National’s support for reinstating the American charter school model shows not only that the privatisation bias that Bill English pursued over recent years is alive and well, but also that they are struggling to develop sound Education policy.
As far back as the 2008 general election, National committed to “increasing educational choices”. But everyone knows that the phrase “School Choice” was first coined by economist Milton Friedman and is the code used to drive the privatisation movement in the USA. The pure form of the privatised market model is vouchers, but in practice the charter school model has been adopted as the most practical privatisation route in most States.
The irony is that there is a wide variety of choice already available in the New Zealand public education system. One leading American commentator, writing in the Washington Post, made the remark that “…the most aggressive school choice system in the world is probably New Zealand”.
Surveys over many years by the NZ Council for Educational Research confirm that around 90% or more of New Zealand parents feel they send their child to the school of their choice. This high degree of satisfaction with choices available is underpinned by the variety of schooling options available, both within the State system and across the State-Integrated model.
Every State and State-Integrated school is governed by a parent-elected Board of Trustees, under a charter, the defining document that sets out the school community’s Vision and Values. It is this inconvenient fact that requires “charter schools” to be called something different in New Zealand!
The State system includes the set of schools operating as Kura Kaupapa, under s. 155, and the set of Designated Character schools under s. 156. These schools are complemented by over 330 State-Integrated schools, with religious character, such as Christian values or even Muslim values, as well as a variety of teaching philosophies, such as Montessori or Rudolf Steiner.
Indeed, anyone who tries to claim that New Zealand has a “one-size-fits-all” public education system is either very poorly informed of the variety of options available or is being deliberately misleading.
As a former Minister of Education, Nikki Kaye knows this only too well. So, we can conclude from this release that she has just nailed her colours to the mast of the privatisation movement.
National hid behind the ACT Party first time around and needed the support of the Maori Party to get the initial charter model legislation through the House. The convenient marriage of the ideology of privatisation and the ideology of self-determination was therefore born.
Given that the formal evaluation of the charter school model, carried out by Martin Jenkins, failed to draw any genuine conclusions as to the impact of the model to date, National is clutching at straws to claim that the model has already proven to be successful.
And we know from the financial statements of the Sponsors that this has been a lucrative business for them to enter. Bill English rushed to change the funding model after only one year but the first and second round school Sponsors have scored well out of the policy and away from the watchful eye of the Auditor-General.
No wonder they don’t want to let it go!
Labour has launched several reviews across multiple fronts to try and get to grips with the challenges of reinvigorating the New Zealand public education system after 9 years of flawed policies, such as National Standards.
It is early days yet but National’s knee-jerk reaction to bring back an American model that doesn’t even work there reveals how shallow National’s approach to developing Education policy is proving to be.
– Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools NZ
The ACT Party’s ideological bent for privatisation is clear when David Seymour talks about the government’s decision to “take school choice away” from kids if his charter school model is abolished.
But the New Zealand system already has a remarkable variety of options available without the need to privatise the provision of public education.
US commentator, Marc Tucker, had this to say on “school choice” in an article that appeared in the Washington Post, in October 2012:
“The country with the most aggressive school choice system in the world is probably New Zealand”
And that was before we introduced the charter school ideology!
Mr Seymour might also want to check the views of parents a bit more widely than asking the National Party pollster, David Farrar, to run a poll for him.
Regular surveys of New Zealand parents carried out by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER), have consistently found that around 90% of both primary school and secondary school parents state that their child is attending the school of their choice.
And these numbers have hardly changed over the 25 years or so that NZCER has run these surveys.
Most New Zealanders understand that the phrase “School Choice” was used by Milton Friedman to advocate for the privatised, market model of education provision that he believed should replace the institution of public education.
Fortunately, the vast majority of New Zealand families do not support either the ACT Party or its ideology.
~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ