From the start of the year thousands of our teacher members in NSW were accredited with NESA. This pre 2004 cohort had previously been largely untouched by the regime of accreditation and its obligations.
In recent weeks they have begun to receive invoices from NESA demanding accreditation fees and they, like the thousands caught up by accreditation post 2004, are quite rightly asking: “What do I get for my money? What are these fees used for?”
They’re very reasonable questions and I’m told the official answer from the NESA helpline is either “It’s a legislative requirement” or “It allows you to teach in NSW”. Hardly satisfactory answers to those who have been legally teaching in the state for 40 years without paying this tax. And as a mandatory financial charge imposed upon individuals by a governmental organisation in order to fund certain public expenditures, it meets every criteria as a tax.
But what exactly is it that it actually funds? Beyond a significant job creation scheme for bureaucrats and functionaries it is near impossible to get any meaningful answer. NESA it seems either doesn’t know or won’t tell. When asked by the Quality Teaching Committee (QTC), the only sub section of NESA where teachers have any voice, to provide specific details of expenditure the obscurity of the response was breathtaking.
NESA merely provided a budget divided into various directorates with wage and salary costs for an unspecified number of staff and a rounded figure for non salary expenditure. Not a single specific example with a costing was provided.
What is clear however is that the vast bulk of the non salary budget is not spent on teachers, providing services to teachers or providing them the opportunity to further improve their practise. It appears to me that Teacher Accreditation Authorities, consultants and those universities providing initial teacher education are the chief beneficiaries.
As a member of the QTC, appointed by the Education Minister, I have put on notice a number of questions. I’m seeking a much greater level of detail regarding specific expenditure. From what I’ve gathered to date there is no clarity, transparency or public reporting of how expenditure decisions are made, who approves the expenditure or who monitors it.
Legislation requires the money from accreditation fees to be held in a special fund used only for “the purposes of meeting costs incurred by the Authority in connection with the accreditation of teachers under that Act and in monitoring, maintaining and developing teacher quality”.
Time will tell how NESA accounts for this.