The most significant education reforms since David Lange's Tomorrow's Schools in 1988? An attack on teachers? A focus on quality versus quantity? A slight change in student-teacher ratios? Or the thin edge of the wedge? These are the arguments flying around today over Hekia Parata's announcement signaling changes to primary and secondary education.
The proposals have instantly incurred the wrath of many organised elements of the education sector, including the New Zealand Principals' Federation, Secondary Principals Councils, Post Primary Teachers' Association, Canterbury Primary Principals' Association, and the NZ Educational Institute - joined, naturally, by Labour and the Greens - see Kate Shuttleworth's Sharp response to planned class size changes.
So has National launched a political assault on the education sector and, if so, is it bravery or stupidity? There are parts of the sector - such as the School Trustees Association and some educationalists - who support the basic ideas proposed by Parata. What's more, in terms of the particularly controversial matter of performance pay for teachers, the latest Herald survey 63 per cent of respondents supported it. For other useful coverage of the issue, see: Tina Law and John Hartevelt's Bad report card for bigger classes, Teuila Fuatai and Vaimoana Tapaleao's Move to larger classes sparks alarm, and the Herald editorial: Size matters, but excellence even more so. Meanwhile, in the tertiary sector, changes in the governance of universities are also being proposed, and today Sandra Grey of the TEU argues that 'Corporate-style boards will undermine the independence of universities and their staff' - see: Tertiary governance changes suspect.
Other important or interesting political items today include:
* Following John Key's cue, Winston Peters has offered his own critique of the media's coverage of politics. You can read his recent speech (The Pom and the Pitbull) or better still go to the coverage by Toby Manhire (Winston Peters talks media and politics. And cows) and Mackenzie McCarty (Winston Peters speaks out at Media Bites). Apparently Peters singled out TV3's Patrick Gower 'for not giving NZ First "adequate" coverage running up to the recent election'. Peters also took swipes at David Farrar and Cameron Slater - and Farrar responds with a blog post: Responding to Winston.
* The Budget is only a week away now, and the best commentaries today are from Vernon Small (Government slowly reveals true nature of 'zero Budget') and Nadine Chalmers-Ross (Budget for nothing). Also on the economy, Pattrick Smellie examines the 'continuous bursts of competitive nay-saying emanating from the Labour, Green and New Zealand First parties in response to the ongoing welter of poor economic news' - especially in terms of monetary policy (Monetary policy for dummies).
* The issue of inequality continues to get some serious analysis - today from Brian Fallow (Middle earners see lots of ups and downs), researchers at the University of Otago (Short term household income change and impacts on health), and David Smith (The cautionary tale of a successful welfare system).
* The BanksDoctom scandal evolves further, with the report that John Banks apparently failed to declare his Hong Kong gift hamper in the annual register of MPs' pecuniary interests - see Andrea Vance's Banks admits receiving gift from Kim Dotcom. Labour is calling for John Key to remove his Ministerial warrant, with David Shearer saying, 'If he hasn't done this by the book then he should be sacked'. However, as Radio New Zealand point out (Labour renews call for Banks to be stood down), 'The MP is not alone in making a late addition to his return. Last year seven MPs - five of them Labour - also made additions to their returns after they had been published'.
* John Banks also gets some relief from Claire Trevett's column, Ministering to the public purse, as she points out that Banks has been a very low-cost Minister. Trevett also argues 'the latest round of expenses showed the credit cards were being used in the manner they were intended - for work-related expenses'. However, blogger No Right Turn, admonishes Murray McCully for spending $233 on a 'bottle of Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay' - see: Back to his old habits. On the issue of Ministerial housing costs, Trevett also reports that the government is spending less, and slowing getting rid of (privatising?) its Crown-owned homes - see: Govt housing costs drop.
* There's been yet another embarrassing ACC information leak - see TVNZ's Cost-cutting blamed for latest ACC privacy breach. And at the same time the original ACC scandal continues, with news that Justice Minister Judith Collins has finally initiated High Court defamation action against Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little, but not Radio New Zealand - see: Adam Bennett's Collins goes ahead with court action.
* There's finally confirmation of an embassy closure - see Claire Trevett's Sweden embassy to close in Foreign Affairs cuts, which also reports that 'Other posts expected to be closed include Madrid and the Hague, while posts in Warsaw, Vienna and Rome will be downsized and some of the property at the Paris Embassy will be sold'.
* In terms of electoral politics, Peter Dunne is attempting to fend off rival support parties for National - see Andrea Vance's Dunne attacks 'moral jihad' extremists. And Alistair Bone reports on the Pirate Party from Germany to New Zealand.