The TPPA and our public education system

By   /   May 24, 2015  /   32 Comments

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What if the reason they are budgeting for only two more charter schools in 2016/17 is because the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) and Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) will make it all a moot point?

For a moment there as the budget was announced, I was relieved, at least with regards to charter schools. Only two for next year – perhaps the government are seeing the folly in it all, I thought. Perhaps they see that even the decent ones are not doing anything innovative or different and in fact are being outshone by the best of our state schools? Perhaps they see there’s no room for schools that for whatever reason don’t embrace students with high special educational needs. Perhaps they realise the cost involved is insanely expensive and the money would be better spent in public schools?

Yes, for a moment there I really thought they may be getting the idea …

Then a horrible thought crossed my mind.

Education and the TPPA

What if the reason they are budgeting for only two more charter schools in 2016/17 is because the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) and Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) will make it all a moot point?

Tim Groser admitted in the House this week that there will be no TPPA without ISDS. What that means in layman’s terms is that once the TPPA and ISDS are signed overseas corporations will be able to push for changes to our laws.  And if NZ refuses to do as a corporation demands, the business can sue NZ  on the grounds that we are preventing them from making the maximum profit possible.

That’s right, companies with billions at their fingertips will be able to sue NZ.

And as Professor Jane Kelsey has pointed out, “[o]ften the foreign firms just threaten to bring these cases to harass governments and ‘chill’ them into backing off new measures the investors don’t like.”

What does all of this mean for New Zealand education?

Well, consider the huge influence billionaires such as Bill Gates and the Walton family (owners of Walmart) have had on US education:

The Waltons have funded and promoted charter schools and school voucher systems to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, with family members involved in many pro-charter organisations.  They are determined and they are wealthy.

Bill Gates educationAnd what about Bill Gates, who has poured millions into charter schools, teacher performance pay, high-stakes testing and the US Common Core curriculum? Has it helped?  Quite the contrary – these measures have proven to be hugely problematic.  Yet, thanks to his millions, Bill Gates’ influence in US education is gargantuan.

In short, these rich meddlers are buying up education in the USA.

And once the TPPA is signed, they and others will be able to do the same in Aotearoa and we would have little chance to stop it.

No Mandate in NZ

Neither the Waltons, Bill Gates, Pearson Publishing, Mike Feinberg nor any of the other parties that might have their eye on NZ education have been elected to represent us. They aren’t NZ MPs, they have no vote here, and they don’t even have children at school here  – but none of that will matter once the TPPA is signed.

At that point, big business has the power.

Diane Ravitch, education historian and former US Assistant Secretary of Education puts it best when she says:

There is something fundamentally antidemocratic about relinquishing control of the public education policy agenda to private foundations run by society’s wealthiest people.” 

The TPPA does just that.

Just two more charter schools? Not if TPPA is signed – not a hope. And that’ll be the least of our worries.

_____________________

Sources & further reading:

PETITION: EDUCATION IS NOT A COMMODITY

http://mfat.govt.nz/Trade-and-Economic-Relations/2-Trade-Relationships-and-Agreements/Trans-Pacific/index.php

Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, pp. 200-201

Walmart’s influence in education: http://walmart1percent.org/issues/education/#_ftn1

QPEC on KIPP charter schools:

http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/418279/20626253/1350250600617/QPEC-KIPP.pdf?token=H8hdy2JkW4YecAWXVX6IWIuONOE%3D

 

 

 

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32 Comments

  1. CLEANGREEN says:

    “once the TPPA and ISDS are signed overseas corporations will be able to push for changes to our laws. And if NZ refuses to do as a corporation demands, the business can sue NZ on the grounds that we are preventing them from making the maximum profit possible.

    That’s right, companies with billions at their fingertips will be able to sue NZ.”

    Key was sent to hand NZ over to global corporations and foreign money be rest assured of this, and sadly kiwi’s have not seen this nor has the opposition at large we see.

    It is time for Opposition to get back our Public owned media and make this the main topic of political division or they are just being complicit by their lack of any opposition to this takeover of NZ.

  2. Blake says:

    Thanks Dianne for this further info on the horrors of TPPA.
    US Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the rare good politicians, is worth checking out on TPPA. Greedy corporations haven’t won yet.

    http://rt.com/shows/big-picture/259865-fta-us-iraq-syria/

    http://www.democracynow.org/2015//13/revolt_over_tpp_senate_dems_rebuke

  3. Sunny says:

    And dont forget Rupert Murdoch who has a large amount of money tied up in text books and standardisex testing. From memory the jerk who pushed charter schools on New York State then went on to head this department for Murdoch and has been hand in glove with the Tories in the UK as they starve state schools and bring in for profit “Freedom” schools. How about an OIA request for all negotiations to this effect with our Ministry of Education?

  4. Save NZ says:

    Great article.

    TPP is very chilling to our way of life.

    No good has come out of charter schools to kids, but some individuals have made a lot of money.

    I’m tired of corporate welfare.

  5. I say, good on Gates for caring about education enough to put his money where his mouth is. That is admirable. But it ends there. His personal feelings shouldn’t influence policy, no matter how rich he is, and his pet projects shouldn’t be the recipients of public funding unless he has received a public mandate through referendums. The fact that Groser and Key want to throw us under the bus so readily is a dire sign of just how A) stupid or B) selfish many kiwis are, by supporting their party. Thankfully, the overwhelming greed of the US corporates and their ever-increasing demands, looks set to scupper the deal, saving us the hassle. Lets hope it dies before it gets a chance to even take the wheel.

  6. dangerousdave says:

    I’m not sure I understand your point. Private/Non State interests have been involved in the delivery of education for centuries. In Britain, the state only became involved in education around the third decade of the 19th century. The education system in NZ has long been a mix of state, private and integrated providers. Do you have any evidence that a state monopoly would work better? And why is a ‘public education policy agenda’ any better than an education agenda promoted by a wealthy benefactor? Surely that is for parents to choose?

    • The education system in NZ has long been a mix of state, private and integrated providers… And why is a ‘public education policy agenda’ any better than an education agenda promoted by a wealthy benefactor? Surely that is for parents to choose?

      Sure, parents can choose for private education for their children.

      But are you suggesting the taxpayer pays for it via subsidising Charter Schools, which are, in effect, private businesses? If that is the case, we can return to Muldoon-style subsidies for other businesses as well. Let’s start with farms. Call them Supplementary Minimum Prices so farmers can have a minimum guaranteed incomes for their goods…

      See where this is heading?

      • dangerousdave says:

        My point is not so much about how it is funded, rather who delivers it. I most certainly am not a fan of state subsidies for any business, but Dianne’s comments apply to a far wider sphere than just Charter Schools.

      • dangerousdave says:

        Frank I’ve just re-read you comment and I need to clarify…are you saying you oppose all private sector delivery of education, or are you opposed to the Govt funding private sector delivery? If the latter, why is the Govt providing funding to the private sector to educate my children any different to it providing it to the public sector?

    • Dianne Khan Dianne Khan says:

      I have plenty of evidence that a privatised system works far worse. Look to Sweden, Chile, the UK, the USA – the evidence is right there for all to see.

      As for choice, go research New Orleans Recovery District, that was completely taken over by charter schools after Hurricane Katrina and where parents have little to no choice at all about where their children go to school.

      • dangerousdave says:

        Do you? I would very much doubt that. In NZ private schools consistently outperform their public counterparts, and this is the experience in many other countries. I have no axe to grind – my children attend a combination of public and integrated schools – but to argue that private investment in the delivery of education is a bad thing can only come from a blind ideology, an ideology as damaging as those who advocate for full privatisation.

        • Dianne Khan Dianne Khan says:

          You are misinformed about NZ private schools outperforming public schools. In fact, according to Treasury and other research, once socio-economic factors are taken into consideration public schools do better. In other words, private schools benefit only from having wealthier students.

          • dangerousdave says:

            Cite? For my part, I can only suggest to you that the parents of private school children, who vote with their wallets, tell me more about the results than any educational academic.

            “once socio-economic factors”
            That’s a gigantic ‘out’. Whose socio economic factors? The schools or the pupils?

            • Dianne Khan Dianne Khan says:

              So for you anecdotal evidence is more accurate that Treasury research. If that’s the shoddy level of your argument, I’m out.

              • dangerousdave says:

                Well I’m still waiting for you to actually provide any cite at all!

              • dangerousdave says:

                “I have plenty of evidence that a privatised system works far worse.”

                “according to Treasury and other research, once socio-economic factors are taken into consideration public schools do better. ”

                These are the claims you made Dianne. It is somewhat disingenuous to label my argument as shoddy when you have made claims you have failed to support.

            • Dianne Khan Dianne Khan says:

              Also note it was not an educational academic research – it was economic research. You know, about value for money.

              • dangerousdave says:

                What was? Parents choosing to pay money to have their children educated when their taxes have already paid for it? Yes, perhaps economic, but surely based on results, otherwise why make the choice to pay more?

                • Are you suggesting education vouchers, Dave?

                  • dangerousdave says:

                    No. In fact I am a supporter of a strong public education system. I benefitted from one, and so have my children. But I am also in favour of choice, for the simple reason that one size doesn’t fit all. For example my children have been subjected to a math learning technique called ‘the numeracy project’. This has been ok for my youngest, but for my oldest (who has a learning difficulty) this was disastrous. The response I got from a high profile public school in Auckland he attends? “Get private tuition.”

          • dangerousdave says:

            Dianne, here is a cite for an OECD paper that specifically contradicts your claims.

            http://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisaproducts/pisainfocus/48482894.pdf

            The first statement I will quote is:

            “In 16 OECD countries and 10 partner countries and economies, the typical private school student outperforms the typical public school student.”

            You claimed “once socio-economic factors are taken into consideration public schools do better.”

            The report states “Around one-tenth of this private school advantage is the result of competition and the higher levels of autonomy in defining the curriculum and allocating resources that private schools enjoy”.

            You claimed “private schools benefit only from having wealthier students.”

            The report states clearly that private schools benefit from far more than just wealthy parents.

            Look I’m not an apologist for private schools. I didn’t attend one, and nor do any of my children. But I do support choice. You seem to want to deny parents those options.

            • But I do support choice. You seem to want to deny parents those options.

              I support choice as well, Dave.

              But I don’t support taxpayers paying for the education of children of (generally) wealthy parents.

              If they can afford private schooling (like John Key did for his kids), I’m damned if we, the taxpayers should be footing the bill for it.

              Private services are a luxury that the wealthy can afford. I see no reason why we should be subsidising it.

              If I choose to buy a Ferrari instead of using public transport, can I dip into your pocket to pay for my choice? Of course not. It’s a patently ridiculous proposition.

              • dangerousdave says:

                “But I don’t support taxpayers paying for the education of children of (generally) wealthy parents. ”

                That’s hardly fair. Wealthy people pay their taxes, which help to fund a public education system, and then will pay extra for their children to attend a private school. The state owes them some contribution to their children’s education, surely?

      • dangerousdave says:

        “As for choice, go research New Orleans Recovery District, that was completely taken over by charter schools after Hurricane Katrina and where parents have little to no choice at all about where their children go to school. ”

        How does one extreme justify any other? How does a monopoly of Charter Schools justify a monopoly of public schools? Surely choice means as a parent I can have access to a variety of options, public, private and integrated.

        • Dianne Khan Dianne Khan says:

          You clearly didn’t go and research New Orleans Recovery District schools or you would see there is no choice. Not even choice within the charter system. And a monopoly is exactly what the charter school reformers want. David Seymour has repeatedly said he wants ALL schools to be able to opt to be charters. How does that improve anything? It doesn’t – it merely privatises it, and that is the sole goal for ACT and other reformers.

          • dangerousdave says:

            I did, and my response made it clear I just don’t see any relevance. The NORD scheme is another monopoly. I don’t support monopolies, I support choice. By your comments you would appear to support a public monopoly but not a Charter monopoly. That position is irrational and unsustainable.

            • By your comments you would appear to support a public monopoly but not a Charter monopoly. That position is irrational and unsustainable.

              Not at all, Dave.

              Your ‘logic’ is based on a faulty premise.

              Charter schools are private enterprises. As such, being businesses, they have no right to automatic access to public funding.

              Just as farmers have no right to automatic access to public funding.

              If Charter Schools can receive taxpayer funding – essentially a subsidy – then so should every other business in this country. In which case, as a taxpayer, I think we might as well own them outright, a-la State Ownership.

              Because essentially what you are suggesting is that private companies can’t survive without taxpayer funding.

              • dangerousdave says:

                “As such, being businesses, they have no right to automatic access to public funding. ”

                Of course not. But it doesn’t follow that they have NO right to try to access public funding. We’re talking education here, not building mazarati’s.

        • Surely choice means as a parent I can have access to a variety of options, public, private and integrated.

          Indeed you do, Dave.

          But don’t expect taxpayers to pay for your private/integrated/Charter choices, when existing “free” services already exist.

          • dangerousdave says:

            While I understand your sentiment, that will take a lot of unwinding, Frank. In NZ, and overseas, private enterprise has delivered state funded education for a long, long time. Also, if I send my child to a private school (which I haven’t!), do you advocate I get a tax rebate for the portion of my taxes that I have paid to the public system?


 
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