Wednesday, December 21, 2011


On December 20th, supporters of Occupy Auckland marched from the occupation in Aotea Square to the US Consulate, to protest the American government's material support of the Military Junta that killed ten people and injured over 900 more in vicious attacks on Tahrir Square the day before.

The next day, December 21st, the Auckland Council was successful in getting a Court Order to evict Occupy Auckland from Aotea Square, and has given 48 hours notice for the occupiers to leave. Political organisations and social movements such as MANA, the Unite Union, and the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party have also been singled out for draconian attack, in a ruling that sees legitimate political protest criminalised.

This was done by Len Brown's Council, a council and a mayor that purports to be left wing, a Mayor that purports to represent workers, the low paid, Maori and Pasifika. Yet we see in his city state tenants facing eviction from their homes in Glen Innes, workers fighting for fair pay locked out in the Council Controlled Ports of Auckland, and now basic democratic rights being suspended and attacked.

Len Brown must be held accountable for his attacks.
On Thursday 22nd December, at 4pm,

people will gather outside Auckland's City Hall,
to ask the question-

Len Brown- whose side are you on?

Defend democracy- from Tahrir to Aotea Square.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

From Aotea to Tahrir- Solidarity with the Egyptian Revolution

From Tahrir to Aotea- Solidarity with the Egyptian Revolution.
Down with the military dictatorship-
meet at Occupy in Aotea Sq at 5pm Tuesday December 20th,
then go down to US Consulate for picket against US arming Egypt's Junta.

The “Cabinet Offices” Massacre: a new crime by the sons of Mubarak in power

Statement by the Revolutionary Socialists of Egypt
17 December 2011

9 martyrs … 500 injured … this is the result of confrontations between the Egyptian Occupying Forces and the revolutionaries in a fresh attempt to bring the revolution to its knees and to bring back the Mubarak regime. And why not?

After all, the leaders of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces are the sons of Mubarak, and they are loyal to their economic self-interests.

The generals of SCAF control around 20 percent of the economy and are completely opposed to the interests of millions of working people who barely scrape a living. Most of them can’t find jobs which offer the chance of a decent life or even offer the hope of changing their lives for the better.

The “valiant” armed forces, members of Military Investigations and gangs of government-backed thugs attacked the peaceful sit-in in the street of the Cabinet Offices. After fabricating an argument with Abboudi, one of the young ultras [football fans] who was playing football, they harassed him, subjected him to electric shocks and abuse, and then refused to release him for more than an hour.

This turned out to be merely a pretext for a pre-prepared attack to disperse the sit-in by force and burn the protesters’ tents.

The old lies are being circulated that the local residents are offended by the protesters, even though the street where the sit-in is located does not block the traffic, and the area itself is a district of government buildings, ministries and embassies and not a residential area.

Thugs and the commandos of “our” army in civilian clothes took over government buildings which are now effectively under military occupation, including the parliament building itself, in order to throw stones and glass at the protesters and activists who joined them in Qasr al-Aini street to express their anger at the attack on the sit-in.

Dozens of demonstrators have fallen to baton charges, water cannons, rubber bullet rounds and live ammunition.

These developments follow a rising tide of workers’ protests, and the announcement by large numbers of workers’ organisations of their intention to demonstrate and occupy in order to continue the revolutionary tasks of cleansing public institutions of the remnants of the Mubarak regime and the redistribution of wealth in society.

This is why it was necessary to break up the sit-in by armed force in order to block the possibility of fusion between the working masses who brought down the Mubarak regime by their strikes in the last days of his rule, and the revolutionaries in the sit-in outside the Cabinet Offices.

These events also come as the end of the parliamentary elections is approaching, and with it the beginning of demands for the army to return to its barracks and the formation of an elected government.

All this points to a growing tendency within the army which wants to create chaos and panic so that the generals can seize the reins of power by popular demand, or at least to muzzle the revolutionaries until political positions and powers can be divided between the opportunist political forces which consented to enter the battle of parliament under military rule.

There is no alternative to continuing the revolution in the public squares, in the universities and in the workplaces … there is no substitute for working to win the popular masses, and at the heart of them the working class, to the revolutionary camp.

If we do not, the Occupying Forces, under the leadership of Tantawi will continue to kill revolutionaries and abort the revolution.

O masses of our people! The massacres of the Cabinet Offices have brought down the government of Ganzoury, who spent his life serving his master, Mubarak, and who wanted to enter the Cabinet over the blood of the revolutionaries.

We must fight together for these demands in order to achieve the goals of the revolutions to win bread, freedom and social justice, and so that the blood of the martyrs has not been spilled in vain:

1. A revolutionary government with full powers
2. Retribution for the martyrs and the trial of the murderers on the military council
3. Reduction in prices and a rise in wages
4. Nationalisation of the stolen privatised companies to provide work for the unemployed
The military council is leading the counter-revolution … but the revolution continues.

The Revolutionary Socialists
17 December 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Len Brown - Which side are you on?

More photos from Saturday.

Hip hop is on the move

One of the most inspiring things about the generally dull election this year has been the radicalisation of hiphop culture. The release of Home Brew and Tourettes's track Listen to us, the mobilisation of Maori voters by South Auckland hiphop artist Young Sid and the release of Genocide's anthem Stand Up for Mana show that the mood is shifting amongst youth. John Key's Government isn't just passively disliked but now actively hated and campaigned against by the organic intellectuals of the young, poor and the restless.

The aggressive and racist tactics of the New Zealand police towards first Tiki Taane in Tauranga and just recently Scribe in Wellington for freestyling an anti-police rap is illustrative of the arbitrary and discriminatory nature of New Zealand's justice system where young Maori and Polynesian men are targeted and profiled by an aggressive police force disconnected with the communities they operate in.

Maybe the clearest sign that hiphop is on the move is the standing of activist rapper Jayson Gardiner as a Mana Movement candidate in Tauranga. His latest track People's Party clearly shows the potential of Mana to bring radical, anti-capitalist, pro-Maori, working class politics to young people around the country. Gardiner, coming from the site of the Rena grounding and an area of New Zealand with high youth unemployment may quickly emerge as the voice of a restless generation revolution that won't pay for the crisis and can't wait for change.

If the hiphop generation in Mana follows their comrades overseas into becoming generation revolution then it will cause shockwaves across Aotearoa and inspire youth in our Pacific neighbours like Fiji, Tonga and the Solomon Islands to rise up as well.

Photos from anti-eviction march

Hundreds marched on Queen Street on Saturday to protest the government's plans to evict families from state houses in Glen Innes. A massive Mana presence, a big Socialist Aotearoa contingent and support from Greens and Labour all bolstered the demonstration. G.I. residents reiterated their commitment to resist the evictions and stand together against the destuction of their community.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Throwing kids to the market

The announcement of National's coalition deal with Act MP to create charter schools in Christchurch and south Auckland has been condemned by education unions, principals and left political parties. Predictably it is being welcomed with open arms by the Business Roundtable and other nefarious neo-liberals. Disturbing has been the creep into Christchurch reminiscent of the drive for charter school creation in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. In New Orleans 70 percent of students go to charter schools, where the schools have been "expelling students with learning disabilities at twice the rate of charter schools elsewhere in the country. In the UK where charter schools are known as academies teachers' unions are discussing strike waves to stop the sell off of public schools. As one teacher said, "There is a plan, cooked up in corporate boardrooms, to make profit out of state education."

Socialist Aotearoa stands behind pupils, teachers and parents who will fight the sell off. The corporate agenda National and Act are pushing through is about allowing corporations to make a profit out of education by throwing kids to the market. We support the Quality Public Education Coalition which will fight these reforms and win, just as they held off the imposition of the bulk funding of teachers salaries in the 1990s. Their statement on charter schools is excellent reading.

Charter schools proposal uses the poor to advance the agenda of the rich

QPEC condemns the government proposal to trial charter schools in low-income areas of Christchurch and South Auckland.

Instead of confronting the causes of educational underachievement, and rewarding those frontline schools that battle to overcome the effects of poverty on children’s minds, the government is using the issue as cover to import a failed private business model from the US which will further damage education in these communities.

“Let us be clear” says John Minto, Deputy Chairperson of QPEC, “This is not about helping our most disadvantaged children, but about smuggling in new forms of private schooling. Charter schools are effectively private schools run with public funding”.

“This has nothing to do with improving education but everything to do with creating private business opportunities for wealthy investors. National using the poor to advance the agenda of the rich”.

John Minto said that it is particularly nauseating to hear the suggestion that Act leader John Banks and Prime Minister John Key are concerned to improve education achievement for kids in low-income areas.

Both send their kids to wealthy private schools and John Banks has a long history of racism directed against Maori and Pacifika communities of South Auckland who predominate in education underachievement.

Prime Minister John Key claims that opposition to charter schools is based on vested interests within the education sector. This is humbug. Instead it is vested business interests which are behind this bid to privatise education.

QPEC will mobilise its resources to continue to promote solutions to improve education for New Zealand kids and we will vigorously oppose failed business models hoisted on the backs of the kids who need the most help to achieve in education.

QPEC’s 2005 factfile on charter schools is appended to this release.

QPEC FactFile: Charter schools

What are they?

‘Charter schools’ is a term used in the United States to refer to schools which have been given a level of autonomy from school district and/or state control. The amount of autonomy varies extremely widely. On the one hand, some charter schools are given a small amount of power to spend funds as they choose, but without the ability to choose their own staff. At the other end of the spectrum, there are a range of ‘contracted out’ schools (see Edison and private schools), new schools based on principles of autonomy, a ban on union membership in some schools (and thus a ban on access to collective contracts) and other such approaches.

There appears to be over 2,500 charter schools currently in operation, up from nil in 1991, although most are in a few key American (and Canadian) states. Charter schools tend to be much smaller than ordinary public schools (average roll 137, compared with 475), and there is little money available for start-up costs. Many, particularly those run by community organisations or groups of teachers, are very starved of resources. They serve a wide range of populations. Some are focused very strongly on poor, black and immigrant communities. Others appear to engage in some cream-skimming behaviour. Most are unable, at least formally, to select their intake except through ballots.

The average charter school has less autonomy than the average New Zealand school – it could be argued that our whole system is made up of charter schools. But there are differences. The ability to start small, community-focused schools (which exists in theory in New Zealand under s.156 of the Education Act but barely at all in practice) has brought about some interesting approaches. The English equivalent of charter schools were formerly known as ‘grant-maintained’ schools and City Technology Colleges, but the new push in that country is for so-called specialist schools.

Who advocates them?

They are advocated by a very wide range of groups, which is why they have proved a popular intervention. Charter schools are supported by neo-liberals as a move towards publicly-funded vouchers for private education. At the other end of the political spectrum, they are supported by community organisations who want to ensure access to education for school drop-outs, mainly black youth in the inner-cities. The following quote demonstrates the diversity:
…. the condition of education – particularly in urban areas populated by our nation’s most impoverished, disadvantaged children – remains perilous. Performance data show wide, persistent gaps in student achievement... Increasingly, educational reformers view charter schools as a way to provide a more effective education to students who are ill-served by the public school system as it is currently structured. Support for charter schools comes from a wide array of groups, including conservatives who also support taxpayer-financed vouchers; business leaders… African American and Hispanic civic groups; community leaders; and parents searching for ways to reform public education without totally destroying or abandoning it (Fusarelli, 2002 p. 21).
Charter schools tend to be strongly supported by the parents of children who attend them:
There is, in all surveys, high levels of satisfaction with charter schools. Parents rate them superior “in terms of class sizes, school sizes, attention and teachers, quality of instruction, and curriculum. Parents also reported that their children were doing better academically in the charter school” (ibid).
Charter schools are a very popular intervention, but research evidence shows that the promise of innovation and improved educational outcomes is often not borne out in practice. These schools may be popular, but it is unclear whether they are effective.

Main arguments in favour

From the neo-liberal perspective charter schools may offer freedom from state interventions, shifting accountability to the marketplace (a charter school will only survive if it attracts students). Some states allow charter schools to by-pass local teacher employment agreements, and, as a result, have hired large numbers of unqualified teachers (in Texas, 54% of charter school teachers are un-registered).

From the community perspective, charter schools can be a progressive force. Milo Cutter, a teacher who worked with other teachers to set up a charter school, describes a community-based school for at-risk adolescents which maintains a student:staff ratio of 6:1. The school was able to survive in its first few years only because a private power company provided about a third of its funding. It now survives on a mixture of school district and grants funding (Cutter, 1996).

There is some evidence of ‘innovation’ in the literature, including: longer school days and Saturday classes; mandatory summer school courses; bilingual education programmes; schools for at-risk students; alternative curricula such as the international baccalaureate; and a range of teacher initiatives such as multi-age grouping, mainstreaming, use of technology to enhance student learning, performance-based assessments and project based learning.

A paper lauding California’s charter school experience is fairly typical of the literature (Premack, 1996). The focus is on the ‘diversity’ of the more than 100 schools (many of which cater for special needs populations) rather than genuine curriculum innovation. This raises an important question. Is the aim of charter schools in practice merely to deliver the curriculum in ways which meet the needs of niche special needs groups? If that is the case, why is the whole raft of organisational reform needed?

Charter schools may not be selective; they must take whoever comes and places must be filled by ballot when there is overcrowding. This is in contrast to s.156 schools in New Zealand which are of ‘special character’, allowing the school to choose who attends on a range of pre-determined characteristics (e.g. Discovery One in Christchurch selects on parental involvement criteria).

Main arguments against

There are many excellent examples in the literature of innovative school programs in operation in charter schools. These involve, music, exploratory learning, individual tuition and a range of learning tasks. But it is rarely stated is the programme is being compared with. The un-named and undefined ‘public school system’ sits behind the rhetoric, as if each classroom, each lesson and each teacher is uniform; and as if the students sit behind their lined-up desks each day and appropriate knowledge (or not) in a Dickensian fashion. It is as if any notion that ordinary public schools, which educate the vast majority of American youth, can be effective or innovative has been abandoned. So instead the only ‘innovation’ being sought is through these charter schools and through voucher schemes. This is a general criticism of the so-called reform literature, and also of the political forces that advocate reform.

It is hard to evaluate the scheme as a whole. There are huge differences between regions in terms of the rules, funding and requirements of charter schools. For example, one study noted:

Two of the more controversial aspects of the charter school phenomenon, however, are that in ten states, for-profit organisations can legally manage and operate charter schools and in some states, church-related organisations are eligible to sponsor charter schools (Bloom, 2003 p.145).

One California-based research team examined whether the more market oriented charter schools (a subset of all charter schools) were more likely to engage in cream-skimming behaviour (Lacireno-Paquet et al, 2002). They found that, while cream-skimming was not evident, market-oriented charter schools were less likely to enrol children with special needs:

While non-market-oriented charter schools are serving equal or higher proportions of needy populations than the traditional public school system, those with more entrepreneurial aspirations are not. The percentage of special education students served is nearly twice as high in non-market-oriented charters than in market-oriented ones (ibid p. 155).

There are some underlying issues in charter schools. At its more extreme end, charter school legislation is an invitation for any and every special interest group to start and run their own school according to their own values. Some say this is a good thing – that the public system attempts a useless ‘one size fits all’ exercise. But in increasingly diverse communities worldwide, the school yard is often the only place where diverse cultures meet, and if that is lost, is this not a recipe for increased inter-group tensions? Also, there is a major problem of accountability for results.

Finally, while underfunded, charter schools do remove funds from the general public school system which appears, in many parts of the United States, to be of very poor quality. Taking funds from a poor quality system, in which probably the least-motivated families remain, to put into new, small, inefficient, struggling schools seems a recipe for disaster at a systemic level, and ignore the very parts of the system that most need to be improved.

Can the differences be resolved?

Lubienski makes the point that, after a decade of increasing popularity of charter schools, and large amounts of research, we still do not know much about any actual changes brought about by charter schools. His paper reviews “all known research and scholarly studies available that reported evidence of innovative practices in charter schools” (ibid p. 406). He says:

…there is a notable paucity of classroom practices developed in charter schools that were not already available outside the charter school model (ibid, 413).

Lubienski’s meta-analysis uncovers a sustained pattern of “organisational change coupled with pedagogical and curricula conformity” (ibid) in charter schools. This finding has significant implications for policy, not only in but also beyond the United States. If every school in New Zealand is a charter school, then have our reforms stifled rather than encouraged pedagogical reform? If so, might alternative approaches, such as the drive for specialist schools in the UK be more effective in achieving quality reform rather than administrative and organisational change?

Lubienski’s paper concludes with a long discussion of why pedagogical innovation is virtually absent from charter schools. Reasons appear to be supply side – inadequate resources, a lack of vision, failures of the competitive model – and demand side, in terms of what might be the inherent conservatism of parents over what they perceive constitutes a high quality education. The shadow of the upper middle class traditional learning institution may have blighted the innovative potential of charter schools in much the same way that reform in other countries appears to simply reproduce a uniformed, disciplinarian hierarchy.

Much of the literature discusses the financial problems of charter schools in terms of both start-up costs and ongoing funding. Sugarman (2002) notes that there are funding problems endemic to the whole US school system, as well as some issues specific to charter schools. The four issues that are system wide are: inter-district inequalities (an issue taken up by Kozol, 1991); intra-district inequalities; inadequate spending; and special needs funding. The specific issues relating to charter schools, many of which have been covered above, include: how to count pupils (especially when there is a longer school day); enrolling and counting distance learners; the monitoring and reporting regimes to ensure accountability; and the need for supplemental funds (because of high building costs or other issues) (Sugarman, 2002). The author concludes that the growth of charter schools has ironically brought attention to bear on overall inadequacies in the funding regime of US schools, which may need to be addressed in the future.

It seems that charter schools cannot overturn the inequities of the public schooling system. Indeed, a key research finding is that equity provisions tend not to be enforced even where they exist. A worrying element is the growth in segregation, and charter schools cater for specific niche markets. More importantly, it appears there is significant between-school inequities in charter schools (Wamba & Ascher, 2003).

What about the future?

Wells (1998) describes the laissez-faire nature of charter schools as providing freedom but virtually no support. “Furthermore, without additional resources targeted towards the poorest communities, charter school operators have little power to overcome existing inequalities within the large and uneven public education system”.

Wronkovich notes that charter schools may leverage broader change in the schooling system, which he believes is sorely needed:

…little substantive change has occurred in the basic structure of the public system of education in decades. The standard of 180 days of 6.5 hours each that was established at the start of the 20th century has persisted. Compartmentalised instruction based on the model of the industrial revolution is still the norm… We now teach everything from sex education to AIDS education to driver education. In many schools we provide two meals a day to children and try to cope with the many social ills they face. It is no wonder that some present day reformers have sought to escape the overburdening mandates. They see the public education system as one that has become confused about its mission (Wronkovich, 2000 pp.5-6).

However, this view begs the question of why, if broad-based school reform is needed, such an indirect route is expected to be successful. If the public sector needs reforming, why not reform it? The charter school campaigners would argue, it seems, that the public system is too bureaucratic to change, and yet allows for the possibility that this offshoot system will respond quickly to market forces.

The hopes of neo-liberal charter school supporters that they will soon lead to universal vouchers across the USA seem unlikely to be realised. Voucher schemes are not increasing in size or scope, whereas charter schools are increasing in number. The long-term effects of continued charter school growth is likely to be a schooling system which is increasingly fragmented (even more so than in the past), populated by large numbers of small, niche schools of variable quality. Not a model to be emulated by any system that cares about the overall quality of its schools, even though some of the community-based innovations are attractive.

Political views in New Zealand

When politicians talk about ‘more choice’ for parents they are either talking about some kind of voucher scheme or some kind of charter school model. Key political lessons from charter schools are that they are under-funded, when they are able to bypass collective agreements they employ a lot of unqualified teachers, and that, while there are a lot of really interesting individual schools being run by community agencies, the overall increase in innovation is minor and there is no evidence of improved educational outcomes. As well, questions of how to make charter schools properly accountable for their performance remain unanswered.

The National Party education policy does not overtly adopt a charter school model, but talks about increasing autonomy by several initiatives: bulk-funding teacher salaries (and abolishing national collective employment agreements), allowing schools which have a “reputation for excellence” to own their own property and allowing these same schools to ‘take over’ other schools.


Abowitz, K. K. (2002). From Public Education to Educational Publics. Clearing House, 76(1) , p. 34-38.
Bloom, I. (2003). The New Parental Rights Challenge to School Control: Has the Supreme Court Mandated School Choice? Journal of Law & Education, 32(2) , p. 139-83.
Bulkley, K., & Fisler, J. (2003). A decade of charter schools: From theory to practice. Educational Policy, 17(3), 317-342.
Clinchy, E. (1995). The Changing Nature of Our Magnet Schools. New Schools, New Communities, 11(2) , p. 47-50.
Cutter, M. (1996). City academy. Phi Delta Kappan, 78(1), 26.
Fusarelli, L. D. (2002). Charter schools: implcations for teachers and administrators. The Clearing House, 76(1), 20-25.
Garn, G. (2001). Moving from Bureaucratic to Market Accountability: The Problem of Imperfect Information. Educational Administration Quarterly, 37(4) , p. 571-99.
Henig, J. R. H., T.T.; LacirenoPaquet, N.; Moser M. (2003). Privatization, Politics, and Urban Services: The Political Behavior of Charter Schools. Journal of Urban Affairs, 25(1), 37-54.
Jones, T. H., Jr. (1998). Public School Options: Magnet and Charter Schools. School Business Affairs, 64(6) , p. 3-6,8-12.
Kennedy, M. (2002). Charter Schools: Threat or Boon to Public Schools? American School & University, 75(4) , p. 18-26.
Kozol, J. (1991). Savage Inequalities: Children in America's schools. New York: Harper Perennial.
Lacireno-Paquet, N., Holyoke, T. T., Moser, M., & Henig, J. R. (2002). Creaming versus Cropping: Charter School Enrollment Practices in Response to Market Incentives. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 24(2) , p. 145-58.
Leonard, J. (2002). The Case of the First-Year Charter School. Urban Education, 37(2) , p. 219-40.
Lubienski, C. (2003). Innovation in education markets: Theory and evidence on the impact of competition and choice in charter schools. American Educational Research Journal, 40(2), 395-443.
Premack, E. (1996). Charter schools: California's education reform 'power tool'. Phi Delta Kappan, 78(1), 60.
Sugarman, S. D. (2002). Charter School Funding Issues. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 10(34).
Thomas, D., & Borwege, K. (1996). A choice to charter. Phi Delta Kappan, 78(1), 29.
Wamba, N. G., & Ascher, C. (2003). An Examination of Charter School Equity. Education and Urban Society, 35(4) , p. 462-76.
Weiher, G. R., & Tedin, K. L. (2002). Does Choice Lead to Racially Distinctive Schools? Charter Schools and Household Preferences. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 21(1) , p. 79-92.
Wells, A. S. (1998). Charter school reform in California: Does it meet expectations? Phi Delta Kappan., 80(4), 305-313.
Wells, A. S. (1999). California's Charter Schools: Promises v. Performance. American Educator, 23(1) , p. 18-21,24,52.
Windler, W. (1996). Colorado's charter schools: A spark for change and a catalyst for reform. Phi Delta Kappan, 78(1), 66.
Wronkovich, M. (2000). Will Charter Schools Lead to a Systemic Reform of Public Education? American Secondary Education, 28(4) , p. 3-8.

Monday, December 05, 2011

"We will help the Poor to fight the Rich"

At the Mana Movement's Post Electoral Hui in Otara on Sunday October 4th, newly elected President Annette Sykes declares war on poverty in Aotearoa, promising that Mana "will move this country decidedly to the Left" and that "We will help the Poor to fight the Rich".

Friday, December 02, 2011

To Hell with this- Voices of Struggle from the Unite Conference

Unite Union held its 2nd National Conference in early December, with over 180 organisers coming from sites as diverse as Language schools, Cinemas, Security, Hotels, Skycity Casino, Call Centres and of course, the quick service restaurants of KFC, McDonalds and Burger King. Members of Socialist Aotearoa have been active with Unite union from the start as members, delegates and organisers, and it was powerful to see such a large turn out of workers ready not just to defend, but to fight for better wages and conditions.

At a cross union panel on Where Now for the Workers Movement after the Election, the argument for workers to step up and go on the offensive won huge applause from delegates.

and there wasn't a dry eye in the house after the testimony of locked out boner Meat Leon Perns testified about the plight of the CMP Meat workers in Marton.