Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Act offers schools charter option

Act Party Leader Jamie Whyte. Photo / Geoff Dale
Act Party Leader Jamie Whyte. Photo / Geoff Dale

Act wants to give all state schools the option of becoming charter schools, Act leader Jamie Whyte said today.

That would give them freedom to opt out of the control of the Ministry of Education, to give boards control of how their money was spent, and be more innovative, he said.

"No school board that doesn't want these freedoms would be forced to have them," Dr Whyte said.

School Boards that wished to stay under Ministry of Education direction could choose to do so.

"However, I expect that a large portion would choose to be free and that we would see dramatic improvements in the performance of schools, especially those teaching children from poor families."

The party will try to negotiate the policy in a confidence and supply agreement with National.

Act successfully negotiated for the provision of five charter schools in its 2011 confidence and supply agreement - despite it not having been a policy feature of the party during the election campaign.

It provides for schools that are totally state-funded but run privately under contract to the Ministry of Education. Fees are not allowed to be charged and they must be an alternative to a state-run school.

The central feature of Act's education policy remains education vouchers and Dr Whyte compared it to the way supermarkets and other businesses compete for customers.

"Education should be supplied by educators competing for parents' voluntarily patronage.

"Educators should have to win the business of willing customers, just as supermarkets do, just as clothes stores do and just as builders do.

"Government should make sure that every child gets an education by providing all parents with a voucher, redeemable at any school of their choosing. Otherwise the government should have no more involvement in the education business than it has in the food business."

Dr Whyte, a former philosophy lecturer, was speaking at Act's northern regional conference in Takapuna and he named some of the teachers who had influenced him.
"Education is not important merely for your standard of living. It runs deeper than that. Education forms you. It is part of what makes you the person you are.

"I'll name some of the teachers who have contributed not only to my progress in life but to who I am.

"There was Mr Heath, my Standard 2 teacher at Melon's Bay Primary. He was a long haired sax-playing jazz musician who inspired an enduring love of music in me.

"Mr Taimana at Buckland's Beach Intermediate taught a few of us University Entrance maths even though we were only 12, and made me realize that we are often capable of more than we realize.

"Miss Stevens, my history teacher at Pakuranga College, made me understand that the way we live today is not just a natural fact but the result of big ideas that have been battled over for centuries.

"Then my philosophy lecturers at Auckland and Cambridge taught me how to be truly boring at parties."

- NZ Herald

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