10 May 2017

Labour MP backs Jackson on charter schools

7:43 am on 10 May 2017

New Labour Party list candidate Willie Jackson has received backing from a party Māori caucus member, Peeni Henare, who also says not all charter schools should be shut down under a Labour government.

Labour MP Peeni Henare, left, and list MP Willie Jackson.

Labour MP Peeni Henare, left, and list MP Willie Jackson. Photo: RNZ

One of Labour's core policies is to repeal the legislation under which the schools operate.

Labour list candidate Willie Jackson also heads the Manukau Urban Māori Authority, which runs the charter school Te Kura Māori o Waatea in South Auckland.

Mr Jackson said yesterday he would not sacrifice that school for a seat in Parliament, and was also advocating for other schools to remain open if there was a change of government.

Party leader Andrew Little said that was Mr Jackson own view, but he was adamant the party's policy - to repeal the law that allows such schools to operate - had not changed.

He said that was partly because the party disagreed with giving private organisations money to educate New Zealand children.

It also objected to charter schools not having to use registered teachers, or teach the national curriculum.

Mr Jackson said Te Kura o Waatea could apply to become a special character school to stay open under a Labour government.

He and all charter schools were performing well, especially compared to some in the state sector.

"That's why people like myself have stepped into this area ... some of them [the charter schools] are not looking after and treating our kids properly."

Peeni Henare, the Labour MP for the Auckland Māori electorate of Tamaki Makaurau, was described as having made an error of judgement by Mr Little when he attended a fund-raiser at a charter school in 2015.

Mr Henare said Labour had been keen to see if some charter schools could continue to operate as special character schools.

"The bottom line is, why would you stop something that is working."

He said there was some discussion within the caucus about this issue, but he did not believe it would cause any internal conflict.

ACT leader David Seymour, who has responsibility for charter schools, said he admired the position being taken by Mr Jackson, and that politics needed more people who would stand up to the party on matters they felt strongly about.

"Good on Willie Jackson, but the challenge for Andrew Little is that he has to decide if the Labour Party is going to be the union party or a party with broader appeal."

He too believed charter schools should not be singled out for criticism, including those which look to turn a profit.

One example of that, Mr Seymour said, was the Vanguard Military school.

"In order to keep getting paid they had to reach performance standard, and the kids had to be passing at a level higher than we expect at most state schools.

"They are getting the results, and if they can do it more efficiently why shouldn't they be rewarded for that?"

He said the school also did not expect to get bailed out if it lost money.

"[And] I don't expect they should get their money confiscated if they make money."

Mr Seymour also said while charter school teachers did not have to be registered, they did have to have the necessary experience and skills to do the job and undergo the same background checks as any other teachers.

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