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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Brief comment on charter schools

I've been a little hesitant to take a position on the implementation of charter schools - the flagship policy of the National-Act coalition and was probably only adverse to the idea based on my own political leanings and the fact that I didn’t really understand what they meant for the education system.

On the one hand, my understanding is that they give parents and in particular minority groups more choice for educating their children, and in that respect are conducive to multicultural policy in NZ. And on the other hand, they undermine the public school system on the basis that the government are implicitly accepting that public schools do not cater to the educational needs of all children in NZ. In providing more choice to parents in respect of education, I am in favour.

The worry about charter schools; however, is taxpayer funding. In effect, charter schools are private schools partially funded by taxpayers with (arguably) no accountability to the taxpayer. In this respect, I am opposed.

My view is then, that public schools should be funded to cater to the needs of minority groups as well as provide all parents with more choices for educating their children. It seems nonsense for the government to say in this economic climate we cannot afford to improve the public system school to this extent but we can fund charter schools.

A side comment about the charter school issue though is the way in which a minority party were able to force a policy into implementation. From the coalition agreement it is clear that in order to obtain the support needed from ACT, National preapproved a policy that required legislative changes:
“Hon John Banks will be appointed...with delegated authority to lead the work on charter schools...”

While this tactic is probably not new to politics, it does not bode well for democracy. Remembering ACT only won their electorate seat in Epsom (which in itself took advantage of the coat tailing made possible through a poorly constructed MMP system) and received 1.1% vote overall yet were promised an immense power in being able to determine how taxpayer money will be used in the context of the ACT charter school initiative.  

Overall, my point is that the idea of providing more choice for parents in respect of their children’s education is a positive but in order to do this private bodies should not be able to profit off taxpayer funded institutions.

Just as I was writing this, I was directed to the following link below for further consideration. Very interesting and makes alot of sense (Thanks Holly!).