About $60,000 worth of bonuses were paid last year to three charter schools, even though they failed to meet their performance objectives, the Labour Party says.
Its education spokesperson Chris Hipkins said the Education Ministry was told there were compliance issues at Vanguard Military School, Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa and South Auckland Middle School, but paid the bonuses anyway.
"The National government are clearly more interested in throwing money at charter school experiments than properly funding our public schools," he said.
"That means most parents will be forced to pay more and more for their child's supposedly 'free' education."
But the parliamentary under-secretary for education David Seymour said the Labour Party was nit-picking.
The money was one percent of the schools' budgets, which had been withheld until their performance reviews, he said.
"To have withheld some of these schools' funding simply because of some narrow technical missed targets would not have been a constructive way to grow the schools, and ultimately it wouldn't have done a lot to help the kids."
Education Minister Hekia Parata confirmed her decision to close the troubled charter school at Whangaruru in Northland earlier this year.