Charter schools a 'failed experiment in New Orleans'

By Kate Shuttleworth

Karran Harper Royal, of New Orleans. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Karran Harper Royal, of New Orleans. Photo / Mark Mitchell

A visiting opponent of charter schools has told the education and science committee in Parliament today the Government should not proceed with charter schools.

Karran Harper Royal, from New Orleans, cautioned the committee against approving charter schools.

"I am a proud American, but not all that comes out of America is good. Charter schools have been a failed experiment in New Orleans.

There is no reason for New Zealanders to go down that road, Ms Harper Royal said.

"Why would you want to give up your democratic involvement in your public education system for a privatised public school system when the evidence coming out of the United States shows that charter schools fail."

Mrs Harper Royal said 37 per cent of charter schools in the US had been found to perform worse than public schools, and New Zealand should learn from the charter schools experiment in New Orleans.

She said Maori and Pacifika children would not be helped by charter schools.

Te Huarahi Maori Motuhake representative Te Makao Bowkett agreed, and told the committee the resourcing that would be taken away from state education to support charter schools would leave less for Maori and Pacifika students.

"It is a state abrogation of their responsibility for the education of the children of this nation to even suggest that somehow or other by creating an experiment for a few, that would actually cater and meet the needs of this nation," she said.

Labour MP for Wigram in Christchurch, Megan Woods, asked if there was a threat in Christchurch of charter schools being set up post-earthquake in the same way they were post Hurricane Katrina.

"We saw a pattern of school closures - some schools had to close because we didn't have the population, that's understandable. But what is not understandable is new charter schools opened up in the space with far fewer children in the building. That's not financially sustainable," she said.

Post Primary Teachers Association president Angela Roberts said charter schools were not a solution to under-achievement.

"If the Act Party and its wealthy backers really believe they have the silver bullet for addressing educational under-achievement, then they should have the confidence to fund the experiment themselves and not demand full taxpayer funding while trying to evade accountability for the spending of it," she said.

She also said schools were already given scope to be innovative, and charter schools were not needed to achieve this.

"What diversity means in this context is simply privatisation, as the New Zealand education system is already the most devolved and diverse in the world.

Mrs Roberts said there was one justification for charter schools.

"The only reason for charter schools to proceed is the cynical political one - the single vote that the Epsom electorate supplies. In which case National members of this committee are saddled with a very big responsibility.

"You will know how cash-strapped the public schools in your electorates are, and that they have not received much help or sympathy from this government."

- APNZ

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