Private schools could be on to a Shaw thing – but maybe they need “Green” in their name to secure millions

Did we miss it?  Or was it posted on the Beehive website after we had recorded the Government’s August 26 announcements?

Whatever happened, we are chagrined to have missed the official posting of the declaration that Green Party co-leader James Shaw has bypassed the strictures of his party’s policy to announce:   Taranaki school construction project to create jobs.

The statement didn’t seem untoward, in the Covid-19 era of massive borrowing to pump billions into infrastructural work and employment.

More than 200 construction jobs will be secured in Taranaki through Government funding for a school expansion project, the Associate Minister of Finance, James Shaw said today.

Green School New Zealand will be supported with $11.7 million from the $3 billion set aside by the Government for infrastructure in the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

The ‘shovel-ready’ project would enable the school to expand its student roll from 120 students to 250.

But the announcement subjected Shaw and his party to widespread criticism – indeed, ridicule – because of something the press statement did not mention. Green School is a private school which charges up to $24,000 a year for New Zealand students and $43,000 a year for international students.

We are talking Green hypocrisy here, because:

‘Public funding for private schools should be phased out and transferred to public schools,” says the party’s current education policy.

In other words, the Greens regard private schools with much the same mindless hostility as they regard genetic engineering.  No matter what benefits they might bestow on a community or the nation, they must not be given public funding.  


Who says private schools can bring benefits? 

James Shaw does.   

It is estimated that a roll of 250 students will contribute $43 million each year for the local economy, he said.

“The support we are providing will help Green School to meet growing demand from parents all over New Zealand, and the rest of the world, wanting to enrol their children. This will mean more families can take the opportunity to put down roots in Taranaki and contribute to the future growth of the region,” James Shaw said.

Shaw further said Green School attracts students from all over the world, which brings huge benefits for the local economy and New Zealand’s broader export earnings.

“International education was until recently New Zealand’s fourth largest export sector. It is obviously going through a very tough time right now as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. This project not only secures 200 jobs in the near term, it also creates additional capacity for the time when people are able to travel more freely, enabling Taranaki to develop a thriving international education opportunity,” James Shaw said.   

Anybody want to alert him to private schools in other regions that will eagerly accept whatever funding the Government might want to give them?     

Stuff noted that the sheer scale of the funding is significant. When the Government announced a $400 million package to upgrade New Zealand’s ageing public school infrastructure, it was capped at $400,000.

The grant to the Green School would be enough to fund nearly 30 schools at that rate.

Just up the road from Green School, New Plymouth Boys’ and Girls’ High Schools each received $400,000.

National education spokeswoman Nicola Willis said the decision contradicted the government’s opposition to private-public partnerships for even the building of schools.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the Green Party had pushed for the funding and – ha! – it was not education money, but came from the $3 billion set aside for infrastructure to help the country’s coronavirus recovery and met the “shovel-ready” criteria.

More interesting: 

“It’s not necessarily a project I would have prioritised,” he told a Beehive press conference.

“That was something the Greens advocated strongly for.”

Catherine Delahunty, who was in parliament for the Greens from 2008 to 2017, said news of the funding left her bewildered.

“I understand about jobs and infrastructure but one of the things the Greens are meant to do is check back against what your policy is and what your values are and we just don’t support privatisation of the education system.”

We could go on to consult every public school head in the country for comment and are  confident we would find each of them challenged Shaw’s announcement. 

The Point of Order Trough Monitor – by the way – did sound an alarm, but somewhat belatedly.

The reason we suspect can be deduced from a Google search for “Taranaki school construction project to create jobs” today which revealed – 

1 day ago – More than 200 construction jobs will be secured in Taranaki through Government unding for a school expansion project, the Associate Minister …      

This suggests there was a delay before the August 26 announcement was officially posted on the Beehive website.

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