Budget opens up more charter schools

Budget opens up more charter schools

The number of charter schools in New Zealand is set to almost double following funding in next week's Budget.

In a pre-Budget announcement this afternoon, Act leader and Under-Secretary to the Minister of Education David Seymour said funding for around seven of the schools will be made available.

There are already eight charter schools, also known as partnership schools, open, with others planned to begin operating in 2017.

Mr Seymour says it's a sign of how popular the model -- independent schools which get Government funding -- is. Last year 26 applications were lodged, a number well above the funding available.

"The new schools will empower community leaders to have a proactive role in educating students.  They create new and innovative options so that every child can reach their full potential in New Zealand's education system," he says.

He says the exact number of schools to open will be dependent "on the quality of the proposals received".

Funding has been put aside in a contingency to establish the schools which would open in 2018 and 2019.

An independent support entity for the charter schools, E Tipu E Rea, has also been set up to help the new, existing and potential school sponsors. It will get a conditional funding grant.

Mr Seymour says the entity shows the maturation of the party's policy.

The $500,000 funding grant will be taken from a contingency in 2015.

The board members include:

But the Green Party says putting more money into charter schools is a mistake.

"It defies belief that the Government would plough ahead with more charter schools when the programme has been so plagued by problems," education spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty says.

She says it is "irresponsible" to continue in the face of the closure of a charter school in Whangaruru which the Government hasn't taken responsibility for.

There have been a number of complaints about the schools including cultural awareness for Maori students, fewer students than contracted for, using KFC as a reward for students and concerns about safety, she says.

Ms Delahunty believes the money should be going into public schools instead.

NZEI national secretary Paul Goulter has called the move "cynical and ironic" because it was announced on the same day an advisory group met for the first time on the Government's funding review of the education system.

"Education sector leaders are being asked to come together to find an equitable way to stretch current funding to our schools and early childhood centres, but meanwhile the Government can throw millions of dollars at the private sector to compete with our existing schools," he said.

"It costs a fortune to set up a new school, and these schools are small and funded for a guaranteed minimum roll that the schools usually don't come close to reaching."

Meanwhile PPTA president Angela Roberts says assurances the charter school model was an "experiment" have now been proven untrue.

She was surprised to see a new round of charter schools announced.

"This is not a pilot, it is just a sop to the Act party's ideological commitment to favouring the private over the public sector," she says.

"The funds should be reprioritised to the state sector where they will have the greatest impact on the greatest number of students."

The charter school agreement was reached between National and Act after the 2011 general election.


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