What’s it REALLY All About?

People have been speaking out against the Education Reform Bill – the bill that will give us charter partnership schools. The very same charter schools that we as electors were never told about before the last election.

So what do we know?

  • John Banks, in his sublime roles as Associate Minister of Education and leader of the minority far-right lobby group ACT, announced charter schools as part of his party’s coalition deal with National. 
  • National, who are well-known for wanting to do lots of stuff but are too scared to tell the electors what they really want to do (unless they are confident in their 50% poll rating – they’d never do it with 40% rating), sign up to this deal.
  • The deal paves the way for privately run schools paid for by all New Zealand taxpayers. That is: these charter schools, like privately run prisons, will be totally funded from tax money but be totally run by non-government organisations.

There are a few things I don’t understand. To put it another way, there are contradictions with the idea of charter schools or privately run prisons.

Firstly, if these education policies are so awesome, so amazingly brilliant for New Zealand children and parents, why were they not mentioned in any major way until AFTER we had all voted? Mainly because the NACTional government was already weak on education following the introduction of National Standards and any other major reforms would have elicited a “Too soon, too quickly” response from voters. Parents (voters) are not stupid. They know upheaval in schools is going to impact on their kid’s schooling. Politicians are even more savvy. They know they have to massage and tweak things, but the neoliberal reforms of the 80s and 90s have given New Zealanders little appetite for massive and rapid change, and to make any pre-election announcement that would signal drastic change in education would be electorally dangerous.

Look what happened with class sizes.

Secondly, ACT was set up as a political party to campaign against what they dubbed as government waste. They see increasing levels of personal taxation and the associated government spending increases as dampening to economic growth. In short, more money spent by the government means less money floating around in the economy being used by business for innovation, employment and so on.

Here’s something from their own website:

ACT Party Govt Spending Policy

They open their plans for a government spending cap with this statement: Government spending is out of control. Why on earth would they want to start using government money to start funding a whole new different part of the education system? Wouldn’t that suck money out of the productive sector? It is probable, as ACT types will tell you, that I’m taking this out of context. Possibly this is fair enough because they go on to say: Governments can justifiably take money… for infrastructure, education and healthcare. And that is the qualification.

For me it comes down to this: if you campaign on cutting government spending then you should practice what you preach. Campaign on cutting ALL government spending, not just some. Say what you really mean. Cut all personal tax, let people spend money where they decide it’s appropriate for their lives and their families, and be done with it. Don’t qualify your policies. Go hard-core, man, or go home.

Although, we must remember that these are politicians we are talking about. ACT’s last leader Rodney Hide, known as the Perk-Busting MP, ended up leaving parliament because he loved using the perks he was fighting against.

Politics is filled with this type of hypocrisy.

Thirdly, as I tweeted about earlier this morning, these edu-reformers are unwilling to put their money where there mouth is and send their own kids to these charter schools.

They would rather send their kids to a fully private school. Or buy a house in a suburb of what is deemed to be a “good school” (the Auckland Grammar zone, for example). I, and I’m sure the voters, teachers, and rest of the sector would be far more accepting of the policy of charter partnership schools if John Banks sent his kids to one. But no. They are being set up in low-income suburbs of Auckland and Christchurch.

Charter schools are not about giving parents “more choice.” International experience from the academies in the UK, charter schools in the US and free schools in Sweden show us it’s about giving private companies, owned by the wealthy elite, access to the billions that are spent on public education.

My last link goes to a Radio New Zealand story which shows just how much democracy is just an annoyance to the politicians promoting the education reform policies in New Zealand. Before the legislation has been passed John Banks, Associate Education Minister, failed mayor and talkback show host, has started the process. Charter schools will get more public money and the government reserves the right to change any of the rules relating to charter schools at any time.

Good. At least we know where the government stand on charter schools. Keep their real plans secret for as long as possible.

Because it knows exactly how little voters actually want this.

Mr B





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