Many school principals are appalled at reports that charter schools are receiving funding for students they don’t have enrolled while public schools are desperately short of resources for vulnerable children.
It’s been estimated that more than a million dollars has been lost to the public sector to fund up to 180 so-called “ghost students” at charter schools.
Principals say public schools are finding it increasingly difficult to find resources for the growing number of special needs students.
“That’s public money going straight to the private sector – money that we need for our public schools,” says May Road School Principal Lynda Stuart.
She says that while new public schools are set up in areas of population growth, charter schools are being established to compete with nearby schools. This requires huge amounts of unnecessary establishment funding in addition to funding for children that don’t even attend.
In Whangarei, Maungatapere School Principal Judy Eagles says that in the public sector, schools lose funding if students don’t come to school for 20 days.”
“So where’s the equity in that?”
She says extra funding siphoned off for charter schools could create more programmes and provide extra support in her school for teachers and students with special needs.
“What’s particularly galling is there is just not enough resourcing to deal with the increasingly high needs of children coming into our schools, or for much-needed building upgrades,” says Lynda Stuart.
Auckland’s Fairburn School Principal Frances Nelson says the bar for receiving extra support is getting higher while at the same time there has been a big increase in the number of children starting school with major learning difficulties.
“This includes children starting school with conditions such as autism that have not been picked up earlier. Five years ago, we could have got funding for many students that we can no longer get funding for.”
Between them, New Zealand’s nine publicly-funded charter schools are guaranteed funding for at least 860 students but enrolment figures have shown they have fewer than 700.