7 Mar 2013

Govt accused of stacking odds in favour of charter schools

6:54 pm on 7 March 2013

Critics of charter schools say new documents show the Government is trying to stack the odds in favour of publicly-funded private schools.

The Government intends to have charter, or partnership, schools open by the start of the next school year.

It has published papers showing the schools will get more money than state schools, but less access to centrally-provided support.

The documents show charter schools will get the same property, staffing and operational funding as state schools, but will also receive $276 per student in lieu of some support state schools have access to.

Charter schools would also be funded as if they are rated as decile three - which indicates a relatively high number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and attracts higher funding than for most other schools.

Opponents of the Government's plans say the funding arrangements will give charter schools an unfair advantage over regular state schools and discourage them from enrolling students with disabilities.

Education professor John O'Neill from Massey University says the extra $276 per student payment will give partnership schools and unfair advantage over state schools.

"That equates to around about five percent of the overall funding that they've allocated on a per student basis.

"And in my view, that then makes it much more difficult to evaluate these new teaching and learning models and say they're working because of the teaching and learning rather than the additional resources."

Professor O'Neill says the funding arrangements will encourage partnership schools to avoid enrolling children who might be difficult to teach.

Govt reserves right to change rules

The draft agreement shows the Government will reserve the right to change any rules that charter schools set and will shut them if necessary.

Radio New Zealand's education correspondent reports the document show charter schools will report publicly once a year on key performance indicators including student achievement and attracting children from target groups.

But beyond that annual statement, they will not be able to make any public comment without written consent from the Education Minister.

The agreement says the minister can suspend school rules that are not desirable and impose sanctions ranging from a warning notice to closing a school down.

The documents show charter schools will get establishment grants. Schools can get one-off set-up payments ranging from $175,208 for primary schools with 50 students, to $1,323,624 for secondary schools with 500 students.

The Government has asked potential sponsors to apply by 16 April.