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On ACT’s Charter Schools Experiment

If there was still any doubt as to who is actually running this government – and it isn’t the buffoon from Botany – then this week’s announcement of a huge spend up on charter schools has settled the matter. While jobs and public services continue to be cut in the name of austerity (and while state schools are crying out for more capital investment and operational funding) the government has somehow found $153 million behind the sofa to spend on the ACT Party’s exercise in union busting.

The positive “flexibilities" that Seymour claims for charter schools are either (a) already happening within state schools or (b) would be entirely possible if only sufficient funding was available. There is no educational need to create a parallel system of education and lavish taxpayer funds on it. Improving the educational outcomes though, really isn’t Seytmour’s goal. What he really plans to do is to bust the teacher unions by bleeding the state school system of funds, while allowing more and more New Zealand children to be taught by underpaid, unqualified “teachers” in schools set loose to pursue their own social and religious agendas. Along the way, New Zealand’s system of secular state education is being undermined.

Apparently, the likes of Bishop Brian Tamaki will be furnished with taxpayer money to run their own charter schools. Not so long ago, Tamaki stood beside Seymour on the Parliamentary forecourt and was showered with (a) praise (b) sympathy over his depiction in the media, and (c) with promises of assistance by the ACT Party leader. Surely, many people who voted for a change of government at the last election must be suffering serious buyer's remorse, given the likelihood their tax dollars are about to be spent on enabling Tamaki to spread his bigoted version of the Christian gospel.

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Footnote One: Here’s the clip – re-published on Tamaki’s Facebook page – of the public love fest between Seymour and Bishop Brian.

Footnote Two: Just in case you weren’t awake at 6.08 a.m. yesterday morning to hear it, here’s NZEI president Mark Potter punching large holes in the claimed need for charter schools.

Footnote Three: Oh, and charter schools won't have to enforce the cellphone ban... because you know, freedom. So, while Christopher Luxon and Education Minister Erica Stanford are touting the educational necessity of the mandatory cellphone ban and the wide public support for it, Seymour has been allowed to exempt his allies in the education sector from needing to comply with it.

For the record, only 8.6 % of the public voted for the ACT Party at the last election. Yet on educational, employment and workplace safety issues, Treaty policy and gun control (to name just a few policy areas) the ACT tail is wagging the government dog.

Footnote Four: Finally, there is little or no evidence that charter schools deliver better, or comparable, educational outcomes given similar levels of funding. Claims of superior performance, for example, made about charter schools in say California, have misused the statistical data.

Footnote Five: Charter schools will be deregulated, with the governance powers potentially taken out of the hands of parents, and placed in the hands of charter school “sponsors” empowered to negotiate with the Ministry their own educational targets, and their own compliance conditions.

They will be gifted with fixed-term ten-year contracts, with the option of two 10-year rights of renewal after that. Presumably, a guaranteed flow of taxpayer money will be contractually locked in over that entire period and will be conditional only on meeting idiosyncratic contractual conditions signed off by a Ministry that is plainly being told to give charter schools more regulatory latitude than that afforded to state schools.

Basically, ACT is being allowed to conduct an educational experiment in libertarian ideology on the taxpayer dollar, with New Zealand children being used as guinea pigs. Here’s how it will work:

Public schools are monitored by the Education Review Office, the Ministry said. This judges the school's achievement, engagement and student's wellbeing....

In terms of charter schools, the Ministry said sponsors are responsible for meeting performance targets specified in their individual contract. They face intervention, replacement, or even termination of contract if they do not meet the targets.

Seymour said: "To provide certainty to sponsors, they will have a fixed-term contract of 10 years to operate a charter school, with two rights of renewal for 10 years each. All fixed-term periods are conditional on the school continuing to meet the terms of its contract."

Gaza death toll

Talking of repercussions for non-compliance....remember how Joe Biden warned Benjamin Netanyahu that by Crikey, the IDF had better not go into Rafah without Israel having a practical plan in place to protect the nearly two million Palestinians that the IDF had penned up in the Rafah enclave?

Well, the IDF has gone into Rafah regardless, and in reply...the US has just forwarded Israel an extra $1 billion worth of weaponry. Obviously, there are no genuine policy differences between Israel and Washington, over Gaza. They’re really operating as a tag team, with Biden acting concerned in order to soothe world opinion (and to placate his critics in the Democratic Party) while Netanyahu poses as the resolute captain pressing ever onward, whatever the pressures may be to change course.

Meanwhile, a bogus debate has blown up in the right-wing US media over the death toll in Gaza, among Palestinians. Is it really 35,000 people dead, or “only” 25,000? In reality, there has been no exaggeration. The 25,000 are those explicitly identified, with 10,000 of the dead as yet unnamed. (There are even more dead lying under the rubble.) Here is the World Health Organisation spelling out the death toll figures:

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