Red Alert

Posts Tagged ‘Charter Schools’

Charter schools have no future

Posted by on April 17th, 2013

On Friday the Education and Science Select Committee reported back to the House the legislation introducing charter schools. In our minority report, the Labour Party has set out very clearly our reasons for opposing the legislation. Among our reasons are:

  • The introduction of charter schools is based on the failed notion that increased competition will improve student outcomes. There is clear evidence from New Zealand and overseas that this isn’t the case. Even the Treasury has argued that systems with “highly competitive elements” do not produce systematically better outcomes.
  • At a time when the government claims it is focused on quality teaching, charter schools won’t have to employ registered teachers, and the principal won’t even have to hold a teaching qualification.
  • Charter schools will lack public scrutiny. They won’t be covered by the Official Information Act, and although the Ombudsman can now investigate concerns about student stand-downs and exclusions, the overall accountability regime is still very weak.
  • New Zealand’s world-leading curriculum won’t have to be taught in charter schools. Charter schools could be used for indoctrination, rather than education. For example there is nothing to stop a charter school teaching “intelligent design” in the place of science.
  • The Labour Party does not believe that schools should be in the profit-making business. Money that is extracted from charter schools in the form of dividends for shareholders is money that isn’t being invested in education.
  • Charter schools will not have an enrolment zone. While the government claim that charter schools will be targeted to areas of high need, there is nothing to stop such a school accepting a majority of their enrolments from outside their neighbourhood. We remain concerned that charter schools will be able to use underhand methods to “cherry pick” students.
  • We recognise that a number of learners are currently struggling within the education system, and that Māori and Pacific learners are disproportionately represented in that group. That’s why we believe the government should be focused on ensuring that every school is a great school, regardless of where they live. Policies should be based on research and evidence, not ideology.
  • Much of the flexibility that the government claims it seeks through the charter schools model already exists, for example Special Character Schools can already be established with in the existing public school framework.
  • National has no mandate to introduce charter schools. Although it was working on the proposal before the last election, it did not reveal it to the public until afterwards. The fact that the process of establishing charter schools has already started even before the legislation has passed is a real slap in the face to those who took the time to make submissions to the select committee.

I’ve made Labour’s position on the future of charter schools very clear – there isn’t one. We will not guarantee on-going funding to any charter school established under the present government, nor will we necessarily offer them integration into the public system. The legislation allowing for their establishment will be repealed.

You can read Labour’s minority report on the Bill here.


Contempt for democracy

Posted by on March 2nd, 2013

Even supporters of National’s Charter Schools have asked for changes to draft legislation currently before the Education and Science Select Committee. While the overwhelming majority of the 2,000 or so submitters have opposed the idea, and presented compelling research, facts and arguments against them, a handful of supporters have put forward suggested amendments to the Bill that are practical and sensible.

I don’t agree with the whole concept of Charter Schools, and will continue to oppose them. Nothing I’ve heard from submitters has convinced me that we need them, or that our existing publicly-owned and operated schools can’t deliver the supposed ‘flexibility’ and ‘innovation’ these new for-profit schools are supposed to showcase. But if the government is determined to plough ahead, they could at least work to knock the rough edges off the legislation they’ve hastily cobbled together as payback for the Key/Banks ‘cuppa tea’ deal.

Sadly, the government isn’t listening. They’ve already kick-started the process of setting up these new privatised schools before the Bill has even been reported back from select committee, let alone debated and voted on by the whole House. We only finished hearing public submissions on Wednesday. The committee hasn’t yet had the chance to consider what changes to recommend based on them.

This whole process has been a sham. New Zealanders don’t want to see schools set up as profit making businesses. And they certainly don’t want to see Government funding used for schools that employ unqualified teachers, and don’t have to teach to the New Zealand curriculum.

The composition of the Board to oversee the schools establishment, announced yesterday by John Banks, makes it crystal clear that the Government’s real aim is the commercialisation of the school system – not lifting student achievement. National and Act are obsessed with the idea that competition will somehow improve educational outcomes. Even the Treasury doesn’t believe that.

We should be focused on making sure every school is world-class, instead of wasting time and effort on the ideological experiment of Charter Schools. There are some positive changes in the Bill to other areas of education policy (for example more flexibility around school opening hours) but they are being well and truly over-shadowed by National’s ideological experiment in privatising education.


Integration of Charter Schools?

Posted by on February 13th, 2013

The Green Party have announced today that they would seek to integrate any Charter Schools setup under National into the public education system. I don’t agree with that approach. Labour doesn’t see the need for Charter Schools. We have enough schools already.

We don’t support having schools with unregistered teachers and that don’t teach to our world-leading curriculum. We don’t support a model of education that sees a proliferation of schools competing with each other for bums on seats. Why should we be offering these prospective schools a lifeline when we don’t need or want them in the first place?

Labour’s message to anyone looking to setup a Charter School under National’s proposed legislation is to think very carefully. A future Labour government will not guarantee ongoing funding, we will not guarantee integration into the state school system. In short, we will not guarantee these schools a future.

We don’t yet know what the contracts with these new Charter Schools will look like. Hopefully we’ll get more clarity around that during the select committee hearings. Until then Labour won’t be making any clear statement about what we’ll do with any Charter Schools National establishes, but we’re certainly not offering them the lifeline of integration.


Charter School Model Found Lacking

Posted by on August 18th, 2012

The Government has recently announced its framework for charter schools to be introduced into our education system. It would be convenient to think that this is an initiative solely driven by National however information released under the OIA shows that National was considering this model well before the election.

From the research I have read especially that coming out of Stanford University tell us that the gains are nominal, not consistent and there are serious quality issues. It’s yet another way to suck money from the public purse and privatize the profits without the same accountabilities as public schools.

In particular Charter Schools will:
• Be able to pay teachers whatever they like and not require them to be registered
• Establish a governance board that is not necessarily made up of parents
• Screen which students may or may not attend their school
• Vary the delivery of an education curriculum or not draw from the NZ education curriculum

National is promoting Charter Schools as a fix for ‘the long tail of underachievement’ and the significant issues faced by network provision in Christchurch post the earthquake. Local Consultation did not take place although forums have been held in both South Auckland and Christchurch.

Are Charter Schools a better option than the current system?

We are not starting from scratch, we have homegrown solutions. New Zealand has an education system that has public schools, private and integrated schools, kura kaupapa and wharekura. In maori mainstream and some english mainstream schools, innovation and leadership have resulted in great outcomes for Maori and Pasifika students but the system does not cope well with rolling these innovations out or rewarding success. The shift in mindset should be to change the ‘norm’ where curriculum content, relationships between student and principal, recognition of the corresponding importance of language, culture and identity align to education and vocational pathways for young people. All this can be achieved in the public schooling system without the need for Charter Schools.

It appears that Charter Schools will be particularly attractive for faith based schools and private sectors interests. One only needs to ask why such schools were not established under existing provisions of the Education Act as a ‘special character’ school? Could it be that these schools do not want to conform to the same obligations as other schools funded from the public purse? There will be greater difficulty in keeping these newly designated Charter Schools accountable to the wider public who want to promote tolerance through diversity of opinion and faith rather than the prospect of ‘closed community’ thinking.

The Government has to recognize that socio-economic background does have an impact on children’s learning outcomes. Having a warm home, kai on the table, a stable job for parents, affordable access to ece and a quality public education system is critically important for the great majority of young people. Charter Schools will introduce greater competition on public monies at a time when we need to lift expectation across the system so all public schools deliver to those children.