Opinion by Willie Jackson originally published in the Manukau Courier: The opposition's stance on partnership schools won't get a pass mark from me. And as far as Maori are concerned, Labour's Education spokesman Chris Hipkins' Private Members Bill to scrap partnership schools rates an E.
True, there has been the odd failing and in some cases questionable purchases. But when you look at the success this alternative style education model has had for Maori, then it gets an A every day.
I truly believe in the partnership school model. I believe in it so much we have one at Nga Whare Waatea. The kura comes under the Manukau Urban Maori Authority of which I am chief executive.
Our staff tell us they have seen the change in our tamariki, especially those who have been failed by mainstream schooling. They have not failed the system, but the system has failed them.
That's why I have to put these questions to Hipkins: Why would you want to carry on funding a model which continues to marginalise those tamariki – admittedly mostly Maori – who don't fit in? Why would you not want an alternative that can support and help our children fulfil their own dreams and aspirations?
Partnership schools might not be for everyone – the same with mainstream education. But those who attend these partnership kura up and down the country paint a completely different picture from what we often see in the media.
Recognition of our children's strengths, which may include cultural connectedness or waka ama, and also their weaknesses is what partnership schools provide.
Hipkins jumps on the bandwagon about them being a costly experiment that has distracted attention and diverted resources away from the vast majority of Kiwi kids attending public schools.
He describes the charter school model as a cosy "cup of tea" deal between National and ACT and that they're based on ideology rather than what is best for kids' education.
But here's some facts for Hipkins from He Puna Marama in Whangarei, established in 2014.
Last year 82 per cent of its students passed NCEA Level 1;100 per cent passed NCEA Level 2; 100 per cent passed NCEA Level 3; and 100 per cent passed University Entrance.
Even the first independent evaluation of the Kura Hourua policy by academic Martin Jenkins shows early evidence that the partnership school approach is working.
To me it appears that Labour's need to appease the unions is at the expense of children's education. John Tamihere, who is the chief executive for the Waipareira Trust and a former Labour Party minister, and I have supported the charter school concept for a number of years now.
We will try anything that will help turn around the negative statistics in terms of Maori students failing in mainstream schools. That doesn't mean we are anti-mainstream schools or in fact anti-Labour - it means we are pro-Maori and pro our people.
It is Hipkins' right to put this through as a Private Members Bill but I would suggest that not even his own party colleagues are happy with his stance and when push comes to shove, they might not vote for it to happen. Let's hope not.
* Willie Jackson is chairman of the National Urban Maori Authority which has two partnership schools within its affiliation.