Different rules for charter schools don’t add up

Charter schools are contracted to achieve the same educational outcomes for children as public schools are, and should not be reaping financial benefits by fudging the books, says Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).

They may in fact be jeopardising the quality of education, and putting children at risk of "leaving these schools without the qualifications Government says every child needs."

Recent comments from Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins suggest that Partnership Schools Kura Hourua (PSKH) may have been permitted by Government to report their NCEA achievement results differently from other state schools.

This different reporting method has grossly overstated the contractual successes of proprietors, sponsors and managers, seriously understated the continuing educational failure and alienation of students enrolled at the schools, and unequivocally demonstrated that government is not committed or competent to run a fair trial of a potentially very harmful experiment on New Zealand schoolchildren.

That the children concerned are among the most materially disadvantaged and educationally marginalised in our society merely adds to the sense of dismay that is provoked by this revelation.

"It is one thing to argue the merits of careful schooling experimentation and innovation to improve the education and life chances of disadvantaged children, but quite another to misrepresent the outcomes of that experimentation in order to further private ideological, political or financial ends," says Professor John O’Neill, CPAG education spokesperson.

"The current government appears entirely unconcerned by the active misrepresentation of some of our most disadvantaged children's educational achievement, or lack of it. Its absence of concern is testimony to the amorality and hypocrisy of those who continue to advocate the proliferation of PSKH in the face of growing evidence of their inability to address the very educational and equity challenges they were supposedly established to remedy." 

Public schools should be adequately funded and properly evaluated across the board.

If New Zealand charter schools manage to confound the international evidence and demonstrate that they add something the state system cannot provide, then this should be on the basis of a fair comparison, not fiddling the financial or achievement books.