Maori Party challenges Maori MPs to listen to their 'conscience' and support charter schools
The Maori Party has laid down a challenge to other Maori MPs to join them in opposing a bill to abolish charter schools.
Labour's education spokesman Chris Hipkins introduced a member's bill to scrap charter schools and it's due to have its first reading in the House on Wednesday but there's contention over whether all his colleagues support the bill.
Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said if Labour's Maori caucus votes for Hipkins' bill it's an "absolute contradiction" given they know "full well the educational achievement those schools are delivering".
Last year Labour MPs Kelvin Davis and Peeni Henare both attended a $250-a-seat fundraiser for a charter school run by the He Puna Marama Trust - they were subsequently reprimanded by their leader Andrew Little for going.
At the time Little told them not to attend but left the judgement up to them.
The school is in Whangarei and founded on the legacy of the late Ngapuhi leader Sir James Henare - the grandfather of Peeni Henare - and both he and Davis are of Ngapuhi descent.
Labour has a strict education policy opposing charter schools but at the time of the fundraiser the pair put the legacy of the school and their family ahead of the "ideological tussle over public funds for charter schools".
Flavell said the repercussions for Maori youth if charter schools were scrapped would be significant.
"Not to support them is to simply send those kids back into an environment that rejected them in the first place, or that they didn't fit, therefore leaving a heap of Maori students in nowhere land in respect to educational achievement."
"If they do toe the party line then they've got a problem because they're clearly voting against their own conscience," Flavell said.
But Davis said Flavell and his co-leader Marama Fox should be joining the Labour Party in getting them abolished so all schools are on a "level playing field".
Davis said he and Henare attended the fundraiser to support the children raising money to go on a school trip overseas.
"I support the notion that if all teachers have the same flexibility, funding and resources to teach then all kids will do well at any school."
Little said all of the Labour caucus supported the bill and said it's possible to have special character schools for the students currently attending charter schools, which would be a better model.