Labour’s problems around charter schools (two MPs recently attended a fundraiser for a Trust that runs one, even though it banked $2.4 million surplus in July) have demonstrated the effectiveness of Government’s strategy. It has staged its initial charter school roll-out around Maori and Polynesian communities who are unhappy with current education provision.

It is a strategy used by reformers in the US and Sweden, that paints opponents of charters as enemies of the disadvantaged, while preparing the ground for more widespread charter schooling run by corporates.

There’s been a suggestion that the Minister’s new call for charter applications in August was the beginning of this new phase of charter schooling in New Zealand. Labour has described the Minister’s emphasis on applications focused on science, technology, engineering and maths as being skewed in favour of an American operator who has shown an interest in ‘revolutionising’ schooling in New Zealand.

The American alluded to is millionaire Marc Holtzman. A former constituent of Bill English, Holtzman comes from the world of finance and is currently chair of equity firm Meridian Capital. He spent many years in the ‘wild east’ after the fall of the Soviet Union brokering deals in the new economy where he amassed a considerable fortune. He hung out with Boris Yeltsin’s top advisors.

He has an interest in emerging investment markets in Asia and Africa and engaged in opportunities in Myanmar, Rwanda and Kazakstan. He is also heavily engaged in the booming US charter school market, establishing the Denver School for Science and Technology, an operation with multiple campuses.

The Herald has reported that former Queenstown mayor Clive Geddes has been working to help secure land near Queenstown for a school brokered by Holtzman and Ngai Tahu. Geddes said: “We are waiting for some planning issues around one of the areas of land we are interested in to be resolved … we would expect a decision on that in the next few months.”