ACT charter school policy 'crackpot nonsense'

JO MOIR
Last updated 11:11 30/06/2014

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Children could become a political pawn for the ACT party if a promise to give every school in the country the choice of becoming a charter school goes ahead, a union leader says.

Education policy announced by ACT leader Jamie Whyte revealed a proposal to allow all schools to "opt out of control by the Ministry of Education, and be bulk-funded according to the number of students they can attract".

Charter schools have been controversial with school unions since their inception in 2012 when a working group was set up to look into them as part of the confidence and supply agreement between ACT and National.

There were five charter schools at the start of this year and the charter school authorisation board was finalising recommendations from the 19 applications received for the second round of schools.

A Wellington charter school run by a faith-based trust with Caribbean ties was one of the applicants being considered.

Post Primary Teachers' Association president Angela Roberts said educating children was not a business.

"It's immoral," she said.

Under the state system school boards of trustees were accountable and parents knew their children were being taught by registered teachers.

"This is the thing that will destroy our world-class education system because every board of trustees will be able to opt out of being accountable," Roberts said.

"This is an old failed policy that isn't about choice or innovation. It's about profit."

Whyte said the unions' negativity towards charter schools was "ignorant" given they provided parents with more choice than they had at present.

"State education is the system where parents don't have a choice," he said, adding charter schools allowed a broader scope of innovation.

"There is some innovation, just not as much as there should be and it's not responsive to the consumers."

Whyte has two school-aged children; one attends a private school in Auckland and the other a state primary school.

"One way of summing this up is that we're trying to extend to all families the benefits of wealthy people who can afford to go to private schools and have choices," he said.

The public accused the ACT of looking after the wealthy "but this policy is aimed precisely not at the wealthy", he said because they could already afford options for their children.

"Other people who are not as wealthy as me don't have that choice," he said.

NZEI president Judith Nowotarski has labelled the policy "crackpot nonsense".

She said Whyte was suggesting education should be treated in the same way as food production and left to market forces.

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"Parents know, however, that children are not tins of beans and schools are not supermarkets," she said.

- Stuff

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