Deadline for charter schools talks blasted

A teachers' union is criticising the Government for holding the consultation period for charter schools during New Zealanders' holidays.

The New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) yesterday launched a campaign to raise awareness about the January 24 deadline for submissions on the Education Amendment Bill 2012.

A full-page advertisement in the Herald on Sunday and in today's Herald said the Government had "its own agenda - the dismantling of New Zealand's public education system by introducing charter schools".

It also implied the Government had purposefully chosen a closing date for submissions on the bill when most people were still on holiday.

"National and Act are hoping you will avert your eyes," the advertisement read.

PPTA president-elect Angela Roberts said in a statement about the campaign that the consultation period was deliberately chosen because most New Zealanders would be on holiday.

Ms Roberts said Associate Education Minister John Banks, the Act Party leader who's championing the policy, was being hypocritical because he encouraged people to make submissions but had deliberately excluded the public from the process up till now. "If Banks is genuine about the importance of the public voice then he should extend the deadline for submissions to allow real consultation to occur."

Ms Roberts said the bill showed that charter schools would have little transparency and no accountability for the spending of public money.

Mr Banks did not respond by deadline to a request for comment.

Late last year, his spokesman said that contracts for what the Beehive calls "partnership schools" would be awarded only to sponsors who had a clear mission to raise achievement for disadvantaged students.

"Partnership schools will not be able to turn away students. It is expected that they will offer education that is tailored to the needs of those that are disadvantaged in the current system and will therefore be most attractive to students who are not currently doing well.

"It is very unlikely that any student who is doing well in their current school would choose to leave," the spokesman said in response to criticism of the policy.

The first schools were planned in West and South Auckland.

Papers released by the Treasury before Christmas show it was sceptical about the chances that charter schools would improve student performance and warned they could affect nearby schools by sucking away teachers and students, and therefore funding.

The next legislative steps

The bill has a second reading.

At the end of the second reading debate, there'll be a vote. If the second reading is agreed to, the bill is ready for debate by a committee of the whole House.

The final form of the bill is agreed to and it is reprinted.

The bill receives a third reading. The vote at the end of the debate is the final vote in the House to either pass the bill or reject it. Bills are rarely rejected at this stage.

It is then signed into law by the Governor-General.

- Amelia Wade of the NZ Herald

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