Newly released Treasury papers show it was sceptical about
the chances charter schools will improve student performance
and warned they could affect nearby schools by sucking away
teachers and students, and therefore funding.
Despite Treasury's lukewarm response, the Government has gone
ahead with plans to introduce charter schools from 2014 - and
groups including Destiny Church and Tuhoe are interested in
The schools are part of National's confidence-and-supply
agreement with Act leader John Banks and are aimed at raising
achievement among disadvantaged communities.
In a report to Finance Minister Bill English in July, just
before Mr Banks took charter schools to Cabinet, Treasury
said it was "doubtful" about Mr Banks' claims that it would
help achieve better NCEA results.
The papers also show Treasury sided with the Ministry of
Education when it warned about the perils of allowing more
unregistered teachers at charter schools than state schools -
something Mr Banks has proposed. It said quality teaching was
the most important factor on student achievement and teacher
registration, "while not perfect", provided some assurance of
Mr Banks could not be contacted yesterday. Labour education
spokesman Chris Hipkins said Treasury's arguments had fallen
on deaf ears.
"Ultimately, this is an ideological experiment rather than
something that is being driven by any evidence."
He said Treasury's advice showed charter schools - which have
been rebranded as "partnership schools" - were deeply flawed.
"You know the Government is stepping well outside the
mainstream when even the Treasury thinks there is no evidence
for what they are trying to do. It will cost the taxpayer -
what we are going to see is a bunch of languishing state
schools with huge capital invested in them not being used
while money gets ploughed into new charter schools."
Primary teachers' union the New Zealand Educational Institute
said the reports showed charter schools would be an economic
and educational mistake.
In reports dating back to November last year, Treasury had
said while charter schools could be used to test-drive
Treasury's favoured policies such as new measurements for
school performance, bulk-finding and performance pay for
teachers, there was no evidence internationally it would
improve student performance.
"We remain sceptical around the student achievement benefits
that could be gained from introducing more actively
Treasury said the NZ system included a competitive element
because funding and principals' salaries were based on rolls,
and schools which performed well attracted more students.
Treasury said the Government could instead promote
competition by restricting fees schools can charge and making
some school funding contingent on good performance.
It also proposed tightening school enrolment schemes so
schools could not cherry-pick the best students and had to
work on lifting performance rather than relying on having
brighter students than other schools.
- Claire Trevett