Another academic attacks charter schools

November 26th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

I suspect we get all these farcical attacks on not because they believe their claims stand up to scrutiny, but that they hope to just damage the “brand” of the concept. The latest example is this article:

That does not come as a surprise to Auckland University associate professor and charter school critic Peter O’Connor, who says the business model is clear: Spend less than you get in state funding and pay the difference as dividends to owners.

Essentially, New Zealand charter schools – comfortingly branded as “partnership schools” – will be funded on similar lines to state schools, so a for-profit owner would need to create profit by spending less per child following a pattern developed overseas.

“Every child brings a pot of money with them,” he said. “Because of the deregulated environment, a profit can be made by driving down teacher costs by employing unregistered teachers. You drive down that cost by de-unionising the workforce, and employing on individual, not collective contracts.”

This theory has two problems with it. The first:

Catherine Isaac, a former ACT party candidate now on the government working party tasked with introducing charter schools, says there won’t be a single for-profit among the first wave of applicants to establish schools in 2014.

“There aren’t any for-profit proposals coming through as far as I am aware. They are all community groups, or existing schools or Iwi,” Isaac said.

So you have this guy say charter schools are about shareholders being for profit owners who will slash costs to make profits – and there isn’t a single for profit operator applying!!

But the bigger issue is so what if someone did make a profit. Unlike state schools where pupils are forced to attend based on their address, not one single student in New Zealand will be forced to attend a charter school against the wishes of their family. They will only enrol if they think it will be a better school than the local state school.

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60 Responses to “Another academic attacks charter schools”

  1. Mobile Michael (365 comments) says:

    I imagine charter schools in Thorndon and Remuera will wither, but in Otara and Cannons Creek they will thrive.

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  2. nasska (9,526 comments) says:

    It would take a trusting person to rely on Peter O’Connor to provide non partisan advice on matters educational. Associate professor he may be but he hasn’t always spoken down to the peasants from the ivory tower.

    His initial qualifications of BA and Diploma of Teaching would suggest that he would not feel out of place in the cloth capped unionist rats’ nests found at most NZ schools.

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  3. mikenmild (8,817 comments) says:

    nasska’s qualifications to speak on educational matters a much sounder – a dislike of the ‘ivory tower’ and unions and a certificate from the school of hard knocks.

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  4. Right_Wing_Dad (62 comments) says:

    And extend the anti-profit argument to anything else. Supermarkets make a profit so the community gets less food, so we should ban profits there also…

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  5. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    Hold on – I’m just getting my head around the image of a rat with a degree wearing a cloth cap – in a nest.

    It was difficult until I remembered you qualified it by pointing out the said rat might be partisan.

    Bloody ‘Ivory Tower Academics’. Is it any wonder he hasn’t got anything valid to say about education?

    Being a rat and everything. . . .

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  6. mikenmild (8,817 comments) says:

    I shouldn’t worry too much about for-profit groups becoming involved in schools. At best, it could only be a subsidy-farming operation. Look at the existing private schools, which can only afford to sell their elitist vision based on healthy taxpayer subsidies.

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  7. Ross12 (927 comments) says:

    I would suggest these academics should put their energy into looking at what is happening to teacher education ,especially primary teachers. Victoria University is finishing with the 4 year education degree and I heard in the weekend that Massey is also doing the same. They seem to think the one year post grad course is adequate. Ask any experience primary teacher and they will tell you it is crap. The good news is the kids that go to Waikato ( or any other uni giving the full education degree ) will be fought over by schools but the bad news is those doing the post grad option will find it extremely difficult if not impossible to get a job.

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  8. Psycho Milt (1,975 comments) says:

    …state schools where pupils are forced to attend based on their address…

    I see you’re mistaking the NZ school system for the US one again. It’s really not that difficult: the NZ school system operates in this country, and the US school system operates in the USA – most people have little trouble distinguishing between the two.

    [DPF: Wow in your fantasy world, there are no school zones in New Zealand. What is the weather like in your world?]

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  9. Graeme Edgeler (3,220 comments) says:

    US experience with Charter Schools has shown that not-for-profit does not necessarily mean no-one profits.

    You are probably right that the first wave won’t be dodgy in the ways that the US system has shown can occur, but unthinking defence is about as bad as unthinking opposition.

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  10. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    Look at the existing private schools, which can only afford to sell their elitist vision based on healthy taxpayer subsidies.

    @mikey, try to keep some sense of truth to the claim. Private schools receive approximately 30% of the per student subsidy that public schools receive. Nor do they sell an “elitist vision” – unless you think that excellence in education is not for the masses, of course, in which case you could claim it elitist.

    What is more, that minority amount of public finding they do receive requires them to align to the public school education and overarching curriculum objectives.

    Do try to not be such an ignoranus mikey.

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  11. wat dabney (3,461 comments) says:

    This Peter O’Connor?

    Associate Professor O’Connor is an internationally recognised expert in applied theatre. His research has focused primarily on using applied theatre as a public education medium to address major social issues including public health, gender equity in schools and the development of inclusive, empathetic and critical school cultures…

    Current research
    Applied theatre in trauma zones, applied theatre and criticality, charter schools

    http://www.education.auckland.ac.nz/uoa/peter-oconnor

    Clearly someone whose views should be taken seriously…

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  12. gazzmaniac (2,269 comments) says:

    @Ross12 – I would have thought a 3 year undergraduate degree in the subject that you intend to teach, followed by one year at teacher’s college, would be better than four years of liberal brainwashing bullshit.

    Being taught something for four times longer won’t make you better at it. Doing it will.

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  13. dime (8,752 comments) says:

    “US experience with Charter Schools has shown that not-for-profit does not necessarily mean no-one profits.”

    “NZ experience with Greenpeace has shown that not-for-profit does not necessarily mean no-one profits.”

    who cares if someone “profits”? oh the absolute horror!!!! lefties, always scared someone is going to make money when they arent.

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  14. Tom Jackson (2,235 comments) says:

    I would suggest these academics should put their energy into looking at what is happening to teacher education, especially primary teachers.

    I think the idea is to make teaching more appealing to better candidates. Back in the 70s, when I was at school, we had excellent teachers, as teaching was a well paid career – especially attractive to women – and the quality of tertiary graduates was higher (since it was more exclusive back then).

    Nowadays, the quality of the average tertiary student is lower, and there are better jobs available. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys, and we pay peanuts… Charter schools won’t solve that.

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  15. wat dabney (3,461 comments) says:

    Look at the existing private schools, which can only afford to sell their elitist vision based on healthy taxpayer subsidies.

    The ‘elitest vision’ being literacy, numeracy, discipline and good manners. Damn them!

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  16. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    In America owners of non-profit charter schools make their profits by owning companies which sell wares to their own charter at inflated profits and with no oversight.

    http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/20121016insiders-benefiting-charter-deals.html

    “Damien Creamer and Vanessa Baviera Rudilla run one of the largest online schools in Arizona, and the non-profit school contracts with a for-profit company, American Virtual Academy, for its curriculum and software. Creamer and Rudilla are officers of the non-profit and earn salaries. American Virtual Academy also is owned by Creamer and Rudilla. From fiscal 2007 to 2011, the non-profit paid $42.3 million to American Virtual Academy.”

    In 2011 they had just over 3000 students i.e. the size of 3 NZ high schools/colleges.

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  17. Harriet (4,010 comments) says:

    Mikey#

    “…Look at the existing private schools, which can only afford to sell their elitist vision based on healthy taxpayer subsidies….”

    Bhudson is correct on rubbishing that Mikey, and I’ll add that people who send their kids to private schools are entitled to taxpayer funds as they not only pay the taxes, but the government is obligated to provide an education for EVERY child over 6. It doesn’t matter that the kids are taught in the private sector as the private schools HAVE to follow the national curriculum.

    The private child’s education is as important to NZ’s future as is the states children Mikey.

    And besides, if the government is only going to provide funding for 30% of the national curriculum to private schools – then the national curriculum is then of no importance hey Mikey?

    And if that is the case then the private schools should NOT have to provide it for the benefit of the child or NZ’s future.

    So the question for you Mikey and the Idiot Left is this – “Is the national curriculum of importance?”

    Childrens education is of importance, but to have the Labour Lead Idiot Left condemming those who provide MORE money to the EDUCATION POT shows us that the Left doesn’t do too well with an education budget – nor curriculum! :cool:

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  18. RRM (8,988 comments) says:

    who cares if someone “profits”? oh the absolute horror!!!! lefties, always scared someone is going to make money when they arent.

    With all the spiteful comments we see on here about how civil servants are no better than beneficiaries, etc, I would be very surprised if the Kiwiblog right did not care care about someone profiting from YOUR TAXES…

    Or is state wealth redistribution sometimes ok, depending on who it’s redistributed to? ;-)

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  19. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    “Mot one single student in New Zealand will be forced to attend a charter school against the wishes of their family. They will only enrol if they think it will be a better school than the local state school.”

    Of course they may not have any real choice. If the local school is closed and their 5 year olds kid has to bus a significant distance to get to the nearest public school than *any* local school that opens is likely to be “better” no matter what type of school it is.

    [DPF: So you think charter schools will be so popular, that kids and families will flock to them, causing the local state schools to close?

    Wow that sounds awful.

    As it happens even if charter schools proved that popular, the taxpayer will pay for school buses for larger zones for existing state schools]

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  20. Ross12 (927 comments) says:

    Gazzmaniac — I was talking specifically about primary teaching. They do not teach one particular subject. It is important the primary teacher knows how to teach not what to teach in a specific area.

    Tom — I don’t think the changes are to do with appealing to “better” candidates. From what I was told it is to do with funding of universities and how they attract more funding if more research is being done in an area ( I don’t know the specifics of the funding issue)

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  21. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    Opps, that quote of mine above came from this URL which gives specific examples. The other URL gives over-all view.

    “4 charter-school organizations where insiders benefited”
    http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/20121117charter-snapshots.html

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  22. wat dabney (3,461 comments) says:

    The bottom line is that someone like ‘Professor’ O’Conner is only qualified to work in a state ‘education’ system. Just look at his shit CV. Utterly worthless. In a private school the best he could get would be sweeping the floors. No wonder he’s so scared.

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  23. dime (8,752 comments) says:

    RRM – really? do i need to point out the failings in your post?

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  24. RRM (8,988 comments) says:

    You might have to dime.

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  25. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    @ wat dabney

    His cv is so “bad” that it includes…
    “His work in Christchurch following the February earthquake has lead to UNESCO funded research and programme development. In 2011 he was named a New Zealander of the Year by North and South Magazine for this work.”

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  26. scrubone (2,971 comments) says:

    With all the spiteful comments we see on here about how civil servants are no better than beneficiaries, etc, I would be very surprised if the Kiwiblog right did not care care about someone profiting from YOUR TAXES…

    Actually goverment contracts a huge variety of services from for-profit companies.

    Why should education be considered different, especially since state education is only one alternative anyway.

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  27. wat dabney (3,461 comments) says:

    mpledger,

    And your point?

    Does he suddenly have a CV worth a dime outside the state-sector wankfest?

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  28. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    Unless North & South has suddenly become state owned then apparently.

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  29. wat dabney (3,461 comments) says:

    When it comes to educational matters, the North & South Award for Mime really is the gold standard isn’t it.

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  30. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    wat dabney (2,110) Says:
    When it comes to educational matters, the North & South Award for Mime really is the gold standard isn’t it.

    ~~~~~~~~
    You are moving the goal posts.

    Who in the private sector can give a gold standard for any type of education?

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  31. dime (8,752 comments) says:

    RRM – there is a difference between funding a bloated public sector full of back room jobs where the people do fuck all to better the lives of the tax payers and paying a private school the same amount of money that you pay a state school.

    if the private school can get results as good as or better and make a profit then good luck to them. its effectively costing us the same amount of money but giving us CHOICE.

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  32. Alan Johnstone (910 comments) says:

    “And extend the anti-profit argument to anything else. Supermarkets make a profit so the community gets less food, so we should ban profits there also…”

    Supermarkets don’t get all their revenue from tax payers; pretty big difference

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  33. RightNow (6,338 comments) says:

    Yep, if a charter school receives the same funding and does a better job then it’s a win for the students. Whether it can be done profitably is kind of irrelevant – except for something often not understood by a lot of dimwits – a profitable business will remain in business, an unprofitable business will not.

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  34. RRM (8,988 comments) says:

    Dime, Scrubone –

    Yes, fair enough.

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  35. wat dabney (3,461 comments) says:

    Who in the private sector can give a gold standard for any type of education?

    The likes of Oxford and Cambridge. MIT. The Ivy League universities, etc.

    Remember, with state schools the parent is not the customer. With a voucher system they are. That makes all the difference in the world. Imagine schools being run for the benefit of the customers rather than for the staff of the cosy monopoly provider.

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  36. wat dabney (3,461 comments) says:

    I doubt many charter schools will be for-profit organisations. Most will be non-profits.

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  37. seanmaitland (402 comments) says:

    “Supermarkets don’t get all their revenue from tax payers; pretty big difference”

    It is different, but still completely meaningless in the grand scheme of things. If the output is that the children get the same or better level of education as a public student then it doesn’t matter if any profit was made out of it. All that highlights is that publicly funded schools have some inefficiency.

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  38. lastmanstanding (1,154 comments) says:

    Wow Wouldnt it be dreadful if Charter Schools turned out to be successful and produced graduates who could read write and add up to more than the fingers on both hands.
    Graduates that could enter university law schools without having take remedial English courses so they can comphrehend the law texts.

    That would be truly dreadful. The teachers Unions would be incensed if Charter Schools did the job they are supposed to do but fail to do.

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  39. Graeme Edgeler (3,220 comments) says:

    [DPF: Wow in your fantasy world, there are no school zones in New Zealand. What is the weather like in your world?]

    Seriously, DPF?

    A school zone is an area from which a school must accept a pupil if that pupil applies to enrol. It is not a zone in which a student must apply, and can’t choose to go elsewhere.

    There are students for whom geography means there is no realistic choice in their schooling: there’s only one High School in Putaruru, for example, but have you really got so little understanding of the New Zealand education system as to think school zones force people to attend particular schools?

    [DPF: I know precisely how school zones work. And in areas where schools are over-subscribed, then you can't go to any school but the one you are zoned for, as the others are not allowed to expand to take in out of zone pupils.

    Zoning would be less of an issue if popular schools were allowed to expand. But they are generally not]

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  40. ross69 (3,637 comments) says:

    > there isn’t a single for profit operator applying

    Actually that’s not what Isaac said. She doesn’t know if there are any such operators. But I’m glad to see you agree with the expert and don’t want to see kids turn into profit-makers.

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  41. Alan Johnstone (910 comments) says:

    Out of zone enrollments are very common, esp in the urban areas.

    Lots of middles class kids who are in zone for James Cook in South Auckland bus to Howick every day. It needs a motivated parent who is willing to support it. It weakens the poorer schools.

    I’m kinda reluctant to use the words “white flight”, but i’m struggling to find another term that’s as correct.

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  42. Falafulu Fisi (2,176 comments) says:

    This so called academic (Prof. O’Connor) is nothing more than a pseudo-intellectual. Late Richard Feynman said it better.

    Feynman…

    I think ordinary people with commonsense ideas are intimidated by this pseudoscience. A teacher who has some good idea of how to teach her children to read is forced by the school system to do it some other way–or is even fooled by the school system into thinking that her method is not necessarily a good one. Or a parent of bad boys, after disciplining them in one way or another, feels guilty for the rest of her life because she didn’t do “the right thing,” according to the experts.

    And a clip of late Feynman’s BBC interview on the same topic is found here on Youtube.

    Feynman on social sciences

    One just have to look at the topics & publications that Prof. O’Connor is currently doing or has done in the past.

    It’s pure fucking useless. This is one of the department that University should downsize. These are the so called experts that Feynman refereed to. They’re experts in education, but if one asks to see their students records that they have taught over the years, I bet anyone here that their records will show that they’re no better teachers than their other average colleagues from the same department or faculty. I mean you wouldn’t expect to see their former students’ records to be skewed to have gained more A grades (or above) in their exams. And yet, they seem to know superior methods of how to educate children to achieve higher.

    This pseudo-intellectual professor should STFU. Oh, by the way, MikeMild does regard Prof. O’connor as an intellectual that his opinions is worth listening to. You would expect that from MikeMild since he doesn’t know what intellectual and pseudo-intellectual. I bet that MikeMild regards paranormal experts as intellectuals.

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  43. Graeme Edgeler (3,220 comments) says:

    [DPF: I know precisely how school zones work...

    And yet you still made a claim that there were:

    …state schools where pupils are forced to attend based on their address…

    And then said that this was because of zoning.

    Odd.

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  44. Falafulu Fisi (2,176 comments) says:

    I forgot to link to Feynman’s talk at CalTech in my post above. It’s here.

    CARGO CULT SCIENCE

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  45. dime (8,752 comments) says:

    “and don’t want to see kids turn into profit-makers.” LMAO stupid leftist type of comment.

    im not sure you got enough emotional shit into your comment. i dont quite get the image of children being made to work in factories.

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  46. Psycho Milt (1,975 comments) says:

    [DPF: I know precisely how school zones work...]

    If you think they force pupils to attend a particular state school based on their address, then you in fact don’t know how school zones work.

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  47. YesWeDid (1,002 comments) says:

    School zones don’t force anyone to send their children to a particular school, they may limit your options but that is totally different to ‘forcing’ you to attend a particular school.

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  48. nasska (9,526 comments) says:

    The crying shame is that more of our intellectuals don’t follow Falafulu Fisi’s way of thinking. If we had as many rational, pragmatic teachers as we have academic morons wanking into their Chardonnay glasses NZ would lead the world at every level of human endeavour.

    Unfortunately in the current situation we find that those who can do…..those who can’t teach.

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  49. RightNow (6,338 comments) says:

    ROFL, it seems DPF’s understanding of school zones has become the topic.

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  50. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    No RN, it seems DPF’s lack of understanding of the zoning system is the lead topic!

    And, of course, attacking the man instead of the argument, but that’s just standard fare on Kiwiblog.

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  51. Elaycee (4,067 comments) says:

    Abdul Ahmed Lucy:

    No RN, it seems DPF’s lack of understanding of the zoning system is the lead topic!

    And, of course, attacking the man instead of the argument, but that’s just standard fare on Kiwiblog.

    The irony of this comment should not be lost….

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  52. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    Wat Dabney said
    Remember, with state schools the parent is not the customer. With a voucher system they are. That makes all the difference in the world. Imagine schools being run for the benefit of the customers rather than for the staff of the cosy monopoly provider.
    ~~~~~

    Are television comapanies run for the sake of the customers? Are electricity companies run for the sake of the customers?

    Nope, they are run to give shareholders a profit at the expence of the customer. Why would schools in the free market be any different.

    One only has to look at private schools to see that they hit the parents up for money (or the equivalent) at every instance of parental contact with the school.

    If we go to vouchers then the schools will start complaining that the voucher money isn’t enough. The upshot will be that parents have to pony up the extra. Continuing, ad infinitum, the end result will be that the voucher will be essentially worthless and education will have been privitised. And a childs education will depend even more heavily on parental income.

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  53. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    Nope, they are run to give shareholders a profit at the expence of the customer.

    Ah, you miss an extraordinarily important point there mpledger. The reason they return a profit is because cusotmers buy their products or services. In order to return a larger product they must improve their efficiency (manage costs), increase their customers or increase the spend of their customers.

    So, yes the television companies are run for their customers – poor rating programmes = reduced advertising revenue = reduced profit = reduced return to shareholders. The same holds true for the electricity company, where there is competition.

    A monopoly provider will benefit even with a willful disregard for the customer where demand is inelastic – where customer really have no choice; no alternatives, no substitute products or services.

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  54. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    [DPF: So you think charter schools will be so popular, that kids and families will flock to them, causing the local state schools to close? Wow that sounds awful. As it happens even if charter schools proved that popular, the taxpayer will pay for school buses for larger zones for existing state schools]

    No, I’ll say that the Min of Education will reorganise schools in a city felled by an earthquake in such a way that some suburbs will not have an operational public school within a reasonable distance. When parents complain they’ll say they can only afford to open a new school throuh PPP and call it a charter.

    The taxpayer doesn’t pay for bussing kids to school (although I believe the rate payer subsidises fares). And, in any case, the bus companies are withdrawing services to schools for bussing school children around e.g. Wellington. I don’t see how a wonderous new bus system is going to evolve to ship kids every which way to school.

    [DPF: So your conspiracy theory involves the Govt arranging an earthquake just so it could force students from state schools to charter schools.

    PPPs are a very separate issue to charter schools. As far as I know, no charter schools are even planned for Chch. They are likely to be in areas like South Auckland where there are lots and lots of schools within throwing distance of each other]

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  55. RightNow (6,338 comments) says:

    “No, I’ll say that the Min of Education will reorganise schools in a city felled by an earthquake in such a way that some suburbs will not have an operational public school within a reasonable distance.”

    Well if you say that is happening I’m sure you have something to support the allegation?

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  56. wat dabney (3,461 comments) says:

    bhudson,

    Are television comapanies run for the sake of the customers?

    The essential point is that, with Capitalism, you can only make a profit by providing goods and services that benefit others (so no, private businesses do not “give shareholders a profit at the expense of the customer”: as in any free trade, both parties consider themselves better off by it.) Also, competition ensures that profits are minimal.

    By contrast, in a monopoly situation, the operation is run for the benefit of the operator and the staff (to varying degrees.) In the case of the state’s effective monopoly on education it is the employees who benefit at the expense of students and taxpayers.

    If we go to vouchers then the schools will start complaining that the voucher money isn’t enough. The upshot will be that parents have to pony up the extra. Continuing, ad infinitum, the end result will be that the voucher will be essentially worthless and education will have been privitised. And a childs education will depend even more heavily on parental income.

    You are forgetting one thing: market discipline.

    This is the equivalent of leaving out gravity in a physics theory.

    Why is it that supermarkets cannot keep raising their prices “ad infinitum”?

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  57. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    wat,

    I think you have confused me with mpledger.

    I won’t take it personally.

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  58. wat dabney (3,461 comments) says:

    Sorry, yes.

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  59. BlairM (2,266 comments) says:

    Those arguing against charter schools baffle me. Imagine if you could only buy one brand of beer. These folk seem to be arguing that there shouldn’t be more types of beer available because some of it wouldn’t be very good, that some of it would be more expensive, that buying it would make people wealthy at your expense. Well that could all be true, but I’d still want the choice!

    I remember when television got deregulated in the ’80s, and we finally got an independent TV company (TV3). I remember when it went into receivership a few years later after suffering from poor ratings. Nobody complained that we should never have let private companies run television stations, did they? No, even though TV3 was crap and had horrible shows, it was still better than having only two channels run by Members of Parliament.

    I don’t care how awful or crappy or corrupt or inferior these charter schools may be. I want the choice, and the commies can get fucked.

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  60. Psycho Milt (1,975 comments) says:

    Well, yes, only one brand of beer would be shitty. Only one type of school would be equally shitty. Luckily, we don’t have either of those things in NZ.

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