Espiner on charter schools

Colin Espiner writes:

I’d thought that centrally-controlled, one-size-fits-all approach to education policy had disappeared with the introduction of Tomorrow’s Schools more than 20 years ago. But I reckoned without the teacher unions.

The vitriol spouted by the Post-Primary Teachers Association () and the Educational Institute () at the Government’s announcement last week that it would fund five privately-run Partnership Schools took me back in a flash to my early days as a reporter covering teacher union rallies and marches.

Back then, it was bulk funding and the devolution of central control to community boards of trustees the teacher unions didn’t like. Oh, and Lockwood Smith.

They went on to oppose NCEA, National Testing, religious schools integration, private school funding . . . in fact pretty much anything that threatened the status quo and the teacher unions’ privileged position within it.

NZEI specially seem incredibly reactionary. They have fought a four year campaign against simply having an extra page in a kid’s report cards that states where they are at compared to a national standard for their age in literacy and numeracy. Incredible.

What’s so wrong with trying something a little different? With offering students failing in the mainstream education system an alternative? A little military training wouldn’t go amiss with some of them. And is a spot of faith-based teaching and some Maori immersion learning really going to do any great harm?

Apparently. According to the PPTA, these schools are so evil the union is considering asking its members to boycott all cultural, sporting, and professional events involving Partnership Schools. Marvellous – that’ll help those kids already alienated from the mainstream feel like they’re wanted.

Matthew Hooton describes how the planned boycotts will work:

In practice, it means that if students from one of the five schools enter a netball team in their local competition, the PPTA will order its members to stop their students from playing against them.

If partnership-school students qualify for the regional swimming sports, the PPTA will prevent other students from entering the pool for fear of political pollution.

The same goes for the local debating, kapa haka or Mathex competition.

Who would have thought that unions would be pushing for effective segregation of students, like the US had in the 1960s.

Espiner concludes:

No one is suggesting the state education system should be dismantled. It provides a mostly adequate, sometimes excellent, service. But even the bureaucrats in Wellington admit they don’t have a monopoly on good ideas. So what are the unions so afraid of?

Possibly more flexible working hours, fewer holidays, a greater range of pay rates, and non-unionised workers. A system outside state control, where commercial success is actually encouraged. A bit like the world the rest of us live in.

At worst, these schools will not live up to their potential and will be shut down, probably by Labour. But what if they succeed? It won’t just be the students who stand to benefit. It’ll be all of us.

And unlike state schools, not one student or parent will be forced to attend a charter school. There are no zones for . Every pupil who attends will be there because they and/or their parents have decided they think they will do better at that school. That choice, is what the unions are trying to prevent.

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