What is a charter school? It is a primary or secondary public school that receives public money and private donations but which is not subject to the same rules and regulations that apply to publicly funded schools. Each school creates its own charter. Curricula are often specialized with a particular theme or focus.
After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was descended upon by the US Federal Government and families were provided with vouchers which they could spend at charter schools, many of which were run for profit and subsidized by the State. George Bush pumped in tens of millions of tax payers’ dollars (public money) to convert the New Orleans schools to “charter schools”. Within 19 months of the disaster the public school system had been plundered and almost completely replaced by privately run charter schools. Prior to Hurricane Karina there were 123 public schools in the city, after the Government had finished only 4 remained . It was referred to as the “educational land grab”. Charter schools are said to have helped create a “separate and unequal tiered system of schools,” where white students are steered into selective, higher-performing schools, and students of colour are steered into lower-performing schools. See, http://www.irpumn.org/uls/resources/projects/NEW_ORLEANS_FULL_REPORT.pdf
This is not unusual post disaster selling off pieces of state to private players while the citizens are still reeling from the shock of the events that have just taken place. Milton Friedman was the proponent of such policies and he maintained that it is crucial to act swiftly “to impose rapid and irreversible change before the crisis-racked society slipped back into the tyranny of the status quo'”. (Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Picador, New York 2007). That we would consider the pre-disaster educational system as ‘tyranny’ is unlikely, in my view.
The same thing took place in Chile after Pinochet’s coup- public schools were replaced with voucher-funded private ones and again in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami. Foreign investors and lenders also used the atmosphere of panic to hand over the whole of the coastline to property developers who quickly built luxurious resorts forcing hundreds of thousands of local people out of their traditional fishing waters. The Sri Lankan government went on to state that “in a cruel twist of fate, nature has presented Sri Lanka with a unique opportunity
and out of great tragedy will come a world class tourism destination”. Not much fun for the people who had previously used that land as access for making their living by fishing. Perhaps they will be happier as hotel cleaners and garbage collectors……..
The traumatic shock of the Christchurch earthquake produces the perfect window of opportunity for drastic unforgiving change- this is the moment in time when the gap between the speed of events and information that exists to explain them is non-existent- the perfect storm is created. In a whirlwind of activity life is changed forever. This is exactly what is taking place in Christchurch, as we speak. On the 13 September 2012, the Government proposed closing 13 schools, and that number has been repeated in the media for several weeks. But upon closer reading 30 schools are due to close. Is there an agenda here?? What can we expect from Charter schools in Christchurch.? I suggest we can expect the following:
- the American experience shows that the majority of charter school students are at-risk, minority and poor.
- only a few charter schools are likely to adhere to union contracts, so we are likely to see the end of collective bargaining for teachers – wouldn’t this Government love that.
- rewarding teachers through performance based or contracts based on skills and responsibilities.
- charter schools receiving fewer dollars and spending less than conventional schools.
- charter schools are substantially more segregated by race, income, ability, and English language fluency than their home public school equivalents. In the US almost 24 percent of all charter school students are Latino. Could this be the opportunity the Government is looking for to disrupt the multicultural society we have been developing?
- loss of teachers to the profession is higher, turnover of teachers is worse in Charter schools. Teachers are almost twice as likely to quit teaching, and almost three times as likely to change schools. Charter school teachers tend to be younger, part-time, and uncertified. We have already begun to see the debate about partially trained teachers in New Zealand. See, “New Teachers on Fast Track” at http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10780326
See “Teacher Turnover in Charter Schools” at http://www.vanderbilt.edu/schoolchoice/documents/briefs/brief_stuit_smith_ncspe.pdf
In the U.S. more than one third of charter schools nationwide deliver learning results that are significantly worse than would have been realized by traditional public schools, according to a StanfordUniversity study that is the first national assessment of charter school impacts. The study, which looks at more than 70 percent of the students in charter schools in the U.S., says 17 percent of them provide superior education opportunities for students, but nearly half have results that are no different from those of traditional public schools.
Is this really what New Zealand parents and all those wonderful teachers out there who take education seriously, want for their children? I don’t think so. See http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/blogs/an-auckland-minute/7424533/Market-no-place-for-state-education.
~Future Proofing for a sustainable, participatory, democratic society.
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