Of course opposition is already coming from the usual suspects; the Herald reports:
Prime Minster John Key doesn't expect the New Zealand public to be "up in arms" over plans to establish the charter schools in New Zealand, despite little warning of the move prior to the election.
National has agreed to a radical development in the education system - charter schooling - in a surprising part of its support deal with the Act Party.
Despite only getting 21,446 votes nationwide, Act's sole MP John Banks has scored four ministerial portfolios - Regulatory Reform, Small Business, Associate Education, Associate Commerce - and the green light on several policies, including the establishments of charter schools.
Based on overseas models in the United States and Britain, it will allow entities such as private businesses, church groups, iwi organisations, charities, or existing schools to take over the management of failing schools and retain state funding.
The first charter schools will be introduced in South Auckland and East and Central Christchurch, possibly within the next year.
The plan has been slammed by the Post Primary Teachers' Association, the Principals' Federation, the Education Institute and the Secondary Principals Association, and there are questions around whether the Government has the mandate to implement the change.
The various teacher unions have been quick to condemn the proposal, even before significant detail is released. We accept that it's different from traditional models of delivering education to our young, but are the traditional models actually working? Is it the time for some outside-the-square thinking to enable more of our young to engage with the education system, not be condemned to failure by it.
As for whether or not the government has a mandate; we guess that depends on whether or not John Key can go to the Govenor-General sometime in the next week and advise him that he can indeed form a government. If he can, he has a mandate to govern.
And as far as the proposal not having been specifically campaigned on; that's a nonsense argument. National didn't campaign on a tax switch in 2008; nor did Labour ever campaign on a buy-back of Kiwirail, or the severing of links with the Privy Council and the establishment of the Supreme Court. And John Key has been quick to dismiss suggestions that National and Act have blindsided the education sector; read on:
Prime Minister John Key told Radio New Zealand National has always talked about "choice in education", and their support of the policy was just part of the nature of MMP.
"I don't think that the New Zealand voters are going to be up in arms because in a couple of communities in New Zealand we give some new model a go. If those students don't want to go there they are free to go to the existing school that they are at.
Mr Key rejected the suggestion voters may feel blindsided by the policy being sprung on them.
"There are thousands of schools in New Zealand, are you really telling me because we might trial in a couple of parts of the country at one or two schools to see whether they can deliver better results, somehow that is undermining the education system in New Zealand? I'm sorry but that sounds a bit far fetched to me."
Mr Key was not surprised people in the education sector were opposed to the plan, as they have a "vested interest" in the status quo.
"The real question you have to ask yourself is the current system serving the every child well. And I think the answer to that is no. There are plenty of failing schools, particularly in poor communities," he told Radio New Zealand.
Mr Key said charter schools here will not be the same as those failing abroad, and the integrated model has had good results overseas.
"It's a step towards more choice. At the end of the day it is my expectation that the vast overwhelming bulk of schools in New Zealand will continue to be as they are currently in the system, which is state schools. There will always be, I hope, independent schools, and some integrated schools, because I think they offer different choice, and this is another option, a different way of doing things."
We'll reserve judgment on this initiative until more information is available. However the notion of having more choice within the education system definitely has merit. We will be following developments in the area with considerable interest.
UPDATE: We've just listened to an interesting interview from Radio New Zealand earlier this morning. The interviewee is Dev Davis, the Research Manager at Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes, and one of her observations was that charter schools work well where there are strong accountabilities in place; well worth a listen.