What on earth was the co-leader of the Green Party thinking when he dished out $11 million worth of funding to a flash private school in Taranaki this week.
The money has been drawn from the Covid-19 Recovery Fund and is to help the Green School develop Phase Two of its lush and lovely school grounds.
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The Green School was established by Taranaki couple Michael and Rachel Perrett, whose own children attended a school run along similar lines, The Green School in Bali. The idea of the schools, according to the website, is to focus on holistic learning and creating future leaders who have a deep respect for, and understanding of, the environment.
They're also designed for the loin fruit of the wealthy. Nurturing budding greenies into international leaders doesn't come cheap – anywhere between $12-$24,000 a year.
Looking at the beautifully designed and constructed Phase 1 of the Green School Oakura, I totally get why James Shaw might appreciate and support the value of such a private school. I could even understand him putting his hand in his own pocket and forking out the many thousands of dollars required to send a child to such a school. Who wouldn't if they could afford it?
The only problem is when you're the co-leader of the Greens, your own education policy frowns upon government funding of private education. The very second bullet point of the party's education policy, under the heading ''Well-funded education is the cornerstone of the education system", says "public funding for private schools should be phased out and transferred to public schools".
Whoops. I know these are trying and peculiar times, but you can't really justify spending 11 mill on a fancy pants private school, can you? Even if it does have Green in its name?
James Shaw tried. The money would, he said, fund a project that would create 200 jobs in the region and bring national and international families to the 'Naki. Yeah, nah, James. It'll be a long time before international families will be travelling here to better their children's education.
And there wouldn't be a need to create jobs in the region if the Greens hadn't pushed to end offshore oil exploration.
Predictably, and understandably, there was outrage among educators, parents of special needs kids, members of boards of trustees – all those people who spend their days and nights wondering where the hell the next dollar is coming from to repair sub-standard classrooms or to provide teacher aids for kids with learning difficulties or who are struggling to find alternative education facilities for particularly challenged children.
There was outrage too from Shaw's own fellow Greenies – and they do a particularly fine line in outrage.
Any possibility that Shaw had been railroaded by his bigger, bossier, Labour coalition counterparts was brushed aside when Education Minister Chris Hipkins threw Shaw under the bus. "It's not a project I would have prioritized," he told reporters, all wide-eyed innocence and bemusement. "Ultimately that was something the Green Party advocated quite strongly for and so it was one of their wins out of the shovel-ready project area."
Ouch. I rather suspect this decision confirms what the Green faithful have known for some time – that James Shaw isn't green enough to be Green. He looks, sounds and acts like someone who could sit quite comfortably on Labour's front bench. And this decision looks to privilege the education of wealthy international kids over the education of the kids in Patea.
Patea Area School is just an hour and forty down the road but might as well be on another planet. They're doing the best with what they have, but surely some of that $11m could have been used to improve the surroundings and learning environment of the 200 kids at the Decile 1 school.
Kermit the Frog once sang mournfully, it's not that easy bein' green. Well, James Shaw has only himself to blame for that this week.