Māori MPs who don't back charter schools should be ashamed - Lance O'Sullivan

Lance O'Sullivan fears he may be too late to save the country's charter schools.

The high-profile Northland doctor, tipped as a potential future leader of the Māori Party, has this week released a series of videos showcasing young Māori whose lives he says have been turned around by Vanguard Military School.

"These are kids much like myself who were going off the rails, failed in mainstream education and when they were given an education fit for them, fit for purpose, they succeeded," he told The AM Show on Thursday.

"One is about a young girl who lived five minutes from a school in south Auckland and would be truant all the time. She now spends four hours a day travelling to Vanguard school on the shore to attend. She wants to learn and she wants to get ahead."

Vanguard is one of 17 existing or approved charter schools left in limbo by the change of Government last year. Education Minister Chris Hipkins wants the 12 that have opened already to convert to character or state-integrated schools, or close.

Dr O'Sullivan fears this will ruin what makes them effective.

"They're losing the flexibility and autonomy that's made them the success they are. We need to have models different to what we currently have.

"This is an opportunity where non-Māori models of education are achieving for Māori, and they're going to throw the baby out with the bathwater."

The Government and teachers' unions say there is little evidence charter schools work better than public schools, and cost taxpayers more to run. The Opposition - particularly ACT, which drove their implementation in 2011 - says this isn't true if you ignore start-up costs.

An independent report released earlier this year found while parents were largely happy with how the schools were being run, there wasn't enough evidence yet to suggest they provide better educational outcomes than state-run schools.

Vanguard in particular has been praised by the Education Review Office for its high Māori achievement rates. Dr O'Sullivan says Māori MPs should be charter schools' biggest supporters - no matter what party they're in.

"Our people put them there to lead for our people, and if they don't do that they should be ashamed."

Asked by host Duncan Garner if he'd consider entering politics to get his way, Dr O'Sullivan ummed and ahhed, before giving non-committal answer.

"The politics thing has in the past been something I was really keen to pursue. As I become more aware of the influence of politicians and the political process, I have questioned whether that's the right place for me... I don't know if politics is in my immediate future."

But that doesn't mean he won't fight to keep charter schools running from outside of Parliament.

"I wish I'd gotten involved way earlier."