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So yesterday it emerged that Willie Jackson’s application for a charter school has been accepted. It’s not official yet, but it’s almost certainly true, given the wackiness of most of the rest of the applications.

This map tells you one crucial thing you need to know about this charter school. It will most likely be where the blue dot is – at Nga Whare Waatea Marae.



That’s right, it’s within a couple of kilometres of a kura a iwi, a kura kaupapa Māori and numerous other schools.

Now, the local kura a iwi, Nga Tapuwae, won’t suffer as a result of this new school. They’re a designated character school, which means that they take students from all across Tāmaki whose parents chose to buy into the Tainui tikanga of the school. They have a long waiting list and are set to expand from 270 to around 600 students in coming years.

But over the other side of the motorway is Te Kura Kaupapa o Mangere. This school has 190 students, and is not a designated character school. In 2012 the ERO review commented on student behaviour that wasn’t being well managed. There is no waiting list at this kura. 

And check out this table which is from a parliamentary question in June this year.



There certainly are times when school should be closed down, and similarly there are times when new schools need to open. But applying the Starbucks approach of cannibalizing local schools isn’t the way to go about this, and the Minister knows it.  This should be about prudent fiscal management, good use of the school network – and as a result, much better and more equitable outcomes for students.

So, can the Minister guarantee that if Willie Jackson gets his kura, that students staying at TKKM o Mangere won’t lose curriculum breadth or extra-curricular options? And that student losses won’t put pressure on the viability of other local kura? Can she guarantee that, unlike with the first round of charters, an analysis of the impact on other schools in the area will be done, in the same way as when any other school is opened?

And it has to be asked whether there’s been an approach to any of the schools within a 5km radius letting them know that a new school is about to open? If not, this shows how seriously the Minister really believes in the IES rhetoric of collaboration.

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Every time Jamie Whyte opens his mouth the chance of Act having any influence on the next government plummets.

Native Affairs on Monday night was a case in point.

Act has been trying to appeal to Maori leaders with various anti-state policies for some time, promising to roll-back the oppressive burden of government and give autonomy to iwi groups. The latest manifestation of this is of course charter schools. Catherine Isaac asked Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi to jack her up a chance to speak at the iwi leaders forum this year to sell them to this influential group.

 It’s not hard to picture how iwi leaders would have responded when Jamie Whyte goes off on one about rolling back ‘Maori privilege’, including getting rid of whanau ora (which he, self admittedly, doesn’t even know what it is). I doubt too many of them are regretting not putting their hands up for the second round of charter schools – no major iwi groups applied, despite Isaac’s best efforts. No need to spell it out to this crowd when someone’s trying to pull a swift one.

What’s more, Minister Parata’s hardly going to be beside herself with joy at National’s preferred coalition partner’s ‘grotesque and inflammatory’ comments.  Remember, Parata left the National Party after Brash’s Orewa speech.  Even if, somehow, Act is returned in a National led government, I am sure Parata (who I suspect will still be Minister of Ed should National win) will be absolutely clear that her portfolio has had quite enough damage from the junior partner over the last three years, and it’s someone else’s turn to cop it.  


Of course, Whyte wasn’t fussed about the iwi leaders or Minister Parata with his latest rant; this was aimed at Louis Crimp and his type, and was about cajoling him to get out the cheque book again. However, 2014 isn’t 2004, and even Act party members are finding this dog-whistle politics grating. 

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The timing was immaculate. The day after the Auditor General condemned a school’s dubious spending, it emerged that its principal had applied to open a charter school.

The Auditor General report stated that at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori O Whakawatea – “The kura spent $5,120 on Christmas gifts and vouchers for its staff and board members bought from a business owned by the principal. In our view, spending of this nature illustrates waste and a lack of probity on the part of the board.”


The business is a beauty spa with a side-line in colonic irrigation – which offers such things as microdermabrasion (from $99) and Hopi Ear Candling (from $55). It's owned by the principal and her husband.

The principal, Susanne Simmons-Kopa, went in the local paper to claim that the spending was all above board and was after all, only $200 per person – enough for a coffeeberry yoga with enzyme mask specialised facial.

How they managed to find 25 staff and board members at a school with 110 students is mystifying – the school I’m on the board of has a lot fewer staff with more than double the students.

Anyway, it turns out that the principal had in 2013 applied to open a charter school as well, under the aegis of the Whakawatea Kaporeihana, a clever way to get around the rule that existing schools can’t apply. The application form is revealing. Simmons-Kopa calls herself the ‘innovator-director’ of the Whakawatea Kaporeihana, an incorporated society that is paid over $30,000 a year by the Whakawatea Kohanga Reo for ‘administration services’, as well as getting MSD funding for afterschool care, presumably at the Kura Kaupapa that Simmons-Kopa runs too.

At this point it’s obvious that she’s a very busy woman – nothing necessarily wrong with that, though most principals I know report that the job is fairly demanding on its own.


But what is wrong with this picture is that if she does open a charter school, spending tax-payers money on things like gift vouchers from her beauty salon won’t be picked up, as the Auditor General doesn’t have any oversight of charter schools. 

And, in the US and UK where this experiment is well down the track, cases of fraud, misspending and funnelling public money to dubious ends, are regular news. 

One question that strikes me - why isn't the Taxpayers' Union crying foul about charter schools?

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Random thoughts after reading about the faith based franchise charter school that wants to open up in Porirua.  

Charter school cartoon on Frank Macskasy blogWords that came to mind were missionaries, colonisation, deficit thinking.

Apparently children in Porirua don't need qualified registered professional teachers, just people passionate about education.

Some kind of choice aye. 

A choice the ACT party thinks those kids deserve and National are rolling it out for them.

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One of the promises of charter schools was that they would be innovative. And as every educational expert from business sponsored think tanks, marketing companies and discredited political parties knows, one of the biggest hurdles to innovation is the collective employment agreement.

The immutable laws of Freidman and Hayek tell us we can’t have 21st century, child-centred instruction while teachers have such industrial era expectations as a set number of hours, class size controls, non-contact time or payments for extra duties.

So, what is going on here then?

Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru, Whangaruru (2 positions)

(10 Mar 2014)

Our secondary, bilingual school, nestled within the picturesque setting of Whangaruru, is an inpiring land and water environment which will be embedded in our curriculum delivery. We seek registered, experienced teachers to fill two positions. (1) 0.5 junior science teacher. (2) Full-time English teacher. Applicants will have proven teaching ability, can motivate and engage students to learn to their potential, inspiring our students to excel. We offer small classes of 15 and individual contracts with high-quality working conditions – equivalent to the Collective Agreement. If you are seeking a teaching opportunity to make a difference for our youth and want to work in idyllic surroundings, we welcome your application.


Have they forgotten what they were established to do? They have to show that our ‘long tail of underachievement’ is all a result of the lazy, incompetent teachers hiding behind exactly such outdated protections as collective agreements.


 (Before you rush off to apply for these jobs, they’re now advertising three positions. Out of four teachers. Within two months of opening.)

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One of the premises of charter schools was that they would be funded at the same level as public schools – clearly a pretty crucial factor if comparisons between the two are going to be made. The Ministry states that the resourcing is intended to “provide a broadly similar level of funding to that for schools and students in the state system.”

What the Minister hasn’t said is that the funding – while ‘broadly similar’ is actually far more than almost all students in the public system receive. A newly released cabinet paper from October last year spells it out though. “The cost is particularly high, especially for small secondary schools…” and, the cost of these schools “is much higher on a per student basis” than others.

How much higher is revealed in the charter school contracts.

School sponsor

Establishment Payment

Annual operational payment, 2014

Students 2014

Per student funding, 2014











He Puna Marama





Nga Parirau






Rise UP











Compare this to the average per student funding in the public system (2011- most recent year figures released for) including property, staffing and operations resourcing: $6,978

The Ministry of Education says that it’s unfair to compare these two, as these are new schools which always cost more. But the point is, they only build new schools when they really have to because of roll growth, not just for a political, or ideological point. Except in the case of charter schools.

And the greatest irony of all, this is a policy from the party that claims “Government spending is out of control.”



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A tall tale? Jet Star needs pilots in order to cover their flights – they overpromised and are unable to operate without these pilots. They have approached Air NZ requesting Air NZ pilots fly Jet Star planes - at Air NZ's expense.  This  means Air NZ will have to reduce both domestic and international flights.

Air NZ has refused.

Jet Star managers are up in arms at Air NZ's refusal to cover.  They are encouraging their passengers to write opinion pieces to the papers and to comment in social media damning this divisive approach.


It seems that ACT supporters who encouraged the development of charter schools - an apparently different, new, innovative and exciting model of education  (and a well funded education model with - because charter schools can afford it - small class sizes) are now upset that local public schools (not as well funded) are saying they are not prepared to teach the charter school students.

Hang on a minute - isn't this supposed to be a new model of education? One that doesn't require qualified registered teachers? A model outside the state system - doing it differently.

Seems that for charter schools 'doing it differently' means - the ability to access and use for  free the teaching resources of state schools - so that the charter school extra funding  can be used elsewhere. The state schools are expected to juggle their resources for the benefit of the charter school.

Go figure.

If the charter school students will "miss out on opportunities" because they can't be taught in the state schools - then why was it we needed charter schools?

The NZ model of charter schools isn't about students. The NZ model of charter schools is about opening up the education market.

Lets close these schools before they open - stop the division - and resource all our state schools appropriately in order to support all our students.

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