Charter schools: Against the interests of the majority of teachers and students

Joel Cosgrove

‘Hard to see harm in a little more choice in education’ was the first line in a recent NZ Herald editorial regarding charter schools. On this issue the mainstream media has taken cues from the National government and presented the introduction of charter schools as harmless, not to be worried about, almost not worth debating.

The announcement of policy introducing charter schools arose from the coalition process between ACT MP John Banks and the National Party. It was a surprise for the public.

The policy has brought heavy criticism from teachers, parents, and everyday people who are concerned with social equality. Prime Minister John Key has shrugged off the criticism by laying the blame with the ACT Party.

He claims the policy is a consequence of having to enter coalition government. However the Act Party did not have a strong position in its negotiations with National.

In reality ACT play the role of pushing the National Party from the right. ACT puts forward extreme policies and the National Party waters them down and gives them a PR spin which makes them sound more acceptable. This gives National the appearance of being centrist or moderate when in fact they are pursuing a right wing economic agenda. [Read more…]

Christchurch teachers take a lead, government’s education plans can be defeated


Jared Phillips

Primary school teachers in Christchurch voted in late January to carry out a political strike in opposition to the government’s decision to close 11 Christchurch schools and put a further 24 schools through mergers. Teachers, parents, and school children want earthquake damaged schools fixed and reopened. A clear majority of teachers voted for the strike action, the vote was carried with 83% in favour.

As well as opposing the closures and mergers the teachers are campaigning against the introduction of charter schools and the continued use of the double-bunking system. Double-bunking refers to the practice of teaching different groups of students in the same classrooms at different times. Double-bunking was used in Christchurch to facilitate classes when schools were damaged by the February 2011 earthquake. Teachers intended for double-bunking to be an interim solution. It leads to classes being held in anti-social hours, which is negative for school children and teachers alike.

In a poll published by The Press 66% of people felt that the closure and merger process has been handled very poorly by the Ministry of Education and 19% felt that it had been handled poorly. Only 1% in the survey felt the process was handled well. A New Zealand Education Institute (NZEI) branch chairperson and teacher said that the support provided to children by teachers after the February 2011 earthquake is recognised by Christchurch parents and communities and is one of the reasons for the popular support that teachers are receiving.

The NZEI says that the government has failed to properly consult teachers. Both teachers and Christchurch communities have had little or no chance for genuine consultation over the government plans. In the same survey (as reported above) 43% of people were not at all confident that the consultation would improve the final outcome and 31% were not confident.

The future of schools, jobs, and children’s education will essentially be dictated by the Ministry of Education. The strike is set to take place on February 19, which is the day after Education Minister Hekia Parata is set to make the government’s announcement regarding the fate of each school. [Read more…]

Teachers get warning about ‘Disaster Capitalism’

Karran Harper Royal

Karran Harper Royal

Adapted from a PPTA media release

The keynote speech at The Post-Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) conference earlier this month was given by American education activist Karran Harper Royal. Royal is a native of New Orleans and the founding member of advocate group Parents Across America. Her speech was entitled, ‘From New Orleans to New Zealand with Love: A Warning About Disaster Capitalism and Public Education’

Royal shared the story of how the introduction of charter schools after Hurricane Katrina decimated the New Orleans public school system, saying that New Zealanders have an opportunity to stand up against an attack on public education that the New Orleans community never saw coming.

Royal sees a parallel between the way charter schools are being forced on the New Zealand population” particularly in quake-stricken Christchurch” and the situation in New Orleans and hopes similar mistakes will not be made here.  [Read more…]

Tertiary education for the rich, not the poor

While University funding has been trending downwards per student since the 70’s, cuts have started to ramp up since the election of the current National government in 2008. The recently unveiled budget contained an actual cut to the tertiary education budget, when recently the budget has seen below-inflation increases. Down from $4 billion to $3.9 billion. Funding is not expected to reach 2009 levels until 2016 and by then inflation will have undermined the value of that funding in real terms. Since 2008 the number of university students has increased by 5,000 but funding has decreased by $500 million after inflation. The Universities have survived to an extent by cutting programmes and applying wider cuts to funding levels. The point is being reached where the easier cuts to back-room funding, tutors etc. will not make the savings required at the lower funding levels, redundancies and harsher cuts as seen at Canterbury will become the norm across the country.

Alongside the cuts to general funding pools for the university. The government has been making loans and allowances harder to access. The 10% repayment rate on income over $19,084 has been increased to 12%, in Australia repayments start at 4% on and income of $44,912 and slowly rises to 8% for $83,408 and above. [Read more…]

Quebec student leader tours Aotearoa/NZ

Guillaume Legault is a leading member of Quebec’s CLASSE — the Broad Coalition of the Association for Student Union Solidarity — a radical student organisation at the forefront of a months-long student strike against tuition fee hikes.

Quebec’s student movement is still locked in struggle with the ruling Liberal government over the new fees. The government has responded with police repression and harassment of students. It also passed a new law that bans protests of more than 50 people unless police have given prior approval.

Guillame Legault is participating in a speaking tour across Aotearoa, details below:


Date:    TONIGHT (Thursday 2nd of August)
Time:    6pm-8pm
Location:    19 Tory St


Date:    Saturday 5th of August
Time:    5pm
Location:    Canterbury WEA, 59 Gloucester St


Date:    Monday, 6th of August
Time:    2pm-5pm
Location:   OUSA – Clubs and Societies Centre