Education International
Education International

New Zealand: Parents and teachers back up Labour's rejection of charter schools

published 19 August 2013 updated 27 August 2013

The New Zealand Educational Institute-Te Riu Roa (NZEI Te Riu Roa), one of EI’s national affiliates, has said it would support the election of a Labour-led Government, as the latter would repeal the current legislation favouring privately led schools (charter schools) and focus on improving the status and situation of public schools.

“Both parents and teachers will welcome Labour's announcement that it will speedily repeal charter school legislation if a Labour-led government is elected in 2014,” NZEI Te Riu Roa President Judith Nowotarski said.

She added that putting focus on and taxpayer resources into improving quality public schooling for all children was the right direction for any government, not introducing a failed experiment from overseas.

Profit-driven charter schools not transparent

“The charter schools legislation introduced by the National-ACT government poses risks to children’s learning and the quality of the public education system because the schools will not have to hire or be led by qualified and registered teachers or principals,” she said. “They could be run by private companies, creating the risk of putting profit ahead of meeting children’s needs.”

The Government has made charter schools exempt from the Official Information Act, meaning the public has no assurance they will operate in a robust or transparent way. The schools could “cherry pick” students and may be less likely to enrol students with special needs, judging by overseas experience, Nowotarski said.

EI: Government responsible for ensuring quality education for all

“We strongly support NZEI Te Riu Roa in its campaign and reaffirm that democratically elected governments, whether at local, regional or national level, should be the guarantors and primary providers of education systems,” EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen said. “Public authorities have the key responsibility for ensuring that free, quality and universally accessible education is well-resourced and constantly updated and developed.”

He also stressed that governments can and must invest a substantial proportion of the state budget in education, amounting to at least six per cent of their gross domestic product. Such investment should ensure the balanced development of all education sectors from early childhood education through to higher education and life-long learning, van Leeuwen said.

He went on to highlight that “the social values of education require public authorities to protect the education sector from the neo-liberal agenda of privatisation and commercialisation”. This negative agenda, he said, includes marketisation and trade in education and intellectual property, the casualisation of employment in the education sector, the application of private-sector management models on education institutions, the privatisation of provision, and the intrusion of for-profit motives or business interest in the governance of education institutions.