Associate Education Minister David Seymour announced the funding today, telling reporters there has been overwhelming interest in the controversial model.

“We’ve heard from potential applicants such as TIPENE St Stephen’s Māori Boy’s Boarding School, and AGE School,” he said.

The money will be put towards establishing 15 new charter schools and converting 35 state schools, depending on demand and suitability.

New Zealand’s education unions have slammed the move as wasteful.

Mark Potter, president of NZEI Te Riu Roa says that $153m could fully fund more than 700 full time teacher aides at step 4.

“This is money we could put to desperately needed use in our public education system,” Potter said in a statement.

“Most teachers will tell you stronger learning support and smaller class sizes, so teachers can have more time with students, is the priority.

“A teacher aide for every child that needs one would begin to seriously address the increasing learning needs of our tamariki that are not currently being addressed.

“Charter schools are an expensive distraction and diversion of funds.”

Seymour has pointed to greater flexibility and a focus on student achievement as benefits of the charter school model.

“They can, with some restrictions, set their own curriculum, hours and days of operation, and governance structure,” Seymour said.

“They also have greater flexibility in how they spend their funding as long as they reach the agreed performance outcomes.”

PPTA Te Wehengarua president Chris Abercrombie said the schools are an unnecessary expense, with no compelling evidence to show they will be successful.

“When charter schools were introduced under the last National-ACT coalition there was no evidence that they improved educational outcomes, despite funding each student at least six times more than state school students,” he said.

“The fact that all but one former charter school have been re-integrated into the public school system shows there was no need for them in the first place.”  

Seymour has promised the Government will demand higher standards this time around, and the schools will be required under contract to reach achievement and attendance goals.   

“They will be required to teach a curriculum that is as good, or better than the New Zealand curriculum,” he said.

Charter schools won’t be required to follow any of the recent Government mandates, such as the cellphone ban, which appears to be at odds with National’s push for more consistency across schools.

“Teachers, students and communities are becoming increasingly confused about exactly what this Government’s policies are in the education space – it’s going in all directions at the ideological whim of the various parties,” Abercrombie said.

“Mr Seymour’s announcement today does not give us any confidence or clarity that this Government has a clear direction for education. Our students deserve much better.”