Editorial: More time needed on charter responses

By Dylan Thorne

1 comment


Timing is everything in politics and the closing date for submissions on charter schools legislation appears to have been timed to muffle opposition to the plan.

The Government's closing date for submissions - January 24 - has been criticised by a teachers' union which says the cut off has been timed to coincide with a period when the nation is on holiday.

The New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association has launched a campaign to raise awareness about the January 24 deadline for submissions on the Education Amendment Bill 2012.

A full-page advertisement in a number of newspapers says the Government has "its own agenda - the dismantling of New Zealand's public education system by introducing charter schools".

It also implies the Government has purposefully chosen a closing date for submissions on the bill when most people are on holiday.

"National and Act are hoping you will avert your eyes," the advertisement reads.

In response, a spokeswoman for Associate Education Minister John Banks said PPTA's claims were "unfounded" and there is no need to change the closing date for submissions.

It is now over one year since the Government submitted its intention to introduce partnership schools, the spokeswoman says.

That's true, and the issue has been hotly debated since then, but when legislation is before Parliament it is the official submissions that count.

In my view, the union is correct that the timing will likely have an impact on the number of submissions received, many concerned citizens will be too preoccupied with other things to notice the deadline.

In a similar vein, readers may recall that MPs were awarded a 1.9 per cent pay rise just in time for Christmas.

As one commentator pointed out, MPs' pay rises were typically announced around that time of year. It's part of what's known as the "end of year dump" of negative headlines that politicians hope will slip past a busy public.

The same could be said of this deadline for submissions.

As the PPTA's advertisement points out family time, down time and trips away are the main things on most people's agendas at this time of year and it is likely that even the most strident critic or supporter of the charter schools proposal could be caught off guard by the timing of the closing date and might miss the opportunity to have their say.

If, as the Government maintains, this was not a cynical attempt to limit opposition then it should extend the closing date to give people an opportunity to have their voice heard.

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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