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Interesting: For Profit Charters Spread Around the World

December 24, 2011

File this in the “Why Fix What Isn’t Broken” category.  For profit charter schools are now slated to open up in New Zealand.  It seems that the new Government under Prime Minister John Key didn’t talk about these plans when he was running for the position, sounds a lot like Scott Walker in Wisconsin not running on plans to destroy unions.

For a little background on the story here is how the New Zealand Herald puts it:

Prime Minster John Key doesn’t expect the New Zealand public to be “up in arms” over plans to establish the charter schools in New Zealand, despite little warning of the move prior to the election.

National has agreed to a radical development in the education system – charter schooling – in a surprising part of its support deal with the Act Party.

Despite only getting 21,446 votes nationwide, Act’s sole MP John Banks has scored four ministerial portfolios – Regulatory Reform, Small Business, Associate Education, Associate Commerce – and the green light on several policies, including the establishments of charter schools.

Based on overseas models in the United States and Britain, it will allow entities such as private businesses, church groups, iwi organisations, charities, or existing schools to take over the management of failing schools and retain state funding.

I would bet that if someone were to dig deeper into the new Prime Minister’s background, or cabinet appointees they would find someone with ties to Charter School business interests run for profit.  There are many of them and they just hope to get their foot in the door, which is what they have done in the US.

Now in the Marlborough Express is a piece by Dan Searle who is the Regional Chairman PPTA as well as a teacher, he is not happy and with good reason:

The charter schools controversy reminds us all that the New Zealand Government still blindly follows United States’ educational policies, rather than checking out the success of those policies.

The man has a point.  Why would New Zealand follow the US down this path?

I cannot understand why New Zealand (ranked fourth in the world) chases policies from the United States (ranked 24th). New Zealand students’ average achievement equals or exceeds that of students from other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in core areas such as reading, mathematics and science. Of the 57 countries taking part in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2006, New Zealand ranked third in scientific literacy, fourth in reading, and sixth in mathematical literacy.

Diane Ravitch, a respected Professor of Education in New York, spent 10 years encouraging charter schools in the United States. She is now totally opposed to them.

The students they were meant to help have rarely been helped. The schools exclude children with problems to get their pass rates up.

Diane Ravitch writes: “Charters should serve the neediest, but, with some notable exceptions, they have become aggressive and entrepreneurial. Instead of seeking out the neediest students, many of them exclude the neediest students and skim the best. In some states, like Michigan, most of the charters are for profit, with big dividends to the investors; their profits come right out of the public school budget and into the pockets of shareholders.”

Bingo!  I have a deep-throat “follow the money” theory that also coincides with my Occam’s Razor belief that most times all you have to do is “follow the money” and the by doing so you are adhering to the tenets of Occam’s Razor which espouses that the simplest explanation is usually correct with regard to why something happens.  This is also why I have such disdain for fork-tongued politicians who spin the simplest stories in a thousand directions.

Warning bells should ring when the Secondary Principals’ Association, the Principals’ Federation, the School Trustees’ Association, the Teachers’ Council, the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA), and the New Zealand Educational Institute are all speaking out against the proposal. Such unity is rare.

If the honest aim of charter schools is to improve the success of poor achievers, why not give the money to existing schools? New Zealand schools have had charters for 20 years but without the profit motive.

Therein lies the motivation for this nonsense: the ability to use fewer or untrained teachers to siphon off profits. It is bulk-funding dressed up differently. No wonder it was not announced until after the election.

For profit Charter operators want their hands on public dollars, it is that simple.  Be careful NZ.

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