Fact Checker: South Auckland Middle School Funding: Let’s have the real picture, Dr Brash
Former Reserve Bank governor, Don Brash, was the latest ACT Party figure to drink the charter school Kool-Aid and push the myth on charter school funding. (See his op-ed published in the NZ Herald 7 September 2016).
Dr Brash tried to claim that it was absolute nonsense that charter schools get a lot more money from the taxpayer than other schools do.
Save Our Schools decided it was high time to see for ourselves what the real picture is, so we looked at the 2015 financial statements of both South Auckland Middle School and Manurewa Intermediate, the intermediate school used in the op-ed by Dr Brash.
Our approach looked at the funding for both schools after each had acquired its premises: SAMS by paying rent to its landlord, the Elim Church, and Manurewa Intermediate by occupying the land and buildings owned by the Crown. That means that both schools can then use the balance of their funding to operate their respective schools on a day-to-day basis.
SAMS received $11,740 of funding per student in 2015 after paying the rent for its premises. In contrast, Manurewa Intermediate received funding of $5,907 per student after allowing for the notional charge made to State schools for the use of land and buildings provided by the Crown.
This simple analysis destroys the myth perpetuated by charter school supporters that there were not serious problems with the funding model used for the early charter schools.
Charter schools receive all their funding in cash and can spend the money how they wish. State schools receive their operational funding in two main ways: the Teachers’ Salaries Grant and the Operations Grant, but only the Operations Grant is paid in cash.
Regardless of the different sources of funding, it is plain for all to see that South Auckland Middle School has received nearly twice as much operational funding per student as Manurewa Intermediate in the 2015 year.
This will make comparisons between charter schools and their local counterparts problematic, as the greater funding that charter schools receive allows for the creation of smaller class sizes and pays for other factors that can positively influence student achievement. Not to mention free uniforms and free stationery to help support their marketing!
Our analysis also highlights how charter schools spend much more money on administration, which is a common feature overseas. Administration extras include a Community Liaison Manager (nice if you can afford it) and of course, the management fee paid to the Sponsor.
In the case of the two charter schools managed by the Villa Education Trust, total management fees across their two schools amounted to $640,016 in 2014 and 2015 combined.
Our analysis of the SAMS and Manurewa Intermediate 2015 financial statements is set out below.