Which brings us to the 'Charter Schools' policy, or the "Tradition, or an old charter or something Schools" Policy to give it its full title. This was announced after the last election as a keystone of the coalition agreement between National and ACT, to the surprise of the blue-rinsed Epsom dowagers who voted for Banks, for it had not featured in the campaign. Nor indeed was it familiar to the ACT Policy Committee when they held their regular meeting in a Parnell bus-shelter.
No-one is quite sure where Charter Schools will fit into the current dispensation of State Schools, Private Schools catering to the scions of one or other elite group, and Special Character Schools.¹ The principal points seem to be that (1) they will be untrammelled by the inflexible straitjacket of centralised bureaucratic curricula, and (2) they will make profits for someone, and (3) they will probably be re-branded as 'Liberty Schools' as the dire outcomes of 'charter schools' in the US leak out from under the carpet.²
So a 'Charter School Working Group' has been recruited to investigate them and report back what a really good idea they are. The head of the Group being one Catherine Isaac, who lacks qualifications or experience in education... but she is a colleague of John Banks, i.e. a member of the sadly-diminished ACT party, looking for work (on account of the voters of New Zealand failing to recognise her fitness to represent them). Indeed, it appears that "Creating a well-paid niche for Catherine Isaac" is the primary purpose for the group's existence, although that name is admittedly unwieldy.³ Before anything else:
The decision has already been made to nominate Catherine Isaac as the Chair of the Group.One might conclude that when ACT ideologues argue that the role and the staff of Gubblement should be shrunk to the absolute minimum, the one irreducible residual function that they see for it is "Employing ACT ideologues".
¹ These being private schools which lose more money than the customers are prepared to pay and thus require a subsidy from the Education Department.
² There is a fine tradition of National Gubblements waiting for this or that fine-sounding policy to be tested overseas and proven to be an abject failure before adopting it here, on account of Level Playing Field and such as.
³ The alternative title "Is there No Help for the Widow's Daughter Working Group" was also considered.