Since the government announced that they were going to open up education to include charter schools there has been a lot written and said about the idea on both sides. I wrote about it too, but I never felt like I had gotten at what bothered me most about the schools. It has taken me a long time to come down to the conclusion I am going to write now.
As I said, there is a lot written about charter schools. They get called a lot of different names. Let’s call them state funded private schools. It’s not catchy, but anything else is branding either by those for them, or those against.
In New Zealand we all roughly know how schools get money. State schools get it from the government, which means from taxes. It gets more money by asking for money for trips from parents, and fundraising, and making deals with sponsors, and having international students, but on the whole their money comes from the state. Private schools get their money from the fees the parents pay to send their children to the school. They also get money from the government, and fundraising, and sponsorship, and so on, but most of the money comes from fees.
In return for money a state school follows a national curriculum and offers a good quality affordable education to everyone who lives in the area around that school. In return for not taking as much money from the state, private schools follow an approved curriculum and offer a good quality education, often with a specific character or set of beliefs attached, to those who can pay to go there.
The change then is that this new category of school will have the limited freedoms of a private school (and a few more), but will be funded by the state. This category of school has been around for a while in America, and has recently been permitted in the UK. People on both sides of the debate say that lessons can be learnt from these countries (completely different lessons of course).
It has taken me a really long time to decide what I truly think about this new type of school for New Zealand, because it touches on so many other things to do with education, and these things tend to distract me. With the release this week of detail around what New Zealand’s version of a state funded private school would be like we got the following headlines in various media:
- Destiny Church might set up a school!
- Transcendental Meditation Groups might set up schools!
- Unregistered teachers might be teaching your kids!
- These schools can set up their own pay scales, hours and terms!
- These schools will be out to make a buck!
In my head there are two clear issues that are present in this list: Who can run a school, and how schools can be run.