Yesterday (May 14th) the New Zealand Parliament debated the Education Amendment Bill that will allow for the establishment of charter schools. In this post, Dianne Khan provides an excellent overview of the debate and includes video links of the key speeches from opposition members of Parliament.
Cross Party Resistance to Charter Schools
“Is this change good for education?”
That’s the question Chris Hipkins tells us to ask ourselves of the proposed charter schools. And after trawling through mountains of evidence over the past year, I have to say the answer is no.
Like Chris, I believe we should be focused on making sure every student in New Zealand can achieve their potential, in all schools. We should be raising the bar, focusing on those not achieving their potential, and supporting all of our schools to innovate within and share good practice so that the whole system s brought up and improved further.
Charter schools are not the answer. They are not about education. They are not about improving our system. They do not aim to make things better for all students – not even for all Maori or Pasifika students. They are not about collaboration and the sharing of best practice.
They are about privatising schools, pure and simple.
Chris points out that all evidence is clear that teacher quality is a huge factor in the success of a student, and yet this Bill lowers the bar rather than raising it. Last year the government were saying all teachers needed a Masters Degree – now, apparently, a teacher can be anyone, with no training whatsoever. Why the change? It’s simple – the government will say anything to attack teachers, but suddenly change tack when it comes to “private, profit-making institutions”.
Chris’s speech in full is here and raises many issues with charter schools that people (including many teachers) may not be aware of. It’s really worth watching.
Catherine Delahunty put it bluntly but correctly, yesterday, when she said “this Bill is ridiculous and it is also quite sick”, going on to point out that it allows for children to be used in an experiment that evidence shows to work very poorly for minority groups.
Catherine pointed out the obvious that when parents in poor families are working very long hours to bring in a pitiful wage, there isn’t a whole lot of time left to help with a child’s education. Little time to give a hand with homework. Not much spare to buy computers so kids can work at home. Nothing left for school donations.
Poverty is a key factor in poor education achievement, as recognised by the OECD, and yet nothing has been done to address that important issue. While families are facing inequality on the level New Zealand sees, there will always be inequality in education, too.
Why does government not tackle poverty? … Maybe because it doesn’t make businesses any money?
What this Bill is really about is privatisation for the benefit of businesses and corporates, some of whom are not even Maori, Pasifika or Kiwi. If it were about helping all kids succeed, then ALL schools would be given the same freedoms.
Metiria Turei challenged National and ACT politicians to send their children to a charter school.
They probably would, to be honest. Not yet, but in the long run. Because once the pretence of charters being for the poor kids, the brown kids, the lower achieving kids, is over, the truth is we will see charters appearing for wealthy kids, essentially providing publicly-funded private schools with no accountability.
Be very clear: This is not about the ‘long tail of underachievement’- it is a sneaky and underhand way of bringing in private schools that public money pays for, and in the end those schools will be for wealthy kids.
Tracey Martin gave an outstanding speech, too, outlining why this Bill makes a mockery of the submissions process and democracy Many on the panel choose to ignore expert and popular opinion, instead listening with deaf ears and closed minds, following an ideology that they were predetermined to accept no matter what.
This is New Zealand under this government – they forge ahead in favour of only themselves and businesses.
Tracey pointed out that Maoridom is not in favour of charter schools. Submissions from Maori were overwhelmingly against.
She pleads and I plead with Maori and Pasifika people to contact their MPs and tell them how you feel.
Even if you do want charters, make sure you tell them what boundaries you expect, what support, what oversight.
If you do not want them, speak up now, because time is running out, and the Maori Party is about to sell you down the river.
Sue Moroney hit the nail on the head when she said “Our kids are being used as guinea pigs,” saying that it wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t already know from the evidence that charter schools do not work. She asked why the select committee ignored the concerns of Nga Tahu, who do not want charter schools. She asked why the children of Christchurch are being used in this experiment when they are already in the middle of upheaval and stress.
Nanaia Mahuta acknowledged the thousands of parents, teachers and others who took the time to make submissions to the select committee.
With over 2000 submissions, just over 70 were for charters, about 30 had no opinion, and the rest were against. Just read that again: The Rest Were Against. And those against came from all quarters, from professors and parents, from teachers and students, and from iwi.
Hone Harawira, Leader of MANA, said charters ”represent a direct attack on kura kaupapa Māori, and on public education generally,” pointing out that ”successive governments have starved kura kaupapa of funding from the get-go, [yet] they remain one of the most successful educational initiatives for Maori by Māori, in the last 100 years.” Like many observers, he is aghast at the Maori Party for supporting charter school proposals, saying “The Maori Party should be ashamed for turning their backs on everything that kura kaupapa Maori stands for.” Source.
So let me close by asking you this.
Who does support charter schools? And why?
Ask yourself that, and really think about it. Not on political party lines, but as a Kiwi.
Ask yourself what the motivation for charter schools really is.
Ask “Is this change good for education?”