Charter schools scandal – no special needs children enrolled


Pulling Plug on Charter SchoolsRemember the PR hype about charter schools and how they were being set up to target children currently failing in the education system – and in particular children with special education needs?

Education Minister Hekia Parata repeated this claim time and again as she defended charter schools and their gold-plated funding arrangements.

Catharine Isaacs, former ACT President and appointed by the government to head the committee establishing and monitoring these charter schools, made the same claim endlessly as she travelled the country trying to drum up support from uninterested communities.

I attended several of these meetings where again and again Isaacs was specifically asked about children with special education needs because the overseas experience is that charter schools discourage children with special needs from enrolling because those schools don’t want kids who will “pollute” their exam pass rates.

Isaacs responded that she’d expect a much higher proportion of children with special education needs to be enrolled in charter schools compared with public schools because this was a target group of children.

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It was a key selling point for an unpopular policy to a dubious public.

Then late last week in Parliament we had Hekia Parata, under questioning from Green MP Catharine Delahunty, finally admit that not a single child who would qualify for ORRS funding (special targeted funding for children with special needs) is enrolled in any of the nine charter schools so far established.

New Zealand charter schools are repeating the pattern set by the same privatised schools overseas. Cream off the kids you want and leave the most difficult kids for the public schools. Then crow about your success as you slag off the public schools to which you have discarded kids with behaviour issues and/or those of lower academic ability.

In the US the “most successful” charter schools according to Hekia Parata and ACT are the KIPP schools (Knowledge is Power Programme) and yet research shows KIPP schools weed out 30% of kids before they get to Grade 8 (our Year 9). The figure climbs to a staggering 40% for African-American boys. Children with special needs feature in the long lists of discarded kids.

Meanwhile here in New Zealand children with special needs don’t even get inside the front door. What a scandal.

Finding a better example of the cynical abuse of New Zealand children for ideological reasons would be hard to find.

Meanwhile the most significant group of children failing in our schools are transient children (kids who shift schools frequently because of poverty-related issues) and we can be sure none of these children are enrolled in any charter schools either.

Charter schools were always a con. Last week Hekia Parata underlined the point.


  1. Any other government would be out on their ear by now ,why is national still in POWER?
    There is something not right that this government is getting away with so much wrongdoing.
    The Herald dosnt say a word about this, National is molding the country just how it wants it ,and its not good for the people.

      • So votes to my comment to date are 10 votes and minus 2. So the opinion of those who voted is firstly, no you do not want to provide a real alternative, and secondly, slagging off middle new Zealand is ok.

      • Nope, that’s not it, Dan.

        And as for “providing a real alternative” – why are Charter Schools taxpayer funded? If those “alternatives” to state schools are so gloriously successful, why do they require taxpayer funding?

        And why doesn’t National fund every other business in this country?

        That’s not free enterprise, Dan, that’s crony capitalism.

        And more still, it’s evidence that without taxpayer subsidies, Charter Schools would not be “successful”.

        • Yep Dan, get a better pair of blinkers. The ones you are wearing at the moment have massive holes in them.

          Misleading the public in order to provide an advantage to a small group of private investors is, quite simply “misleading the public in order to provide an advantage to a small group of private investors”.

          This remains true not matter what kind of “blinkered spin” you’d like to put on it.

          • Sorry – upon re reading my post, it was misleading. I was responding to the comment by ELLE who asked “Any other government would be out on their ear by now ,why is national still in POWER?”. My reply to this comment was ” Perhaps by providing a real alternative and not slagging off middle New Zealand at every opportunity.” As for Charter Schools, I am not qualified to comment.

            • you have not outlined “real alternative” and in a discussion about the clear empirical failure of charter schools… that does look pretty silly

              • not only that – its appalling sentence structure and use of language that makes no actual sense.

                dan – your response is actually a reply to”‘what should the opposition do” not “why is the govt still in power”

                And thats not even touching the narrow, blinkered and sloganistic nature of your reply

        • “And as for “providing a real alternative” – why are Charter Schools taxpayer funded? If those “alternatives” to state schools are so gloriously successful, why do they require taxpayer funding?”

          Because the kids they are targeting can’t afford the fees.

          • Nehemia – So get rid of the fees.

            Or fund state schools properly.

            Or have new forms of state schools set up.

            But subsiding private interests simple because clients “can’t afford the fees”???

            Man, you’ve just admitted that the user-pays ideology is a failure!!

            • User pays is not a failure. It works very well in private education, private healthcare etc etc etc.

              The reason Charter Schools are Govt funded is because they are targeted at kids who possibly cannot afford to pay private school fees, but have ‘special needs’. Public schools are funded adequately, but in some cases simply cannot cope with these kids. Charter Schools can and do, and very successfully.

              • User pays is not a failure. It works very well in private education, private healthcare etc etc etc.t

                Yes, Nehemia/Intrinsicvalue, private education works so well it requires public subsidies for them to survive. Any other industries or businesses that “work so well” that they require taxpayer subsidies? Rio Tinto? The film industry?

                The reason Charter Schools are Govt funded is because they are targeted at kids who possibly cannot afford to pay private school fees, but have ‘special needs’.

                That has to be the worst thought-out garbage you’ve written thus far. Are you actually trying to convince anyone with that kind of screwy “logic”?

          • So? Drop the fees, Nehemia/IntrinsicValue.

            I’d love to own a 1960s E-Type Jaguar, but I don’t expect the taxpayer to foot the bill for one.

            If user-pays does not work (and according to your breath-taking justification for subsidies, they do not), then don’t expect taxpayers to pick up the tab for your failed ideology.

      • The Daily Blog is a blog – the Herald, Dominion, TVNZ, TV 3, etc are agents of journalism who’s purpose was “the gathering, processing, and dissemination of news and information related to the news to an audience” – though this does seem to have fallen over in favour of directing people what to think and feel about this news and information.

        Note: Blog vs Journalism

        This slagging off of middle nz is frustration at the inabliity of people to see through this.

        • I beg to differ Cagey. Respectfully, I suggest that the slagging off of middle New Zealand by some, is the inability of those doing the slagging to see through their own agendas.

          • Hey, I am middle nz and – respectful of their intellegence – many of my fellows appear to be heavy on rhetoric, light on decemination and reasoning and just appear uncomfortable when presented with physical fact. I”M bloody frustrated with them – to be honest – it’s like taking to someone in an overtly dominant relationship (no wonder 50 Shades is so popular). BUT this is because the place they look for the truth – the jornalists – are pushing an agenda and not providing this.

  2. As usual, your talking bollocks. Charter schools have funding at the same levels as decile 3 state schools, and you know this. And making a claim about NZ schools and then quoting US data shows just how dishonest the opponents of Charter schools have become. Charter Schools are here. They are succeeding. Suck it up.

    • I really do encourage you to watch the recording of Delahunty’s question. She is made to look a complete fool. Just because no child as yet qualifies for ORRS funding doesn’t mean no child with special needs is enrolled in Charter Schools. Surely you know this?

      • I watched Delahunty’s question as it was asked. The nine charter schools do not have any ORRS funded pupils.

        The worst thing about that (besides the impression Isaacs tried to create of those schools taking the pupils who struggle most with schooling,) is that those in the Ministry of Education who make the decision about pupils to be ORRS funded will probably be told to accept applications from at least one charter school for a pupil to be so funded.

        Would that be a surprise? No. Would that be corruption? Yes. Would that be a surprise from Parata and her lot? No.

        • There are many special needs kids who do not qualify for ORRS funding. Some attend Charter Schools. Delahunty is simply too stupid to understand the subtlety of this. John, on the other hand, understands this all to well.

          • Your multiple claims about Delahunty’s intelligence are either a comment of your naivety or simply mischief making.
            She asking a specific question to make a point. She knows not all special needs kids are ORRS funded. Maybe she was thinking the gullible would read more into it than there actually is. Of course there are many special needs kids who do not qualify for ORRS funding. Who knows if any attend charter schools.
            Maybe she was playing to the erroneous notion happily put out to bullshit the public that the charter schools were being established to cater for the kids who really struggle at school. She did not start that game.

            Funding? A Northern Advocate article in October last year outlined funding. So far the school with less than 40 pupils has been granted more than $3.5 million. I wonder how many decile three schools you can track down that have had that sort of start.

            • It is easier to ask about ORRS funding because it’s easily defined – kids get it or they don’t. “Special needs” kids isn’t a well defined term, it can be used to cover or not cover certain things at a whim.

              It’s also useful because overseas the experience has been that when charter school accept “special needs” kids, they are usually at the lower end of need – a single, well-defined need that is easily fixed or managed e.g. speech impediment. ORRS funding, because it’s so low, tends to be the kids with complex needs.

            • You are either being disingenuous or ignorant. The money Charter Schools receive for establishment costs is much the same as any non-Charter School.

              As for Ms Delahunty, she asked about ‘priority learning groups, not ORRS funded children. And her point of order about the Minister’s ‘no’ answer to the primary displayed an unbelievable lack of intelligence for a person seeking to represent this country. Although it is fairly typical of Green’s members of late.

          • Nehemia – So? Increase ORRS fiunding. It’s as simple as that. It’d be far cheaper than lavishing millions on a right wing concept that has a poor track record overseas and has more to do with placating Act than anything remotely sensible.

            But then, Act supporters like you aren’t noted for your common sense and principles, are you?

            • You clearly aren’t following the discussion. This isn;t about ORRS funding, it’s about providing the best options for kids with special needs. Repeating lies about overseas experience doesn’t make it true. Do some research and you will find significant success amongst Charter Schools overseas.

    • ‘your talking bollocks’ means you are saying that John Minto has bollocks that talk. I think it more likely that you’re talking bollocks. You are lying about their total funding – the decile 3 thing is where their funding starts, not where it finishes.
      And are you claiming that state schools also have no registered special needs students at this time of the year?

      • “And are you claiming that state schools also have no registered special needs students at this time of the year?”

        No. They do. And so do Charter Schools. John is being disingenuous, Delahunty was simply being thick.

        • So how many of your kith and kin are enrolled in charter schools?

          And what measurable improvements have you seen in their general and particular abilities?

          And when did they switch?

          Politely, if possible.

          • None. But if I had a child that fit the ‘profile’, they’d be enrolled quicker than you can say Jack Robinson.

        • Nehemia – no, Ms Delahunty was not being “thick”.

          She was expressing very real concerns about mis-use of tax-payer’s money for what is essentially a state subsidy to a private enterprise.

          If a private organisation wants to set up a school, good luck to them. But why should they be supported by taxpayers when no one else (except Rio Tinto, SkyCity, etc) get the same benefits?

          I thought the free market was supposed to prevent state subsidies for cherry-picked businesses?

          If I set up a business washing dog shit off the footpaths around Wellington, can I expect a State hand-out?

          I’ll settle for $100,000 per year.

          • No, she is thick. Watch her point of order response to the answer to the primary. Unbelievable!

            “I thought the free market was supposed to prevent state subsidies for cherry-picked businesses? ”

            You seem confused. Our economy is now replete with examples of provision of services by public/private mixed models. Health, Education, Roading, Printing, Military, Emergency Services, the list goes on and on. Education has had a private sector provision for decades, in fact private education is older than state education. Charter Schools are the latest innovation in that provision. So if you object to the state contracting services from the private sector, you have an awful lot of work to do to unravel all of that.

    • Sadly, Nehemia you are wrong. Despite your ad hominem attack on the writer, the first Charter school opened in New Zealand is now to going be shut by the Minister of Education because of its failures.

    • Nehemia – there is no evidence that charter schools are “succeeding”, and those that are seemingly providing “positive results” are doing so because their funding is much higher than State schools.

      Perhaps you need to do some more research on this instead of reliance on ACT propaganda?

  3. Given that the whole point of the charter school system is to undermine the public education system, they’d be mugs to accept any special-needs kids – the whole scam is predicated on charter schools being able to out-perform state schools, so special-needs kids are the last people they want on their rolls.

      • Quoting a Stuff website article, does not constitute evidence. You appear to know little about the actual OECD data and its reliability and validity issues?

        • “Quoting a Stuff website article, does not constitute evidence.”

          Actually when it contains the testimony of the people actually being helped, then yes it does.

          • no, those are anecdotes/quotes

            testimony is something you give in court – anecdotes and quotes are what you give to journos

            • Testimony is used as evidence in court. The testimony of the actual users of a Charter School is fairly powerful. Of course you don’t like their message, but get used to it. There’s plenty more on it’s way.

              “There’s plenty more on it’s way” – that sounds perilously close to a threat of trolling/’bombing’ this site with spam, Nehemia Wall. If I catch you making repeated posts with the same information, links, quotes, etc, you will be suspended. I suggest you take this friendly warning seriously. – ScarletMod

      • “…these are the profile of student that are ideal for Charter Schools…”

        If you think the charter school people in our area are scouring the district seeking kids who are having problems with school and are difficult to teach you are suffering from the quality you attribute to Catherine Delahunty.

        • It’s not up to Charter Schools to chase pupils. Charter Schools give parents choice. Ah, is that the threat?

    • Oh, I love it when people express their biased opinion about those with special needs, obviously not expecting anybody who actually has special needs to read it! So I take it you’re saying all “special needs kids” are likely to lower the overall academic achievement of Charter Schools? Because if you are, that’s a huge generalisation. But please feel free to correct me if I misunderstand you.

      • So I take it you’re saying all “special needs kids” are likely to lower the overall academic achievement of Charter Schools?

        See that word “all” in there? It’s there either as a result poor reading comprehension or ignorance about statistical likelihood. No, I’m not saying “all” special needs kids would lower the overall academic achievement of charter schools – if I’d wanted to say that I would have said it. I’m saying:

        1. As a cohort, special-needs pupils will perform lower than average;


        2. They’re more resource-intensive than average for the school.

        Both of these mean a private school looking to out-perform public ones by cherry-picking its enrolments will not be seeking to enrol special-needs pupils, and is in fact likely to take plausibly-deniable steps to exclude them.

    • Yes, Psych Milt, quite correct. And another difference is that while the measures of performance in public schools (imperfect though those measures might be) are made public, the measures of performance in the charter schools remain confidential.

      That is an absurd lack of balanced accountability.

  4. Ms Wall is simply a product of the haves and haves don’t want to slide back into have not.

    Problem is I don’t want my taxes going to private schools period as we know they don’t stack up.

    We always pay FOR THEIR FOLLY as we have seen time and time again when they use the public purse to carry out their social engineering experiments.
    I grew up in the 1950s and got a good public school education during the lovely egalitarian days and wince at what these experiential schools are doing with our young minds today.

    We all saw what the “idealists” did in Germany during the 1930s and we risk this again if these privateers with their idealism get to start a separate society.

    Don’t trust the Government on moulding minds in this new round of social engineering National used to criticise Helen Clark of doing strangely now they are?

    John you belong in some future Government so prepare the ground please.

    • “Problem is I don’t want my taxes going to private schools period as we know they don’t stack up.”

      Oh really? Have you checked the comparative performance of private v public schools? You’re in for a shock.

      Private schools offer choice, variety, smaller class sizes and the potential for better results. Plus the parents pay a large chunk of the fees!

      • Bloody hell.

        No. Private schools offer the choice…. for those with incomes big enough to pay for it. Not for the poor.

        The comparative performance of private school students vs equivalent decile public schools is the same. The. Same.

        Compare apples with apples.

        I’ve taught in both public and private schools. I’ve seen the most energised, passionate and creative teaching in a low decile South Auckland pubic school. The laziest most boring teaching I saw in a decile 10 Auckland all girls school. Because those kids are so damn easy.

        The year 9 science class I taught in that school had over 30 girls in it. If I was a parent I’d be livid at that. Not smaller class sizes at all.

        It is my experience that private schools don’t offer much more in terms of actual teaching, they do offer more in resources and networking opportunities for kids to develop.

        • Thanks, and some good points, particularly in response to Clean green’s claim that private schools don’t ‘stack up’.

          The issue, though, is a bit of red herring. Charter Schools are effectively public schools provided by the private sector. There is no cost impediment for low income families, because the Govt pays for the education. A bit like 20 free hours in ECE.

          And that’s where the opponents of Charter Schools are missing a huge point. Private Sector involvement in education is as old as the hills, and highly successful. There is no way the Govt could have provided for the growth in ECE attendance without private sector involvement, nor should they when the private sector does it so well.

  5. There are some kids who will never thrive in mainstream classes. Too big. Too competitive. Too much to handle.

    There are other kids who want to learn material outside of the curricula offered. A special need to stay out of step and pursue their particular fascinations.

    There are kids who have been vastly harmed by their environment and surrounding people.

    And the places for learning for all of those kids are few and too far between. (As in plenty in Auckland; far fewer in rural Taranaki or Southland.)

    Charter schools might help – but they’re ‘one foot on the dock and the other on a departing boat’. Neither one thing nor the other.

    If we could find a more specific and less euphemistic label than ‘special needs’ then we could start offering the sorts of enrichment and support for a much wider range of ‘needs’ than we presently do. And for a lot, lot longer. With a seamless segue into adulthood instead of the current ‘drop and run’ system.

    There may be a place in the educational offering for charter schools. Perhaps. Personally, I’d like to see more schools run like Waldorf/Steiner schools which definitely DO enroll ‘special needs’ kids and integrate them into the school community.

    Meanwhile, the education offering is becoming more like a shanty town built by the unhandy than anything which serves present and future needs of the people currently enrolled – and good luck with that.

    • Not a subject that I have any knowledge of – but have close experience of a Steiner School that would/could not accommodate an autistic child who was eventually had to be removed and enrolled at a public school where one on one help was provided.

      • I’m not a fan of the Steiner education model, but each to their own. However I have heard of other cases where autistic children have struggled in the Steiner system. I know at least 2 people with autistics kids, one went the private option, the other public. Both had good experiences. I hope everything works out ok for you.

  6. Charter Schools service only two purposes:

    – destroy teachers Unions so Natz have free reign to do as they will with children, and
    – funnel taxpayer dollars into their cronies pockets, so they magically get transformed into profit that then goes as donations to the National party

    Charter Schools are a failure wherever they are tried. Just read the evidence. Here’s a small list (and do check out the article about Finland – best education system in the world, similar to the one we used to have):

    What’s happened in NZ education since 2008?

    What is the governments plan for education?

    Introduction to the issues:

    Latest National Party proposals for ‘super principles’

    Attacks on teachers:

    So much of what the current government is doing in education is a direct mirror off the US. When you read reports of their reforms you quickly find the exact same set of steps that Hekia Parata is trying to force on NZ.

    Here’s a great summary of the whole educational reform movement in the US and why it’s wrong, self serving, and not in students interests:

    This mirrors exactly what’s happening in NZ – we’re adopting a broken, corrupt US model, just years behind.

    Here’s more detail from the US on using flawed assessment systems, then introducing a tool to ‘even out’ the broken assessments, then using this to fire teachers:

    Diane Ravitch
    Pretty much invented charter schools in the US and based on evidence is now totally opposed to them:

    Hekia Paratas latest discourse – it’s all poor teachers fault and great teachers can overcome all student problems. Of course, it comes from the US:

    US example of what happens when you use scoring systems like national standards and rank teachers based on these

    Thoughts from Finland, worlds best educational system:

    Problems with PISA

    How the private education industry is corrupting politics and the school system in the US:

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