Thursday, July 25, 2013

An interesting Ombudsman's decision

The Ombudsman has issued a decision [PDF] on the NZEI's OIA request for groups which had expressed interest in establishing a charter school, finding that there was no good reason for refusing the request. The decision is a no brainer, but the Ministry (acting under orders from the Minister?) fought it tooth and nail, raising additional withholding grounds every time their previous ones were knocked back - including a patently absurd claim that releasing the information would pose a real and serious risk to the physical safety of charter school applicants (something they continued to maintain despite admitting that they had no evidence whatsoever to support it). Its an unpleasant look at how a Ministry abuses the law to try and prevent release of politicly embarrassing information (something which, as public servants, they should not care about). But there's also a couple of interesting facts in there:

  • Charter Schools Czar Catherine Isaacs believed she could contract out of the OIA just by giving applicants an assurance of confidentiality;
  • Two One of the applicants is an existing (but as yet unnamed) state schools, who demanded confidentiality out of fear that their staff might leave and that they might have recruitment problems and face community opposition if word of their interest got out. The Ombudsman did not regard this as "improper" harassment. (Another is an existing private school)
The full list of those who expressed interest should be released to the NZEI in the next few days, and then we'll get to see exactly who wants to profit from providing substandard education to kiwi kids.