Integrated schools are exploring all options, including taking the Government to court, after being left out of the $396 million funding package to upgrade state school properties.
Association of Proprietors of Integrated Schools chief executive Paul Ferris said he had first assumed that there was some kind of mistake when there was no mention of state-integrated schools in the announcement of the package.
“I was hoping to go to the detail and find that was an oversight in the announcement, because in every way in our legal agreements, we would expect to be treated the same way [as state schools],” he said.
Under the legal agreements covering integrated schools, the Government is required to pay for their maintenance on same basis as state schools, once a school’s proprietor has completed upgrading it to the same standard as state schools.
“That’s the partnership arrangement we believe we have with the Government. Because it’s maintenance money they’re giving, then we would share in maintenance money given out by the state,” Mr Ferris said.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins justified the Government’s action in excluding integrated schools from the package.
“Integrated schools own their buildings. In the 2020 calendar year, integrated schools are getting funding of more than $65 million – that’s about $730 for property per student to modernise and upgrade their school buildings. On top of that the proprietor can also charge attendance dues,” he said.
Mr Ferris dismissed Mr Hipkins’ response.
“That’s a distraction because that is what we get anyway from Policy One. And so, what we are saying is if the other schools are going to get double their Policy One funding, then he should give us the same because that is the agreement we have with the Crown: to be treated the same,” he said.
The Government’s education ministry website defines Policy One funding as the ministry providing “proprietors of state-integrated schools with funding to modernise and upgrade their integrated school property”.
Mr Ferris said integrated schools have the same need as state schools regarding maintenance of properties.
“Why would a Government think that the 90,000 students in these state-integrated schools would not benefit from the same chance to do catch up maintenance? Taxpaying parents who have already saved the Government millions by funding the schools through attendance dues feel that they should also share in the opportunity to catch up,” he said.
Mr Ferris said at integration, the proprietor of the school provides “a free school to the Government and from that date the Government agrees to maintain it”.
APIS schools have provided the Government with 11.4 per cent or $3.9 billion of the capital invested in school buildings, he added.
Mr Ferris said either the Government was admitting the Ministry of Education did not administer maintenance funding of state schools well, or it was deliberately excluding children from families that have chosen an education in a state-integrated school.
“Integrated schools will explore all their options, including their legal rights,” he added.
Mr Ferris is also the chief executive of the New Zealand Catholic Education Office.