All aboard the charter schools gravy train

Written By: - Date published: 7:34 am, May 21st, 2016 - 32 comments
Categories: accountability, act, education, Hekia parata, national, schools - Tags: , ,

No surprise to find more organisations lining up to run charter schools:

ACT’s charter school policy will expand with seven new schools budgeted for

Seven new charter schools announced by the Government will cost taxpayers up to $600,000 each to set up.

The new schools will expand the flagship ACT policy that saw five schools open, mostly in Auckland and Northland in 2014 – one of which, in Whangaruru has since been closed by the Education Minister – and another four opened in 2015.

Te Pumanawa o te Wairua in Whangaruru was given a series of warnings and closed down in March after the school was plagued with problems, including bullying, drugs, poor student achievement and inadequate teaching.

In a move to overcome some of those issues, Seymour has also announced the introduction of an independent entity to support schools. … The support entity, E Tipu E Rea, would join other independent organisations such as the New Zealand School Trustees Association in providing support services, he said.

It would receive most of its funding from private sources and was designed to increase the number of “high quality applicants” setting up schools, and supporting existing schools to “continuously develop”. It would also receive a conditional funding grant of $500,000, which would be drawn from a “contingency established in 2015,” Seymour said. Former CEO of EY Australasia, Rob McLeod, will chair the board, which includes Dame Tariana Turia, Dame Jenny Gibbs, Michael Jones, Bruce Ritchie and Ken Rapson as board members. …

I/S at No Right Turn is pretty scathing of the new body:

Cronyism in action

So, the government has just announced that they will be establishing more charter schools – because clearly one failure resulting in a private company running off with millions of dollars of government funding isn’t enough. They’ve also announced a new “independent” entity to support them, run by ACT crony Jenny Gibbs and Maori Party crony Tariana Turia. So, pork all round for the support parties then.

Speaking of gravy trains:

School cash flows to owners’ pockets

Some of the country’s flagship charter schools are paying their owners hundreds of thousands in governance fees to help manage average rolls of just 70 children.

An analysis of audited financial returns has shown administration and management at the publicly funded, privately run schools form a large part of their costs – up to 40 per cent of total salaries.

Accounts for the first five schools show that four made “related party” payments to their sponsor trusts or companies last year. One school, Vanguard Military School, paid $309,391 for management, over and above what it paid its principal. The money went to the Advanced Training Group. Both entities are owned by the Hyde family.

All of the $14 million of charter school funding came from the Government, with none of the first five schools partnering with business or other private backers in the way envisaged under an election deal between National and the Act Party.

The money comes rolling in whether the schools meet their targets or not:

Charter schools given $60k in performance payments despite contract issues

Four charter schools were awarded $60,000 in performance payments last year, despite only one of them fully meeting the terms of their contracts.

The Labour Party says the decision “defeats the purpose” of the contracts, and underlines the disparities between the well-funded charter schools and their struggling state equivalents. …

It comes rolling in whether they have the student numbers or not:

Ministry says charter schools “over-funding” is $888,000

The Education Ministry says charter schools are getting a total of $888,000 more than they would if their funding were strictly based on their enrolments.

Seven of the nine schools had fewer students in September than their guaranteed minimum roll, meaning they are being paid for students they do not have. …

Charter schools are pretty nice work if you can get it, no wonder groups are lining up.

There’s no evidence that charter schools are good for education. Reviews are mixed. Numbers are cooked by reporting “Participation Based” pass rates and not “Roll Based” pass rates (poorly performing kids don’t take exams). And the Minister Hekia Parata vetoed Education Ministry advice so as to ensure that achievement results from charter schools are not compared with those of state schools (it’s “too soon” you see).

There may well be some good committed teachers at charter schools doing good things. They certainly have funding resources that far exceed state schools – in some cases “$27,000 in operational funding per student each year, compared with $7000 per student in state schools” – so they have the opportunity to do things that state schools can’t – if they use their funding on education instead of “governance fees”. But there is no evidence of this so far. And just imagine what state schools could do if they were funded at the same level, where the funding could have “the greatest impact on the greatest number of students”…

32 comments on “All aboard the charter schools gravy train”

  1. madtom 1

    The charter schools profiteers do not give up easily, as this history of their fight with the voters in Washington State shows. I suspect there is behind-the-scenes synergy here, as the immediate working operators make bundles of cash, and the sit-back, big-wealth backers like Bill Gates (in this story) hope to extend their control of the public mind by adding k-12 education to their media and copyright ownership.

    [I taught high school & beyond in Washington for about 15 years, so I take this personally]

    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2016/04/how-bill-gates-and-his-billionaire-allies-used-their-wealth-to-launch-charter-schools-in-washington-state.html

    • greywarshark 1.1

      This is some of the above article mentioned by madtom. It sounds familiar to us doesn’t it.
      http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2016/04/how-bill-gates-and-his-billionaire-allies-used-their-wealth-to-launch-charter-schools-in-washington-state.html
      Posted on April 27, 2016 by Yves Smith
      By Joanne Barkan. Originally published at the Nonprofit Quarterly (Spring 2016; vol. 23, no. 1)

      Charter supporters tried another ballot initiative in 2000, and, for the first time, attracted the backing of a multibillionaire philanthropist. Paul Allen had cofounded Microsoft in 1975 and The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation in 1988.3 The state places no limits on individual campaign contributions for ballot measures, so Allen was able to give $3.275 million of the total $3.4 million raised by the pro-charter side. Opponents raised only about $11,000. Outspent 309 to 1, they still defeated the initiative, although the millions given in support of charters shrank the margin of victory. The vote was 51.8 percent against charters and 48.2 percent in favor.4

      In the next four years, the national context shifted. The debate around public education intensified as a controversial market-based education-reform movement grew stronger. “Ed-reformers” claimed that U.S. public schools were failing; that the culprits were bad teachers, teachers unions, and government bureaucracy; and that the private sector, using public resources, could run better schools. They promoted competition among schools to force out the weakest and measuring educational success via students’ standardized test scores.
      (My bolding.)

  2. Keith 2

    Isn’t cute the way National make unhelpful stats just go away and even cuter bypass the collection of potentially bad stats by not collecting them at all.

    This poor value for money taxpayer funded largesse for friends of the government is clearly not working if statistic cover ups are in full swing, but i guess thats not what really matters, its divvying up the cash that does.

  3. NZJester 3

    Even before they opened the fist charter schools in New Zealand the data from those places having tried them overseas have shown that charter schools simply are not value for public money and in a lot of cases are a total waste of money. Those already known results seam to be matching what has been happening with charter schools in New Zealand.
    If that money had gone into public schools instead it would have improved education in New Zealand instead of lowering our education standards.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      Charter Schools the world over have nothing to do with improving educational outcomes but are simply another way to transfer public wealth into the hands of the rich. They have no other reason to exist.

  4. One Anonymous Bloke 4

    Gone by lunchtime, with a full audit and clawing back of all funds provided under false pretences (which if you ask me is 100%). The only way to Tory proof education is to inflict massive damages upon anyone who collaborates with the National Party.

    Make them lose their shirts and they’ll think twice next time. Same applies to the likes of SERCO and other corrupt trash.

    • Chuck 4.1

      No doubt OAB you will be the leader of the “hit squad” to round up “anyone who collaborates with the National Party”

      And then “inflict massive damages upon” them.

      Maybe even shave their heads??…so everyone knows they collaborated with the enemy 🙂

      • Nic the NZer 4.1.1

        No need. Once the gravy train dries up these companies dont want to be in the business of education and are hopelessly inefficient at it. If they are sensible they just fold immediately when a different govt is elected.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 4.1.2

        Since when does “shirts” mean anything other than “money invested”?

        cf: the failed privatisation of ACC.

      • Stuart Munro 4.1.3

        Not their heads Chucky my lad, but their margins.

        Make them repay for non-performance – Brownlee would be in debt for a hundred lifetimes for the bollocks he’s made of Christchurch.

        Nick Smith – wouldn’t have a penny to his name, and Bill English? The whole family would have to be sold into slavery for a geological age – just to recoup the public money they’ve pissed away like the ketone laden residue of an after-match function.

  5. Jenny Kirk 5

    A particularly lousy aspect of what is already a lousy policy is that these seven charter schools will be paid for by money originally allocated to the state school system. So – the charter schools will flourish, and the state schools will deteriorate even further.

  6. tinfoilhat 6

    sigh…there is so much emotive disinformation on both sides of the charter school debate in NZ.

    • seeker 6.1

      @ tinfoilhat@10.22am

      Have you looked into this ’emotive disinformation’ to see whether or not it is ‘disinformation’ and if it is why one might become a tad ’emotive’ about it.
      Or have you just ‘sighed’ and used this phrase to dismiss this issue to yourself with indifferent arrogance and swagger. (because the issue does not affect you personally).

      Really tinfoilhat.

      • tinfoilhat 6.1.1

        @ seeker – I have posted substantively on this issue at this blog.

        disclosure: I am a long serving secondary teacher in the Auckland region.

        • seeker 6.1.1.1

          Thankyou for your reply tinfoil.
          I too have served long and hard as a primary and secondary teacher, and particularly within special education in the UK
          Special Education in the UK means meeting the full spectrum from those children with severe learning difficulties and all it entails ,right through to the very able or’gifted children..
          I do not have a tinfoil lhat……only great sadness at what this government and the UK government have been doing to education. The USA never really had my respect for their approach to public education.
          Am now retired and am really concerned for the young people of today growing up in the world created but what are now known as ‘neolibs’. These people are so enamoured of ‘the market’ that I think of them as ‘black marketeers’, especially with our children’s lives. But perhaps this is a little too emotive.

          Happy teaching. Perhaps you are still young enough to be able to get a chance to teach in ‘charter’ school . Please let us know what you think.

          • seeker 6.1.1.1.1

            Oops a few typos on my comment, main one should read:
            “by what are now known as neolibs”

          • maninthemiddle 6.1.1.1.2

            Your argument about the ‘market’ intervention in education is fallacious. Partnership schools are not-for-profit, so the market is only partially utilised here. But, mores the point, the ‘market’ has delivered education for far longer than has government. The ‘market’ also successfully delivers a swathe of other services to government, including health care, public transport, IT support, printing, roading and other infrastructure work.

            I suggest to you that most opposition to partnership schools is ideological, not evidence based, and I suggest the same thing is true of much support. I suggest a reasonable approach is to wait and see. As other posters have said, if they improve educational outcomes for their pupils, leave them open. If not, shut them. I only wish we had the same ruler applied to public schools.

            • joe90 6.1.1.1.2.1

              But, mores the point, the ‘market’ has delivered education for far longer than has government.

              Do you mean prior to governments providing public education when only the 1% could afford to educate their children?.

  7. ianmac 7

    The State schools BOT were paid $50 per meeting for 10 meetings per year. About $2,500 per year.
    It seems that Advanced paid out $309,399 for the same thing but with fewer than 100 kids.
    Gravy?

  8. Byd0nz 8

    Would a Marxist school of economics get a look in?

  9. McGrath 9

    For me the debate is simple. If pass rates are higher in charter schools, they should stay. If not, they should go.

    • Incognito 9.1

      For me the debate is simple. If charter schools do anything to deal with The Long Tail of Underachievement as they said they would, they should stay. If not, they should go.

    • mpledger 9.2

      There will always be excuses and evasions about what their results are. Just like there is at the moment.

      Charter Schools get to chose their students and there is no come back if they push out students e.g. they still keep the money that pays for educating that student even when they go back to the state school system.

      It’s a way for private companies to get their hands on tax dollars to take as profit.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 9.3

      For me the debate is simple: close them by lunchtime so that the next time the National Party tries to inflict its dogma upon children, potential investors are gunshy.

  10. AsleepWhileWalking 10

    In shape contrast…if you choose to home school your kid (a smaller version of a charter school imho) the State gives you just over $700/year per child.

  11. feijoa 11

    I also heard somewhere that an extra $7 million of STATE SCHOOL FUNDING is going to be REMOVED for these wretched schools. Think I heard it on TV in the last day or so.

    • Jenny Kirk 11.1

      Yes – I heard that too, feijoa. State school money going straight into private Charter Schools. This stinks. Its not that the govt has found extra funds from somewhere (a foreign trust maybe) for the new charter schools. They’re taking it from us – middle NZ – to pay for the elite !

  12. millsy 12

    Charter schools serve the following purposes:

    – The privatisation of education
    – The lowering of the working conditions and wages of teachers
    – The indoctrination of children and young people with neo-liberal and Calvinist ideology. whereby fundamentalist Christian pentecostalism and free market capitalism are the order of the day, and kids are taught not to question authority. Look at what is happening in the US, whereby most charter school are either run by churches or millionaires.

    The charter schools here are a military academy, where kids are taught to say yes sir, no sir and not question anything, and a christian school, where kids are taught that the earth and mankind were created, women are baby vessels and LGBTI people are vermin that are fit only for extermination.

  13. marsman 13

    Thank you Anthony for your clear description of yet another neo-liberal scam.

    I want to post this article on my Facebook page but somehow that is not working. Any suggestions?

  14. Jack Ramaka 14

    Sounds like one big scam, surely the Education Department is sorting our problems and under achievement in schools in NZ, in 1907-1908 the Native schools in NZ were on par if not better than the European schools in NZ, so we have obviously gone backwards in the past 100 years. Why are we trying to re-invent the wheel?

  15. M. Gray 15

    You can’t and shouldn’t have different levels of accountability when you are using tax dollars the charter schools need to be accountable , transparent and subjected to the same scrutiny as public and other private schools otherwise get rid of them

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