Monday, July 31, 2017

Secret school funding and the OIA

National today has announced that it will be scrapping the school decile system and replacing it with a "confidential" funding system:

The government is scrapping the decile rating system for schools, replacing it with a confidential funding system.

Schools will be rated by a "Risk Index", which would estimate the number of their students at risk of underachievement.

That rating will stay private and be reviewed every year.

The aim here is to try and stop parents from judging schools based on whether they're rich or poor. But regardless of what you think of that aim, I think it is unachievable, for the simple reason that we have an Official Information Act. If every school has a risk index assigned, then that number will be easily obtainable under the OIA. If they try and avoid this by applying it to each student, then the average per-student figure, or the average per-student funding, which is a proxy for it, will likewise be obtainable. There is simply no legal way to keep any of this secret, unless National exempts this information from the scope of the OIA.

Information should not be kept secret simply because it causes political problems for the government. It especially should not be kept secret where there is significant public interest in ensuring that funding is allocated fairly and correctly. National's promise of a secret school funding system is both legally dubious, and does violence to our fundamental principles of government. And we should hold them accountable for it.