Govt accused of bullying for closing charter schools

Sir Toby Curtis agrees that the Government is a bully in the way it's handled the closure of charter schools. He told the Education and Workforce Select Committee their failure to consult properly is in breach of the Treaty. They lodged a Tribunal Claim this week.

The Treaty claim alleges closure of the schools, also known as partnership schools has a detrimental effect on Māori as Māori students make up the majority of the 1500 students enrolled. Sir Toby believes the claim will enable Māori to be properly heard.

"The Tribunal is the place to air our concerns of our people regarding the futures of our children."

Fellow Māori educationalists Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi says "We must continue to fight to make the Crown understand. Our first priority is our families and they can't take that away."

The Government plans to re-establish charter schools as state schools however

Sir Toby says that won't solve the problem. He told the Select Committee that the education system was not designed for Māori. He used himself as an example saying he knew first-hand what it's like to be shortchanged by the education system.

"They are succeeding and failing our children something like 30%-70%. That is not good enough and we seem all set to fail our kids for another 178 years if you allow this to continue."

John Shewan, former deputy chairman of the charter school authorisation board compared the Government’s motives to “bullying”. Dame Iritana agrees.

"If they are restricting aspirations of whānau and Māori, then yes I agree with that statement."

Act Leader David Seymour understands the spirit of partnership. "There is a right of Māori to self-determination. Some Māori were actually getting self-determination to actually set up these schools and now that's been taken away for no good reason with no consultation so yeah I that is a breach."

"These schools deserve to be consulted but if the Waitangi Tribunal is the last court in the land that might give these schools a fair hearing then let's go there and be heard."

Sir Toby also had a message for the PM Jacinda Ardern. "I'm sure she'll understand the meaning of "Te Aroha" which she's given the name to her child and I think this situation is calling for a bit of aroha in terms of how we think and how we move forward."

Sir Toby says the Treaty of Waitangi is a great framework to sort out this issue.