When the Government changed the Education Act to allow for charter schools, it bet that a bunch of non-educators using their own untested theories of education could run schools for our most disadvantaged students and achieve better results than state schools.

Not only that, it stacked the decks by deliberately removing the charter schools from the checks and balances that all state schools must face and gave them more money (as a series of set-up grants). For example, these schools are exempt from making disclosures under the Official Information Act, despite the fact that they are government-funded.

The policy was always ideological, always about neo-liberal thinking rather than straight thinking.

In Sweden and the UK, charter school models (free schools) are contributing to the decline of educational outcomes. There are calls for change in both countries.

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In the US, scandal after scandal has swept charter schools: poor teaching, poor facilities, financial scams, corruption, profiteering, abrupt closures of failed schools, political patronage, abuse ... Almost everything that could go wrong in these schools has done so, often over and over again.

The Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC) has been tracking US charter schools daily for more than two years ago now, and not only are many of them an educational disgrace but they continue to contribute to the overall educational collapse of the US in world educational rankings. Per dollar spent, US schools are the world's worst.

The public was told things would be different in New Zealand (despite depressingly similar policy settings).

But our own tiny number of such schools have already suffered from student loss, concerns over quality and now a new school has recently had a principla resign as a result of being under investigation by the Teachers Council for potential serious misconduct at another school.

This is a clear example of deregulation leading to poor practice. The Minister calls these "teething troubles".

QPEC calls them an educational disaster in the making, and calls on this Government to stop this experiment, which is following the worst practices of schools internationally and will not improve outcomes for the most disadvantaged.

There is no empirical research that supports this model of charter schools, and plenty of evidence against the model. It is being driven by the first-term, right-wing Act MP, David Seymour, who promises to support these schools through thick, thin and very expensive, success or failure - competition at all costs, and the taxpayer must pay.

-John Minto and Liz Gordon are the national spokespeople for the Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC)

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