Labour's position on Charter Schools
The Labour Party’s position on charter schools is crystal clear – we don’t support their establishment and when we’re next in government the legislation that allows for their creation will be repealed.
Charter schools don’t have to teach to New Zealand’s internationally respected curriculum, don’t have to employ registered and qualified teachers, and don’t have the same accountabilities that every other school in New Zealand have.
The first round of charter schools received up to five times the amount of funding that comparable state schools get and some of their spending decisions to date have been highly questionable.
Take the failed Whangaruru charter schools decision to spend most of their upfront funding purchasing a farm. Since Hekia Parata finally decided to close them down, as the Ministry of Education repeatedly recommended, that huge investment of public money was lost forever.
Other charter schools have been stockpiling huge surpluses and directing funding that should be going into kids education towards ‘management fees’ and other dubious spending. That’s wrong.
What’s more, charter schools keep getting funding even if they don’t enrol enough students. Unlike state schools who find their funding adjusted throughout the year if their roll drops, charter schools get guaranteed minimum funding regardless of the number of kids they enrol.
We simply don’t need the flawed charter schools model in New Zealand. Our schools already have one of the most autonomous governance regimes in the OECD and there is already huge opportunity for creativity and innovation within our school system.
The biggest barrier to that creativity and innovation is the red tape that the current National government keep wrapping schools in. If they really want to make a difference for all Kiwi kids, they should deal with that problem.
I’m aware that even some of the advocates of charter schools are uncomfortable with aspects of the model they are working within, but they see it as the only way around the stifling regulations they come up against when trying to do things differently within the state school system.
It’s more than a little ironic that the current obsession with national standards, NCEA targets, indicators and performance management doesn’t extend to charter schools. And yet the government will try and tell us they are the most accountable of all. Experience suggests otherwise.
The Labour Party is firmly committed to a quality public education system in which every New Zealand child has the chance to achieve to their fullest potential. We recognise that every child is different and our education system needs to cater to that.
We will direct extra funding for education to where it can make the biggest different to the greatest number of students. Charter schools simply fail to meet that criteria.
When in government we will deal with each of the existing charter schools on a case-by-case basis, but none will continue in their present form. Where there are positive innovations that can and should be incorporated into the public school system, we will endeavour to do that. There may be options for integration, conversion to a school of special character, or merger with an existing public school.
When charter schools were first floated by the National government we made it very clear that we oppose their establishment and offer no guarantees about their future under Labour. That position has not changed. Let me be very clear, under Labour, Charter Schools will be a thing of the past.