20 December 2012
ACT usurps Parliament’s role in examining charter schools
The former ACT president and current chair of the Government’s charter schools working group, Catherine Isaac, is pre-empting Parliament’s job of examining legislation introducing charter schools.
NZEI Te Riu Roa says it is writing to Parliament’s Education and Science Select Committee to express its concerns.
“Ms Isaac has created an “indications of interest” process for groups interested in establishing a charter school that mimics a formal authorisation process for such schools before the legislation to introduce charter schools has even been passed,” says NZEI Te Riu Roa National Secretary Paul Goulter.
“The Education Select Committee has not even yet held hearings on the Bill that would introduce charter schools. Ms Isaac was appointed to chair a working group to provide advice to the Government, not to usurp Parliament’s right to consider, debate and change proposed legislation, or to set up her own charter school authorising empire,” he says.
Mr Goulter says Ms Isaac appears to be setting up the process in a desperate attempt to drum up business, given the paucity of interest in the controversial ACT-National policy agreement.
A recent Official Information Act request to the Ministry of Education reveals that, up to the end of October, 11 parties had contacted the Partnership Schools/ Kura Hourua Working Group expressing an interest in establishing a charter school (see list below).
“Most of the parties that have expressed an interest have narrow sectarian religious connections, including a transcendental meditation group,” Mr Goulter says.
“It appears few would even meet the Government’s focus of targeting priority groups of Māori, Pasifika learners from low socio economic backgrounds and learners with special education needs.”
“There is a risk we will see groups trying to siphon off taxpayer dollars to fund religious and spiritual schools that can access existing special character provisions of the Education Act.
“Charter schools will allow people who are not registered or qualified as teachers to teach in their schools. This has a high risk of a negative impact on children especially those who are more vulnerable or not achieving – the very children whom charter schools are supposedly going to help.’’
The charter school framework permits private companies and not-for-profit groups to set up schools without being subject to the same outside scrutiny as public schools, even though they are given taxpayer money.
“The Government’s decision to continually put ideology ahead of quality education for students is part of its neo-liberal Global Education Reform agenda. It puts competition and measuring ahead of quality teaching and learning.”
List of parties interested in establishing a Partnership/Kura Hourua:
Foundation of New Zealand
Nga Potiki Education Trust
Pacific Christian School
Living Way Centre
Little Ark ECE Centre
Nga Kakano Christian Reo e Rua Kura
Otara Community Preschool
Te Aka (2010) Charitable Trust
Makahika Outdoor Pursuits Centre
Motueka Rudolf Steiner School
Immanuel Christian School