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Open the books on charter schools, says NZEI

22 March, 2013

Open the books on charter schools, says NZEI

NZEI Te Riu Roa has appealed to the Ombudsman after the Ministry of Education refused to release a list of groups that have indicated an interest in setting up charter schools.

The Ministry argued that there were no overriding public interest reasons the information should be released.

However NZEI says this is an example of the lack of transparency and accountability throughout the entire introduction of the National/ACT charter school policy.

“The proposed charter school legislation and authorising processes had no provision for consultation with the communities or other schools in areas where charter schools might be set up. It makes sense that local people and schools should be able to find out as early as possible what the impacts might be for them,” says NZEI Te Riu Roa president Judith Nowotarski.

NZEI also says that refusing to release the information pre-empted provisions of the Education Amendment Bill, still before the select committee and that some of the information had already been released into the public domain with an earlier publication of some of the parties interested in setting up charter schools.

NZEI also sought the information because it is concerned that the legislation allows for foreign-owned private companies and foundations to set up and run schools.

“The public has a right to know if overseas interests are indicating interest in setting up schools here,’’ says Mrs Nowotarski.

“This is privatisation through the back door without any mandate, and without accountability, given that charter schools will not be subject to the Official Information or the Ombusdmen Acts.”

Experience in the United States should also issue a timely warning.

As states have opened the door for investors to gain access to tax dollars through for-profit charter schools, an entire industry has developed.

Private equity groups hold conferences to recruit hedge fund managers to invest in for-profit education opportunities and teach them how to profit from state education dollars. [Parents’ Campaign]

Foreign businesses have also been able to “buy” immigration status in the United States by contributing or buying in to charter schools and while private companies have made handsome profits, the charter schools have not been as successful for students as public schools, says Mrs Nowotarski.

ENDS

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