A narrow majority of New Zealanders oppose the opening of five charter schools next year and feel the funding would be better spent on state schools, a Herald-DigiPoll survey has found.
The new partnership schools, or charter schools, will be a topic of heated debate at the Post Primary Teacher's Association (PPTA) annual conference today, where the union will discuss its response to the Government-funded, privately-run schools.
The DigiPoll survey showed New Zealanders were divided about the schools, but slightly more than half of respondents agreed that public money should be prioritised for public schools.
Nearly 45 per cent of respondents supported charter schools because they felt they would provide a different approach to education.
When the first five partnership schools were confirmed last month, the PPTA recommended boycotting them by cutting off all professional, sporting and cultural ties. Its members are scheduled to vote today on this recommendation.
PPTA president Angela Roberts said teachers saw the schools as a threat to public education.
"Every time a child moves out of a public school into a charter school, they take funding, they take staffing, and that school which still has kids in it is poorer. So the teachers in a public school are left to try and do an even better job with even less."
She said the "different approach" respondents supported could take place within state schools. "There are communities that have worked so hard to create kura kaupapa, to create immersion units, service academies - these things are able to happen already in the public school system."
About $19 million has been set aside for the five schools but they would require further funding once they opened in the first term of 2014.
Education Minister Hekia Parata said the poll result reflected the fact that charter schools were a new model, were not yet well understood by parents, and needed to be given a chance to be successful.
The minister stressed that the schools would be under intense scrutiny. Their six-year contracts required them to perform as well as public schools despite the fact that 75 per cent of their rolls could be made up of underperforming students.
Labour's shadow education minister, Chris Hipkins, said the result was unsurprising because charter schools were being introduced when underfunded state schools were asking parents for greater contributions.
"Our true focus should be on ensuring every school is a great school. Forcing public schools to compete with better-resourced private schools won't help one bit."