corporate sponsorship and put business people on council. It diverted school principals and senior teachers from educational leadership and teaching to administration, marketing, organizational development and funds management. (AEU Victorian branch)
- Despite offers of extra funding for those who signed up only 51 out of 1600 (3 per cent) schools elected to become self-governed and the program was axed by the Bracks Gov after its election in 1999. (AEU Victorian branch)
Don’t Improve Education Outcomes
- In June 2009 the first detailed study of charter schools across the US found a wide variation in quality with students overall not faring as well as those in public schools. It found 17 per cent of charter schools reported academic gains better than public schools while 37 per cent showed gains that were worse. 46 per cent demonstrated no significant difference. (Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States, CREDO, Stanford)
- Another major study of charter schools in the US found: “There is no evidence that, on average, charter schools outperform regular public schools. In fact there is evidence that the average impact of charter schools is negative.” (The Charter School Dust Up by M.Carnoy, R. Jacobsen, L.Mishel and R. Rothstein)
- Australian researchers looking at school reforms in England, Wales the US, Aus and NZ found:
- “Similarly, the devolution of decision-making to the school level has shown no necessary consequences for enhancing teacher autonomy and professionalism and appears to be making little difference to the outcome of student learning.” (Devolution and Choice in Education by G.Witty, D. Halpin and S.Power)
Leads to Segregation and Don’t Address Disadvantage
- American researchers found that charters do no enroll more disadvantaged students but are associated with increased segregation and higher rates of student turnover (The Charter School Dust Up by M.Carnoy, R. Jacobsen, L.Mishel and R. Rothstein)