New Zealand Labour Party

A challenge to Bill English

Bill English should stop scaremongering about Labour’s charter school plans and front up to the students at Salisbury special school and explain why his Government continues to try and close their school, says Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins.

“If Bill English is so keen for politicians to look young people in the eye and justify their decisions, I challenge him to live up to his own words and do just that with the students at Salisbury school, or any other special school around New Zealand the National government is threatening with closure.

“National promised not to close special schools during the 2008 campaign and has since gone on to close nine.

“Bill English must also front up to the thousands of children with special needs who aren’t getting the right support because this Government thinks tax cuts and funding for ‘ghost students’ at charter schools are more important.

“He could also visit a kindergarten and explain why the per-child funding rates they receive have been frozen for almost a decade meaning the quality of the education they provide has been going backwards.

“Then he could visit any one of the hundreds of schools where kids are forced to learn in halls, corridors, libraries and dental clinics because the Government has failed to plan for school roll growth.

“Parents and young people around New Zealand will see Bill English’s charter school attack for what it is, a desperate cheap shot by a politician who is completely out of ideas and has nothing left to offer but fear-mongering and negativity.

“Labour has been very clear that while we intend to abolish the charter school model we will work with the existing schools on a case-by-case basis to map out their future. There are a range of options from integration into the state school system, conversion to private schools or schools of special character, or amalgamation with an existing school. Closure is a last resort option, but it certainly isn’t our starting point for discussions.

“Our position on charter schools is based on principle. Charter schools shouldn’t receive inflated funding for ‘ghost students’ who aren’t even enrolled while state schools, where the vast majority of children attend, are putting out the begging bowl due to underfunding,” says Chris Hipkins.