A campus of charter schools

September 3rd, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The SST profiles ’s plans for charter schools with John Tamihere:

Starting his own school cost Alwyn Poole his home.

He knew buying the century-old property amid the ranks of private clinicians on Auckland’s blue-blood Remuera Rd was a necessity; he had to set up somewhere affluent enough that the parents could afford $12,000 fees. A decade on, Poole and his wife Karen are still renting, but Mt Hobson Middle School’s Victorian villa has been oversubscribed for the past eight years.

Poole reckons the school’s core principles – small class sizes, focusing on the individual, using outside experts – work well. It has the academic results, the ERO report and, importantly, that bulging roll to prove it. Last year, he says, the marketing budget was a mere $300 (spent on new business cards) because the school doesn’t need to spruik for pupils.

So he believes himself perfectly placed to run the first in New Zealand – and surprisingly, given the right-wing genesis of charter (or “partnership”) schools, his partner in this enterprise is the former Labour minister .

In the US, the biggest supporters of charter schools are in fact African-Americans.

Even more surprising is the concept: not aimed at middle-class parents lusting after extra clarinet lessons and a debating society, but to the children of Henderson, West Auckland, and with an intention to provide them with a private school education, but without the fees.

Superb.

Poole and Tamihere, with the Waipareira Trust, want to establish four 50-pupil middle schools on a single West Auckland campus.

The project envisages a central hub with an indoor sports hall, auditorium and offices, with, it seems, some sort of business manager at its heart. Each school would have its own principal responsible for academic affairs.

Quite a smart idea. All sorts of innovations are possible when freed from central planning.

Each year, Poole’s school receives $1300 per student from the Government in funding, but pays it back in GST on fees. So his income is the $12,000 per year paid by parents for fees. A substantial proportion of that goes into paying the mortgage on the school property.

His argument is that because of the $8500 the Government pays for each state-educated pupil and the lower property prices in West Auckland, he could run exactly the same model there without charging parents anything.

Would he make a profit? He says not. “We have been as philanthropic as you can be [in selling their home]. Most people who are likely to become involved will do so without even a hint of a profit motive. I don’t think there are vast profits to be made from education in New Zealand.”

Anyway, he says, everyone makes money from education: teachers, unions, IT providers.

Some hate the fact someone may make money out of something, that they’ll fight against it on principle.

Critics of charter schools suggest that allowing business through the doors will mean the educational imperative becomes downplayed, conjuring images of a Dickensian private academy where 50 students cram over a single textbook and the proprietor swims in piles of money. “I understand that if you are compelling the children to go to the schools,” counters Poole, “but parents aren’t stupid . . . you have to trust them to make sound choices.”

Something the education unions and their proxies seem to hate – allowing parents to make choices.

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41 Responses to “A campus of charter schools”

  1. RRM (10,001 comments) says:

    Some hate the fact someone may make money out of something, that they’ll fight against it on principle.

    The Poole school sounds like a great initiative. It would be good to see more like it around. Anything that pushes overall standards higher is a good thing.

    But steady on with that “some people…”

    When so often the Teachers and the Nurses have to go on strike to get any movement whatsoever with their wages, and the reason is always “oh but there’s no money to pay you any more, even though inflation has devalued your wages by 20% since they were negotiated” can you appreciate how it might grate with some people to see somebody operating a commercial school and making a profit from these same scarce public funds??

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  2. trout (944 comments) says:

    Worth having a look at the very successful Charter School initiated by Andre Agassi for underprivileged kids http://www.agassiprep.org/students/ ; it has had a number of follow on clones. Agassi’s motivation and the development process are described in his very readable autobiography; OPEN.

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  3. rg (214 comments) says:

    I wonder if the Maori Party will support it? or is it only the ACT Party that wants to help these kids.

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  4. mpledger (425 comments) says:

    In the USA, Charter schools syphon off the kids with the most motivated parents, make the enrollement process rigourous to put off parents and “councel out” kids who don’t score well in tests. They have fewer children with disabilities (and when they do have disabilities they are less severe), have fewer children with English as a second languageand are more segragated by race than local public schools. However, only 17% of charter school do better than the local public school even with their enrollment/termination advantage (when compared on standardised testing). In order to fund charter school, resources and money are taken from the public school system over and above the per person cost of educating the student in the public system.

    When things go wrong, parents only avenue of complaint is the school and not any other education authority.

    Charter school have been set up in different states through legislation that has been written by ALEC, a right-wing organisation funded by corporations to get legislations sympathetic to their causes enacted. It’s all a big gimme to get private hands on tax dollars – people are calling it the next boom area after the IT bubble and the housing bubble.

    My take home message for parents is that you may feel like you a lot of power in choosing a school but once it’s chosen the charter school has all the power.

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  5. mpledger (425 comments) says:

    I looked at http://www.agassiprep.org/students/ and saw
    Students and parents are required to sign a Code of Excellence pledging a commitment to fulfill school requirements, including community service hours.

    Public schools aren’t allowed to have parents sign a “Code of Excellence” which they must follow in order to keep their kids in school. Public school have to serve everyone, not just those lucky enough to have motivated parents.

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  6. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    Mpledger, what exactly is wrong with that process?

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  7. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    Public schools mainly serve the unions mpledger. And quite frankly, they do so my pulling on parents heart strings but are no more beholden to parents than Charter or private schools In fact, less so because the state automatically writes them a cheque regardless.

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  8. scrubone (3,103 comments) says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how people argue against charter (and private) schools on the basis that they allow gifted kids to get out of their enviroment and succeed.

    It’s sickening.

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  9. SPC (5,748 comments) says:

    It’s just voucher education via charter schools, enabling schools to receive tax funding without being integrated.

    A classic example of a (private) school expanding into a corporation supplying education at more locations – now which name state secondary school and which private school will follow – and develop branches nationwide?

    Some irony – national standards and larger class sizes for state schools (a government claim that teacher quality is more important) and then devolution to tax/voucher funding (charter) to providers that have an independence from both of these developments. For no doubt every charter school will advertise their smaller class size and the lack of any need to limit education to testing for national standards.

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  10. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    I am surprised the Waipareira Trust is interested in charter schools given their racist origins.

    NAACP, the pre-eminent group supporting civil rights in the USA, has researched the performance of charter schools extensively and found they have a strong negative impact on educational outcomes. This is especially the case when it comes to African American males in charter schools.

    Charter schools are a simple tool for ACT and the Right to siphon educational funding into the private sector and profits.

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  11. mpledger (425 comments) says:

    scrubone (1,317) Says:
    September 3rd, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    It never ceases to amaze me how people argue against charter (and private) schools on the basis that they allow gifted kids to get out of their enviroment and succeed.

    It’s sickening.

    ~~~~~~~~~
    According to standardised tests only 17% of charter schools do better than the local public school. Charter schools only rarely offer more help getting kids out of their environment and succeeeding than public schools.

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  12. mpledger (425 comments) says:

    Monique Watson (649) Says:
    Public schools mainly serve the unions mpledger. And quite frankly, they do so my pulling on parents heart strings but are no more beholden to parents than Charter or private schools In fact, less so because the state automatically writes them a cheque regardless.

    ~~~~~~~
    Public schools are beholden to the laws of New Zealand and requirements of the Department of Education. Charter schools aren’t required to have certified teachers, follow the NZ curriculum or do National Standards. What goes at Charter schools is what Charter Schools want.

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  13. mpledger (425 comments) says:

    Monique Watson (649) Says:

    Mpledger, what exactly is wrong with that process?
    ~~~~~~~

    I presume you mean the process of selective enrollment for charter schools? All kids should have equal access to resources and equal access to good schools when they are being paid for by tax dollars.

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  14. scrubone (3,103 comments) says:

    According to standardised tests only 17% of charter schools do better than the local public school.

    Oh, well in that case I must be completely wrong – after all, you have a completely random statistic drawn from goodness knows where.

    Charter schools only rarely offer more help getting kids out of their environment and succeeeding than public schools.

    You do realise that is a nonsense statement.

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  15. mpledger (425 comments) says:

    I said:
    According to standardised tests only 17% of charter schools do better than the local public school.

    scrubone (1,318) Says:
    Oh, well in that case I must be completely wrong – after all, you have a completely random statistic drawn from goodness knows where.

    I replied
    It’s based on a stanford university report
    http://credo.stanford.edu/reports/MULTIPLE_CHOICE_CREDO.pdf
    The group portrait shows wide variation in performance. The study reveals that a decent fraction
    of charter schools, 17 percent, provide superior education opportunities for their students.
    Nearly half of the charter schools nationwide have results that are no different from the local
    public school options and over a third, 37 percent, deliver learning results that are significantly
    worse than their student would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools.

    I said
    Charter schools only rarely offer more help getting kids out of their environment and succeeeding than public schools.

    Scuborned said
    You do realise that is a nonsense statement.

    I replied
    If only 17% of charter schools are performing better than their local school and 37% worse than charter schools are not going to be more likely to do better at getting kids in to a better life through education.

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  16. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    It’s sad that a one man party gets an opportunity to destroy education for a small number of New Zealand students. Very sad.

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  17. trout (944 comments) says:

    Poor old Mpledger; refuses to see the wood for the trees. Perhaps in NZ we should also have parents enter into a social contract with schools so that they acknowledge their shared responsibility for their kids’ education. We know too many kids are failing, we know the Teacher Unions are reluctant to acknowledge this reality, we are now being told by the Unions that it is the fault of the ‘home environment’. Why is it that Charter Schools such a threat to the Left; is it because they will succeed and show up the present system for teacher intransigence and acceptance of failure?

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  18. SPC (5,748 comments) says:

    It’s simply take from the public sector and give to the private sector.

    And the double standards – of the increasing class size in one while the other advertises it’s smaller class sizes, of imposing a curriculum and national standards on one and not the other etc, etc.

    We know poor children suffer poverty and that reducing this would improve educational performance, yet nothing is done. Just some smoke and mirrors switch that pushes ideological buttons.

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  19. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    trout – The world’s leading research into charter schools shows their achievement rates for students are much lower than their public school counterparts.

    This should come as no surprise – charter schools use unregistered, untrained and unqualified teachers.

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  20. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    I agree SPC. We should do that.

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  21. trout (944 comments) says:

    Further info on Agassi College. Note that this venture educates severely underprivileged kids. And yes their parents do care, as do most Kiwi parents.
    AACPA is a tuition-free, public charter (K-12) school in Las Vegas, Nevada. AACPA does not discriminate its enrollment based on the race, gender, religion, ethnicity, or disability of a pupil. As a Nevada state approved charter that is dedicated to providing educational programs and opportunities to pupils who are at risk, AACPA follows the enrollment guidelines as detailed in NRS 386.580 Subsection 2. Admissions are by lottery.
    AACPA was dubbed a National Model Charter School by the U.S. Department of Education in 2003. In 2005, the middle school received an “exemplary” designation from the state of Nevada Department of Education, the only middle school in Clark County to receive this top-level honor. In 2007, the elementary school received an “exemplary” designation. We are proud to acknowledge that in 2009 the elementary, middle and high schools, all received “high achieving” designations, based on Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) status.

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  22. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    trout – you can’t pluck one school out of the sky. It would be like writing in favour of public schools and only mentioning Epsom Girls’ Grammar.

    The Stanford University study examined thousands of charter schools, was peer reviewed, and found they achieved much worse than their public sector counterparts.

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  23. wat dabney (3,804 comments) says:

    It’s sad that a one man party gets an opportunity to destroy education for a small number of New Zealand students. Very sad.

    Hilarious comment. Couldn’t think of anything actually bad about the venture, but desperate to say something (anything!) negative.

    Brilliant.

    Next time why not just post “I am a blinkered statist idiot who hasn’t really thought this through”?

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  24. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    wat dabney – There were constructive portfolios for Banks, including Police, Auckland issues and Corrections.

    Education is not his strong point and the charter schools experiment is very sad.

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  25. wat dabney (3,804 comments) says:

    the charter schools experiment is very sad

    Because parents shouldn’t be allowed a say in how their children are educated, should they. They should instead meekly send them along to state schools run for the benefit of unionised leftists to be instilled with the government’s ideas of what constitutes an education.

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  26. scrubone (3,103 comments) says:

    I said
    Charter schools only rarely offer more help getting kids out of their environment and succeeeding than public schools.

    Scuborned said
    You do realise that is a nonsense statement.

    I’ll try again.

    You are promoting public schools as giving more options than public schools plus charter schools.

    By definition, adding a charter school means more options.

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  27. Rightandleft (668 comments) says:

    wat dabney,

    The state education system in NZ already is a charter school system where parents have a great deal of choice. In the US public schools are run by city-wide or state-wide boards of education and kids have to attend the school their address dictates. NZ schools are run by boards of trustees and focus on the needs of the local community. Parents in NZ can choose between multiple public schools for the one best suited to their child. The NZ curriculum is deliberately broad to allow schools to serve the needs of their specific community.

    The teachers’ unions aren’t running education in NZ in any way. And to call them leftists is ridiculous. Teachers are highly educated and upper middle class professionals who tend to vote centrist to centre-right. That 95% plus are union members doesn’t make them left-wing radicals.

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  28. scrubone (3,103 comments) says:

    It’s simply take from the public sector and give to the private sector.

    **facepalm**

    And where does the public sector take from in the first place?

    The public sector should only exist if it serves the people. The government does not exist to benignly “grant” rights to the peasants – we have the right to educate our children the way we see fit.

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  29. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    New Zealander’s pay taxes to fund the public education system. In return, New Zealanders expect a high quality education system for their children.

    This is what they have, the third best education system by achievement results in the OECD.

    They do not pay taxes for:

    1. An inferior education system that produces poorer results.
    2. A system that allows profiteering off the public purse.

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  30. mpledger (425 comments) says:

    I said
    Charter schools only rarely offer more help getting kids out of their environment and succeeeding than public schools.

    Scuborned said
    You do realise that is a nonsense statement.

    I’ll try again.

    You are promoting public schools as giving more options than public schools plus charter schools.

    By definition, adding a charter school means more options.

    ~~~

    More options wont improve the system if the new option is inferior.

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  31. mpledger (425 comments) says:

    I said
    It’s simply take from the public sector and give to the private sector.

    scrubone (1,320) Says:
    **facepalm**

    And where does the public sector take from in the first place?

    The public sector should only exist if it serves the people. The government does not exist to benignly “grant” rights to the peasants – we have the right to educate our children the way we see fit.

    ~~~
    Where is this right written down? You can teach your kids anything but you have to send them to a government approved school from 6 to 16. I’d rather those government approved schools used every assigned dollar to educate kids rather than line the pockets of some corporate charter school manager.

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  32. SPC (5,748 comments) says:

    scrubone,

    The public pay for the charter schooling, why should some of this be profit extracted from the taxpayer payment by those managing the delivery? Especially when there is no required curriculum, nor any measure of conparative testing. How is educational performance to be be accountable?

    Governments do not usually hand over money collectd from taxation on such terms.

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  33. mpledger (425 comments) says:

    trout (757) Says:
    Poor old Mpledger; refuses to see the wood for the trees. Perhaps in NZ we should also have parents enter into a social contract with schools so that they acknowledge their shared responsibility for their kids’ education. We know too many kids are failing, we know the Teacher Unions are reluctant to acknowledge this reality, we are now being told by the Unions that it is the fault of the ‘home environment’. Why is it that Charter Schools such a threat to the Left; is it because they will succeed and show up the present system for teacher intransigence and acceptance of failure?

    ~~~
    Three quarters of kids achieve at NCEA level 1. This level of achievement is high correlated with socio-economic status so that the kids in the most deprived areas are least likely to succeed. They need experienced and highly trained teachers not charters school with uncredentialed teachers and managers looking to make a profit.

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  34. PaulL (6,035 comments) says:

    Wow. Lefty heaven here today.

    Let’s try:
    1. Nobody will be forced to send their children to a charter school. If nobody wants to send their children there, there won’t be any charter schools

    2. Charter schools will presumably get the same funding per head as state schools. If charter schools can take the same money, make a profit, and still deliver an educational outcome that parents prefer to sending their child to a state school, what exactly is the problem?

    3. The example that DPF blogged about isn’t exactly a large scale corporate school is it?

    4. Where schools select their students by lottery, and the educational outcomes of those students randomly drawn in the lottery are measurably better than the educational outcomes of those students not randomly selected, would you agree that is a statistically valid result? Are there not trials where exactly this has been done?

    5. One argument here appears to be that “things are different in NZ than USA.” Exactly right. And exactly why a trial makes sense. Given that noone is coerced to join the trial, and that the trial isn’t costing all that much, what exactly is the excitement? Based on all your beliefs this trial will show that it doesn’t work, and therefore no charter schools in NZ? Are you really that worried that it might succeed?

    6. What exactly is the objection to making a profit? Would you rather your food be delivered by a government run supermarket? Some countries have tried that you know – did it work well?

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  35. Tauhei Notts (1,744 comments) says:

    PaulL,
    Your comments are 100% common sense.
    Hamnida and his ilk will not be able to argue any of the points you raise. That is because the points you raise are inarguable.
    The only way to argue against somebody as sensible as you is to denigrate you with epithets. Like; you are communistic, athiestic, fascist, misogynistic, misanthropic, homophobic, statist, neo con, neo liberal, socialist, ageist, sexist, racist, or phuck knows what ist.
    PaulL, your comments are appreciated.
    Hamnida, our resident dongbeater, dingbat and dickhead will be able to pick out which adjectives most suit you.
    And, PaulL, you should treat his comments with the respect one usually reserves for used toilet tissue.

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  36. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    PaulL

    1. Then why have charter schools. What did ACT get in 2011 – 1% and 1 seat.

    2. Charter schools do not deliver the same results, in fact, they significantly under perform. Take Sweden, the UK and US as examples. The day they started charter schools was the same day they starting sliding down the OECD/PISA ladder. This is no surprise given they employ untrained, unqualified and unregistered teachers.

    3. The trust is both large scale and dangerous in my view.

    4. It’s not a lottery, you have to opt-in to a ballot and sign a contract with the “sponsor”.

    5. It sounds to me like children will be going to these “schools”. I don’t think children should be the subject of educational experiments that have already failed overseas.

    6. I think it says it all when you compare a child’s education to a supermarket. I think you will find the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders will find profit-making charter schools distasteful.

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  37. Tom Jackson (2,553 comments) says:

    “Because parents shouldn’t be allowed a say in how their children are educated, should they. “

    Given that most NZ parents are pretty dumb and functionally illiterate, the answer is: probably not.

    It doesn’t matter anyway. No education system can solve the problems we appear to want it to solve. If the middle classes want to waste time howling and squawking about educational reform, I can’t see any real harm coming from it. At least they won’t be messing with areas of public life where they could actually do real damage.

    However, it would be interesting if some charter schools were to take a worthwhile approach, such as that of the (secular version of the) classical education movement. But, I suspect that most charter schools in NZ will more likely have a Maori or religious focus.

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  38. Tom Jackson (2,553 comments) says:

    This is no surprise given they employ untrained, unqualified and unregistered teachers.

    That’s not helping your case. A suitably disguised chimpanzee could successfully obtain a B. Ed. at a New Zealand university.

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  39. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    Religious schools have LONG waiting lists – the reasons are – the attitude of the school, the discipline, the rewards for success, the dedicated teachers (who mostly have to at least practicing religious, if not of the religion of the school) but most of all the attitudes of the other pupils. Generally the peer pressure is for success – where as in so many non religious schools the peer pressure is for rebelion.

    Maori schools will not work – historty tells us that (well they wont work using the recipe theyve used in the past). St Stevens, Te Aute, etc, etc. in all 5 maori (boarding) schools have closed. They are too dedicated to the Haka and old maori culture. maori parents actually dont want their kids restricted to that type of thing in the future. Just look at maori early education – the numbers are falling because it doesnt work.

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  40. Paulus (2,656 comments) says:

    barry

    There is a beautiful brand new Maori Secondary School, opened quietly this year, in quiet suburb (Bethelehem) Tauranga.
    Try and find out anything about it and you politely told to get stuffed – our business.
    Even have their own busses for the pupils, so not to contaminate the other Secondary school under a km away.

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  41. PaulL (6,035 comments) says:

    Hamnida:

    1. Then why have charter schools. What did ACT get in 2011 – 1% and 1 seat.

    Because some people want them. Just because you don’t doesn’t mean other people don’t. Nobody’s forcing you to use them, you appear to be aiming to force other people not to use them. Which is anti-choice.

    2. Charter schools do not deliver the same results, in fact, they significantly under perform. Take Sweden, the UK and US as examples. The day they started charter schools was the same day they starting sliding down the OECD/PISA ladder. This is no surprise given they employ untrained, unqualified and unregistered teachers.

    These are just random assertions. The results on charter schools are mixed, depending on how they’ve been constituted. I’m pretty sure it’s not the case that all teachers in charter schools are untrained, unqualified and unregistered. The question is whether we want to allow a principal to run a school based on their management judgement.

    3. The trust is both large scale and dangerous in my view.

    I disagree with you.

    4. It’s not a lottery, you have to opt-in to a ballot and sign a contract with the “sponsor”.

    Are you arguing about the difference between the word ballot and the word lottery?

    5. It sounds to me like children will be going to these “schools”. I don’t think children should be the subject of educational experiments that have already failed overseas.

    I don’t believe this is an experiment that has already failed. Your ideological blinkers are blinding you.

    6. I think it says it all when you compare a child’s education to a supermarket. I think you will find the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders will find profit-making charter schools distasteful.

    I think it’s amazing that you don’t see food as being essential to life and a basic human right. I also think you’re wrong about an overwhelming majority of NZers. And ultimately a majority of NZers don’t need to worry themselves, only those who choose to send their children to these schools should worry.

    As expected, your objection is ideological and based on a lack of understanding.

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