Opposition leader Bill English has lashed out at Government ministers Kelvin Davis and Willie Jackson and their stances on charter schools, accusing them of being "the worst type of politician" by turning their backs on the pupils they used to serve.
The Government yesterday introduced legislation to fulfil its election campaign promise to end the charter school model.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said he preferred to close the existing 11 charter schools - which have a combined role of about 1300 students - by mutual agreement, but he reserved the right to close them himself with six months' notice.
Charter schools that wished to stay open would have to transition to the state school system, which will be considered by the Ministry of Education on a case-by-case basis.
Davis, who is Labour's deputy leader, said last year that he would resign if the charter schools Te Kura Hourua O Whangārei and Te Kāpehu Whetū in Northland closed down.
Labour MP and Employment Minister Willie Jackson has also shown support for charter schools. He used to run the Manukau Urban Māori Authority (Muma), which sponsors Te Kura Māori o Waatea in South Auckland and last year successfully applied to open a second charter school.
English lashed out at the ministers today, saying the decision to close the door on charter schools was "nasty and vindictive, and the victims will be the kids".
"The people in those schools will be very disappointed to find that Willie Jackson and Kelvin Davis didn't mean a word of it. Despite the fact they went to set up the schools, now they've become politicians of the worst sort - turning their backs on the people they used to serve, and worst than that, shutting down the schools they founded.
"For a Government that says that children are at the heart of everything they're doing, the Prime Minister has not been able to give one reason why it's good for those kids to have their school closed. It's a disgrace."
He took a swipe at the Prime Minister's Waitangi Day barbecue.
"This is complete contradiction to everything the Prime Minister has said. That's why she won't go to these schools. It's all very fine to make a show of cooking sausages for people on Waitangi Day.
"I challenge her to go to the schools and cook some sausages for the kids, and tell them, 'It's the last one, because I'm going to close the school'."
English said it didn't matter to the pupils that the Government had signalled it would end the charter school model on the election campaign.
"Go and ask the 13-year-old girl in the school whether she's familiar with the Labour Party's education manifesto and whether she cares a damn about whether that means it's fair enough to shut her school down."
Davis declined interviews today and would not be drawn on his previous promise to resign if the schools closed.
In a statement, he urged the two Northland charter schools to transition into the state school system.
"If they want to continue delivering kaupapa Māori education, they can – as a special character school."
The schools' sponsor is He Puna Marama Trust, and trust chief executive Raewyn Tipene said she did not want to pre-empt the outcome of a meeting with ministry officials on February 23.
"He Puna Marama Trust has two highly successful kaupapa Maori kura and have no desire to return to a mainstream model that has continued to fail a large percentage of our students," she said in a statement.
A spokesman for Jackson said the minister had no comment.
Last year Jackson told TVNZ's Q+A programme that ditching the charter school model would simply mean changing the name of the school model.
"They'll get rid of the concept, but the principle of turning kids' lives around is something that ... all of Labour believe in.
"So call the school whatever you like."