No taxation without representation was a rallying cry of the patriots in the American Revolution, and since then has been a cornerstone of democratic nationhood.
While John Key is no Mad George III, the impact of Key and his cabinet’s quest for technocratic efficiency and George III’s imperial ambitions are arguably comparable – a concentration of power and erosion of democratic institutions.
The creation of a handpicked and unaccountable body to ‘lead the teaching’ profession – the new EDUCANZ – is an example of this. University council reforms and ECan (Environment Canterbury) are two more.
EDUCANZ, with nine members on its council all appointed directly by the Minister of Education, replaces the Teachers Council, with eleven members, four of whom were elected by the profession, and three more nominated by the democratic voices of the profession, PPTA and NZEI, and the School Trustees Association.
Unlike the university councils, EDUCANZ has the power to collect fees from teachers who have no choice about whether or not they join, and no say about what the board does with the funds they collect.
Teachers are the only profession in the public sector, and one of the few regulated professions who almost universally pay their own professional registration fees.
For many years PPTA members have been discussing why this is the case and whether it’s an anomaly that we should try to remedy. The position of the Association, decided through the usual robust and well-informed argument at National Conference, has been that paying our own registration fees gives teachers greater ownership over, and buy-in to the Council.
But now, with EDUCANZ looming, secondary teachers are reconsidering. During the development of our claim for the Secondary Teachers’ Collective Agreement, PPTA members have been discussing whether we should put payment of professional certification fees into the agreement, with the Ministry to pay them centrally.
This would be consistent with publicly employed nurses and doctors, as well as many private sector employees in law firms or accountancy practices, where the employers pay certification costs.
A recent letter to the PPTA from a senior Ministry of Education Official certainly didn’t help our members feel positively inclined towards keeping on stumping up the fees.
In it he wrote that “we consider it the responsibility of individual teachers, and other professionals in education, to meet these costs in order to practise teaching or another profession”.
Strange how if they consider it an individual responsibility, psychologists or lawyers employed by the Ministry of Education, who are required to hold a professional certification to do their jobs, have it paid for them.
Teachers are required by law to hold professional certification, and are required by law to pay towards a body that they have no say over. PPTA members absolutely agree that professional certification is important. But continuing to pay for it ourselves, out of our shrinking pay packets, is looking less and less desirable.
So, will we see ‘Boston Tea Parties’ in staffrooms when the stars align and collective bargaining begins at the same time EDUCANZ comes into force in the middle of this year? Watch this space.
Angela Roberts is president of the PPTA.