Demise of bulk funding a big win for teachers, learners and school communities
NZEI Te Riu Roa and PPTA congratulate the Minister of Education and Cabinet for making the right decision to reject bulk funding of schools.
NZEI President Louise Green and PPTA President Angela Roberts say taking bulk funding off the table is a big win for public education and for the thousands of teachers and school support staff who united in unprecedented numbers at more than 50 union meetings around the country in September.
PPTA President Angela Roberts says parents and educators had rejected bulk funding because they realised it was a cost cutting tool that would force schools to make trade-offs between hiring teachers and other costs. Thousands of parents signed postcards to the Minister calling for better funding, not bulk funding during a national roadshow organised by the two unions earlier this term.
Angela Roberts says the win is good news for learners, as bulk funding led to fewer teachers, larger class sizes and narrower subject choices for students.
She says the two unions welcomed the opportunity to now focus on how funding could be used to improve equity.
“Now that the distraction of bulk funding has been removed we can begin the real work of developing an equitable funding model that works for every child,” she said.
However, Louise Green warned that ditching the decile system and replacing it with more targeted funding would not help schools unless the chronic underfunding of education was also addressed.
“We call on the Government to take the next step — to increase school funding and restore funding to early childhood services, which has been frozen for six years,” she says.
Both unions’ National Executives are meeting this morning and the Presidents will make a joint statement at lunchtime.
What: Joint media stand up by NZEI and PPTA Presidents
Where: Thorndon Hotel, 24 Hawkestone St, Wellington
When: 12:30pm, Friday 18 November
NZEI Te Riu Roa and the PPTA are launching an education bus tour in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch next week to raise awareness of the Government’s proposed radical reforms to school funding and the chronic underfunding of schools and early childhood services.
The bus tour aims to spread the Better Funding message to parents and whānau and the wider community, and educators will be talking to parents at drop-off and pick-up times about why children’s education needs more investment.
There will be Better Funding postcards to sign and send to Parliament, plus they’ll be asking the public to sign our Support Staff petition.
NZEI President, Louise Green explained:
“We are already seeing this with the Government’s freeze on the school operations grant, which funds support staff salaries and other general operating costs, and which has been frozen this year. Recent analysis of the 2016 operations grant shows that a majority of schools will be worse off when inflation is taken into account.
“Meanwhile, bulk funding in Early Childhood Education has also been frozen for five years in real terms, with services now under huge financial pressure to cut qualified teachers and increase group sizes.
“The quality of our children’s education shouldn’t be put at further risk from underfunding and flawed funding models. We need to restore full funding for quality teaching in early childhood, and at least an inflation increase to the operations grant to ensure schools have enough money to cover basic running costs, and to pay and keep on support staff who are funded from this allocation.
“No parent wants larger class sizes or fewer teachers for their kids. Our campaign is about valuing education and ensuring there is better funding to deliver the best education possible for New Zealand kids.”
This campaign is a great chance for families and wider communities to ask questions about what’s going on, so mosey on up and find out why educators are not at all happy with the Minister’s overall education policy and, in particular, the “Global Funding” plans.
Details of where the buses are going to be are here.
You can follow the campaign on Twitter at #betterfunding
Hekia Parata made a somewhat surprising appearance today at Core Education’s uLearn Conference in Rotorua, prompting again comparisons of her ability to make herself available for certain types of education gatherings and not others:
Still, this is not news, and her appearance this morning was not a total surprise, despite not being on the programme.
At least one person left the room in silent protest.
Some asked questions…
And one, SOSNZ’s very own Melanie Dorrian, made a one-person, silent and very powerful protest.
This prompted a flurry of photos on social media
The protest invoked a lot of positive support from within and without the room.
Melanie, I have never been prouder to call you a colleague. You embody exactly what we want of our teachers and our students – deep critical thinking, a commitment to facts, a determination to hold people to account for their actions, and a social advocacy that puts others’ needs sometimes before one’s own.
To those who praised Melanie, took pics, shared your thoughts, sent her your support – thank you. I hope Melanie’s stance has illustrated clearly that one person can make a difference and your voice – every voice – matters.
Next time maybe you’ll bring your banner, too?
After all, you voted overwhelmingly to stand up to this nonsense.
You can follow Melanie’s own blog here.
Educators are joining with disabled people, families and service providers to rally at Parliament tomorrow, Thursday 22 September, to let Government know that their Special Education Update is totally inadequate and it is time to invest in inclusion.
“NZEI is concerned that the Special Education Grant (SEG) paid to schools through operational grant funding is failing to keep up with wage inflation and roll growth,” said Louise Green NZEI Te Riu Roa President.
“Between 2009 and 2016, the SEG fell by 1.8% when labour cost increases are taken into account, according to information released to Education Aotearoa under the OIA.
“In the same period, school rolls have risen from 760,859 students to 776,816 and the identification of students with special education need has increased dramatically. So there really needs to be much more funding going into SEG than the Government is current providing to ensure the value of the funding per student increases.
“The SEG is mainly spent on teacher aides to help meet students’ special education needs. The inadequate levels of funding puts real pressure on a school’s ability to provide the best education possible for all their students.
“Any parent or teacher of a special needs child can tell you that the level of learning support funded through the Ministry of Education is inadequate, and in many cases non-existent.
“The recent Special Education Update proposal to shift resources to pre-schoolers, without putting any additional funding into the system won’t work in the best interests of all children who need the support. They need more funding.
“We strongly support greater investment in early intervention, but that should not come at the expense of those who need support when they are older. Funding should be based on the need for intervention and support, not age,” said Louise Green.
Education for All Rally
Where: Parliament forecourt
When: Tomorrow, Thursday 22 September 4.30-5.30pm
Organised by Education for All, a collaboration involving the disability and education sectors, including NZEI Te Riu Roa
This is the second in a series of postings following up an op-ed written by Don Brash published in the NZ Herald.
Our first response discussed what motives might lay behind what we feel is a concerted PR push by Villa Education Trust, the Sponsor of South Auckland Middle School.
In this piece we will look at the statement made in the op-ed about funding, as this remains one of the real sticking points about the early charter schools.
Ah yes, critics argue, but partnership schools get a lot more money from the taxpayer than other schools do. Absolute nonsense.
Sorry, Dr Brash, but charter schools do get more OPERATIONAL FUNDING than the local schools get. Especially when their funding is compared to the larger schools in South Auckland, where SAMS is located.
In a nutshell, SAMS received total operational funding of approx. $12,800 per student in 2015 compared to Manurewa Intermediate (the intermediate school used in the article) which received approx. $5,600 per student.
To understand how this large discrepancy arises, we need to look at the original charter school funding model. The single biggest policy mistake it made was to try and work out the equivalent funding that a stand alone State school of the same size and type might receive.
But, in practice, the charter schools are being created in places like South Auckland where there are larger, more established schools that receive much lower average per student funding. This means that the larger schools could not possibly recreate the conditions such as class sizes of 15 that the smaller charter schools can.
One recent story on Radio NZ described the pressure on some South Auckland schools that saw many of them using their libraries and halls as teaching spaces. One school had plans to start teaching next year in the staffroom!
So, is it any wonder that when given the option of class sizes of 15, free uniforms and free stationery, that parents may be choosing the charter school?
Let’s look briefly at the original charter school funding model, noting that this model has already been changed for the third round schools that have just been announced.
The original model had two essentially fixed components per school: Base Funding and Property & Insurance. The property component is fixed for the first 3 years (unless the school changes size or teaching year levels) and the base funding component varies by type of school (secondary, middle or primary) and is indexed each year.
Variable Funding comes in two parts: a Per Student Grant and Centrally Funded Services. The two variable components are then multiplied by the number of students on the roll or the Guaranteed Minimum Roll (“GMR”) whichever is the greater. So, if the actual school roll is less than the GMR, the Sponsor gets paid for at least the GMR number of students.
In 2015, SAMS operated at its Maximum Roll, which was originally 120 students.
So, putting all the components together the SAMS financial statements show revenue from Government Grants of $1,536,016, or an average government funding figure of approx. $12,800 per student, in 2015.
So let’s walk through the SAMS financial statements for 2015 and see what Villa does with its $1.5 million of funding.
First, it pays the rent, which is $150,000 per annum. If we are generous, and include all Property expenses, including utilities, we find these amounted to $194,776 in the 2015 financial statements.
This would then leave a total of $1,341,240, or $11,177 per student after we have acquired and maintained the school premises.
What do we do next? We would look to hire the teachers necessary to deliver on the 1:15 class size ratio.
For a school of 120 students, we would need 8 teachers, at a round number cost of $75,000 per annum each. That should cost us approx. $600,000 and we find that teacher salaries in the 2015 SAMS accounts came out at pretty much that amount: $584,883. Add in the other curriculum related costs, such as classroom resources – including those free school uniforms and stationery – and total Learning Resources amounted to $869,846.
That leaves us with $471,394 to pay for the administration of a 120 student school.
Plenty of money to pay for a full-time Community Liaison Manager – nice if you can afford it – pay for all the office and other admin costs and allow for depreciation and you spend a total of $263,906.
And what does that leave room for?
That’s right: the Management Fee payable to the Sponsor of $140,000. That’s the cost of hiring a full-time principal at a much larger school!
For comparison, let’s see how Manurewa Intermediate is getting on.
The Find A School application on the Education Counts website has summary financial information for State and State-Integrated schools.
In 2015 Find A School showed Manurewa Intermediate’s Staffing Entitlement figure was $2,510,958 and its Operations Grant figure was shown as $1,431,808. So, let’s cash this all up and make an OPERATIONAL FUNDING total of $3,942,766.
But straight away we have a problem. Manurewa Intermediate has 704 students. So we start our comparison with average per student government funding of only $5,600 per student.
Its property is owned by the Crown, so it doesn’t pay rent in cash. So we can skip straight to the teacher costs.
To engineer class sizes of 15, we would need to buy 47 teachers. At a cost of $75,000 each we would need $3,525,000.
That would leave us with only $417,766 or $593 per student to pay for everything else necessary to run a school of 704 students which is nearly 6 times the size of SAMS!
Out of that amount, we would need to pay for all classroom and curriculum resources, all the non-teaching staff, all the administration costs, the utilities and property maintenance costs and the depreciation to cover the replacement of all the furniture, equipment and ICT resources.
Hopefully you can see from this comparison that it would be virtually impossible for Manurewa Intermediate to have class sizes of 15 with the level of government operational funding it receives.
You could also arrive at the same conclusion with a simple rule of thumb calculation.
Based on a teacher cost of $75,000, in a class size of 15 each student needs to contribute $5,000 to pay for their teacher. SAMS had $11,177 after paying for the premises; Manurewa Intermediate started with $5,600.
In summary, what readers interested in understanding charter schools funding need to appreciate is the significant influence of the fixed cost components of their funding model.
Even at its initial maximum roll of 120, the fixed components of SAMS’ funding comprise 57% of its total funding: base funding was $578,021 and the property component was $303,681. That is why the charter schools are proving to be more expensive than their local counterparts: they are small schools with high fixed cost funding.
But they are being compared to larger, longer established schools where the fixed costs are spread over a much greater number of students.
This is what economists call economies of scale.
It is a major reason why direct comparisons between schools with significantly different funding streams should be treated with real caution.
Research shows that the effects of smaller class sizes are positive and of real help, especially when dealing with students who need more intensive support.
Smaller class sizes are an expensive policy to engineer; but wouldn’t it be great to see class sizes of 15 in all our low decile schools, not just those favoured by the flawed charter school funding model.
~ Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools NZ
It’s been a year of non-stop changes and proposals. Some call it a war on free public schooling in NZ – indeed it feels like a continuous battery of skirmishes with little to no break between attacks.
If the Minister is purposefully undertaking psychological warfare to break teachers down, then she’s doing it well, because we’re worn out; We just want to teach.
So far this year, NZ public education has faced:
I’m sure I’ve forgotten some things – there have been so many – so please comment below if there’s anything that needs to be added.
Meanwhile, look after yourselves – there’s still one whole term to go and, as we know, a lot can happen in a few short weeks.
PS, more added below!
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In its May Budget, the National Government snuck through a freeze to the school operations grant that pays for support staff wages and all other essential school running costs.
“This funding freeze is unprecedented. No Government as far back as 1999 has ever frozen school funding before, so this will put already strained school budgets under more pressure,” said NZEI President Louise Green.
“…this year’s budget freeze actually equates to a 0.5% per-student cut in operational funding for schools next year because of roll growth”
“Research done by Infometrics shows this year’s budget freeze actually equates to a 0.5% per-student cut in operational funding for schools next year because of roll growth. It’s an even bigger cut when you take inflation and other costs into account.
“This cut will force schools to make trade-offs between support staff and other running costs. More pressure will go on parents to pay larger donations to cover the funding shortfall.
“We support more funding for the most disadvantaged students, but it should be in addition to adequate funding levels for all schools.”
“While the Government has put in a small amount of additional funding for the most disadvantaged children they have done this by cutting the per-student ops grant funding across all schools, creating winners and losers.
“We support more funding for the most disadvantaged students, but it should be in addition to adequate funding levels for all schools.
“Support staff like administration staff, teacher aides, technicians and others are most at risk of having their hours cut due to the funding freeze.
“Support staff already suffer from poor pay and precarious hours of employment despite their crucial role supporting children’s learning. The funding freeze puts them under greater stress and threat.
“We need better operational funding for schools that allows them to meet children’s educational needs. We also want support staff to be paid centrally like teachers are, so they are not competing with other costs and resourcing needs,” said Green.
The support staff campaign is part of the wider Better Funding Better Learning campaign being run with the PPTA to respond to the government’s proposal to introduce global funding, which could result in fewer teachers and larger class sizes.
“This funding freeze highlights the perils of bulk funding. We need to reject bulk funding for support staff and ensure it is not extended to include teaching staff,” said Ms Green.
Support staff will be starting their campaign by launching an online petition on Monday calling for parents and communities to message the Education Minister to reverse the funding freeze.
Dear Friends, Neighbours and carers of NZ kids,
There will be press criticism of teachers and unions here in NZ, over the meetings our unions have called.
The unions have done this to provide information, and a discussion forum about the new funding system Govt. is pushing through, which is an old, over-burdening and ineffective one, under a newish label.
It is a serious issue that will impact on the quality and the equality of our education system here in NZ for years to come.
That organisations are uniting on this one is surely a huge indicator of the seriousness of this latest move. Teachers are not a militant profession, despite what press would like you to believe. They usually get vocal when the well-being of students is threatened.
The issues are far bigger than the Govt would have the public believe.
It is a monster, that will leave boards and Principals with great difficulties, as all funding is lumped into one without protected components, such as the basic level of a set pot for Special Needs, (already not enough), that most schools choose to supplement, but some can’t. So when schools don’t have to account for it, it will all depend on the individual ethos of the Principal and Board.
To achieve funding for highest needs there are complex processes, with serious paperwork, however, on the back of these changes, there will be changes imminent there too and they will not be driven by better provision, but by cost.
New ways of identifying how much is allocated to meet high need schools, will be very challenging and provide another complex layer to battle through to secure appropriate funds for a school.
The result will likely be a hike in class sizes, with reduced support, and inaccurate fallible data about class size being bandied about as ‘proof’ class size doesn’t matter.
Believe me it matters to the quiet kid in the corner, the kid with APD, ASD, DYSLEXIA, to all the kids who need extending, or who have a query to be answered in a lesson and to the mental health of the teacher leading the class.
Also the elephant in the room of salaries. Schools with higher numbers of experienced staff, will have less income to spend on other aspects of school management. The pressure then shifts to how to cut bills in other ways. What would you be happy to see axed from your child’s educational experience? That arts group experience that makes them want to attend each day?
School budget management is already challenging, but increasing the responsibilities of Principals and Boards creates a massive learning need for them, so pushing it through will add extra strain to a stressful job.
So remember, reports in the News, and comments in the Media, are written by those who do not work in the profession, and are subject to their individual bias.
Remember that Ministers and most politicians currently do not listen to teachers, do not recognise the tremendous efforts and sacrifices they make, and undervalue the profession. They seem to see us as agents to deliver a very set prescribed agenda.
Teachers teach because they want to help their students to be the best they can be. They are driven to support their students, often at huge personal cost to their health and well-being, and that of their family.
So forgive us a few hours to try and safeguard the future of all New Zealand kids and the sanity and health of the individuals who go the extra mile daily.
Thanks for supporting us in our efforts to keep NZ education great and fair.
~ Carrie Sherring, NZ Teacher and SENCO.
PS If you could query the use of public funds to prop up Private Sector education with the Govt. , that would be awesome.
Shared with Carrie’s permission.
Further Reading: http://betterfunding.org.nz/
Today, Angela Roberts (PPTA) and Louise Green (NZEI) announced unprecedented joint action on Government funding proposals. The proposals are not welcome and are very much seen as a threat to the New Zealand education system – a threat that could lead to increased class sizes, less qualified teachers, fewer support staff and so it goes on.
Teachers, Support Staff, Principals and parents all need to be aware of what is being proposed and the impacts it could have. At the moment, few are being consulted with, and those that are ‘in the tent’ are under a gagging order, preventing them from telling the rest of us what is truly being proposed.
Here, Angela Roberts and Louise Green explain why they, as heads of the two NZ teachers’ unions, have taken the huge step of calling paid union meetings (PUM) for both unions together in order to look at the proposals:
The Paid Union Meetings will be held around the country between 5 and 16 September, starting with Auckland Town Hall on 5 September, Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre on 6 September and Christchurch’s Horncastle Arena on 7 September.
Meetings will be held at either 9am or 1.30pm to minimise disruption to teaching programmes, children and parents.
Featured image courtesy of NZEI & PTTA.
Educators from early childhood to secondary schooling are uniting to respond to the government’s latest funding proposal, saying it could result in fewer teachers and larger class sizes.
The government has also refused to explore any increase in funding for education.
PPTA and NZEI Te Riu Roa today announced they are holding combined meetings of their 60,000 members in September. The meetings are to plan a response to the government’s “global funding” proposal, which is effectively a return to the failed bulk funding experiment of the 1990s.
The education unions have never before undertaken joint meetings of this scale, involving principals, teachers and support staff from ECE to secondary.
The government’s renewed attempt to propose bulk funding would mean all staffing and school operational funding would be delivered to schools on a per-student basis in the form of cash and “credits” for staffing.
This would mean parents on Boards would have to make trade offs between the number of teachers they employ and other non-teaching costs of running a school. This would incentivise:
Early childhood education has languished under bulk funding for many years and most services have had to make cuts, hire fewer qualified teachers and increase fees to parents. Schools would face a similar threat.
NZEI Te Riu Roa President Louise Green and PPTA President Angela Roberts announced the nationwide Paid Union Meetings at a joint media conference at Wellington Girls’ High School today.
Ms Roberts said bulk funding was simply another back-door attempt to increase class sizes, which outraged parents when it was last attempted three years ago.
“This proposal would result in parents on school boards being forced to do the government’s dirty work the moment the budget gets squeezed. The complexities of juggling credits would also undermine the board focus on improving children’s learning,” she said.
Ms Green said early childhood education and support staff had suffered under a form of bulk funding for many years and to extend that across the sector would be disastrous.
“The past five years of a per-child funding freeze in ECE have forced many centres to compromise quality by reducing the number of qualified teachers. There is no reason to think bulk funding would work any differently in schools,” she said.
The Paid Union Meetings will be held around the country between 5 and 16 September, starting with Auckland Town Hall on 5 September, Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre on 6 September and Christchurch’s Horncastle Arena on 7 September.
Meetings will be held at either 9am or 1.30pm to minimise disruption to teaching programmes, children and parents.
Prior to the publication of Save Our Schools NZ’s detailed analysis of charter school funding in 2016, we here present a summary of findings:
Finally, it will never be easy to make straightforward comparisons between charter school and State / State-Integrated school funding, as this inevitably involves an apples v oranges comparison. But even in their third year of operation, the first round schools still have high total funding per student costs compared to the weighted average across the school system.
And while things may or may not change over time, our approach will remain simple: “Follow the Money”.
~ Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools NZ
It is a basic fact of schooling worldwide that children from advantaged homes arrive at school education-ready, while the disadvantaged are not. Children from advantaged backgrounds are often able to read and calculate, hold complex conversations and have a grasp of current events. Many children from disadvantaged backgrounds may not know how to hold a book. Good early childhood education can inject a level of school-readiness but cannot entirely overcome the disadvantage. The best estimates of the average learning gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged groups, top to bottom, is about two years of learning at school entry.
Since the school reforms of 1989, school operational funding has included an element of measuring disadvantage, based on census data, to provide additional support for schools and hopefully improve learning outcomes. The model was very simple. Find out where the children from a given school live (in census terms, the ‘mesh blocks’), examine the social characteristics (income, benefit, household crowding etc) of the mesh blocks, calculate the level of disadvantage of that school and provide funding on that basis.
The much maligned ‘decile system’ came about because, in order to simplify funding arrangements, funding was allocated not to the school’s individual situation but on the grouped ranking with other schools. Decile 1, for example, contained the schools with the ten percent of most disadvantaged students.
This system has endured because it is relatively simple, data driven and easily updated every five years. It is hated by the sector because decile has become associated, in the mind of the public, with school quality. This was foreseeable and inevitable, as every single piece of research carried out on the reasons for school choice highlight social characteristics as the main factor influencing choice. Thus, higher decile equates with better children, thus better quality, in the mind of ‘choosers’.
And how could it be otherwise, really, when all our teachers are taught in the same institutions, school upkeep is relatively even, there is a national curriculum and the only significant variation in schools is the children populating the classrooms? As my research found in 2015, there has been massive white flight from the lowest decile schools over 20 years, which has meant that, on average, decile one schools are now 2.5 times smaller than decile 10 schools. This is a problem, of course, that abolishing deciles will not fix, but will simply become invisible and non-measurable.
The myth is that, in getting rid of deciles, the flight from disadvantaged schools would be halted. But it is the school choice system that has facilitated the ethnic/class flight, not the decile labels. In the absence of deciles, parents find other labels to put on schools, such as “gang”, “brown”, “violent”, “not children like ours”. We know this because other countries with choice and no convenient decile labels experience the same population movements.
To get rid of the perceived decile problem, the Ministry could simply fund each school on the census characteristics without doing the ranking and decile-making process. This would involve quite a lot more work with having to consider what each school should get on its own merits and in relation to other schools. It would increase bureaucracy without changing much in terms of actual funding. There would, as ever, be winners and losers in a zero-sum funding system.
However, Ministry eyes are now set on a richer prize. The census is about old technology. It only happens every five years and is based on paper and pencil. In the new technological world, there must be a better way!
And there is. The generic term is called data-sharing. It comes in two types. The first would be a direct comparison between other agency records ( in the current budget proposal, MSD benefit records) and school enrolments. As far as I can tell, no such data-sharing agreement exists, and it would arguably constitute a major potential breach of privacy to allow such databases to be matched. This probably is not the route intended by the budget announcement.
Second, is the relatively new ability to anonymously match data from different administrative systems, for example tax records, educational enrolment or outcomes, benefit records, student loans, ACC and health through a personal unique identifier (UID). The system, called the IDI, is administered by Statistics New Zealand and provides exciting opportunities for researchers and others to answer key population-based questions.
But, and it is a huge but, the wonderful indicators able to be compared for research purposes lie under an immoveable blanket of confidentiality. Were the data to be identifiable, it would be Orwell’s ‘Big Brother’ come to life. The question is whether using the IDI for funding purposes is a bridge too far in terms of preserving the utter confidentiality of the system. There is also a second question, given that many disadvantaged children are not cared for by their own parent/s, but by grandparents and other carers, as to whether the IDI is up to the challenge. However, we will put that aside for the moment. People who want to read up on the use of IDI data to identify disadvantage should refer to Treasury report 16/1.
The data that would need to be matched would be in three databases (at least) – parent to child (such as birth data, but this would exclude children born out of NZ), school attendance for the children (by school name) and length of time on benefit for the parent. In statistical terms it is a pretty simple match. The Ministry would not know exactly who would be receiving the funding, so basic confidentiality could be maintained.
But, at the margins two very worrying elements emerge. The first is the inaccuracies caused by post-birth migrants, unusual family formations, foster families and so on, that probably make up 10% of all students and a larger share of the disadvantaged. It would take a lot more work to count them (you would need to also look at immigration data and CYF data, for example).
The second concern is that there would be plenty of schools in the higher deciles where only a handful of children come from long-term benefit led families. If funding were received, for example for five children in a school, you might as well put a rubber stamp on their head reading ”I am from a long term benefit dependent family”. Also, as the IDI scheme does not allow data for less than 3 cases (for obvious reasons), there would be a necessary marginal error in smaller groups.
My first concern as a researcher on school funding is to try and find out exactly how the scheme is going to work. I suspect that it has essentially been designed as a test case or pilot scheme in using administrative data for funding purposes, and I am sure there will be widespread interest in how it works, and how much it will cost to implement. Then they will need to work through the ethical implications of such models. I have begun by asking a series of OIA questions which have been put to the Ministry. These are below.
There are also some policy issues to be sorted out. For example, the IDI provides the possibility that each child could become a walking voucher offering schools a certain amount of funding for education based on personal and familial characteristics. There is certainly ongoing interest in school voucher systems by some groups, and the IDI would provide a finely tuned ability to cost out each person according to their individual disadvantage. But the social and ethical questions this would raise hopefully put it beyond any serious scope.
The important implication would be that a ranking of school characteristics for funding purposes would be replaced with a ranking of individual characteristics.
I have sent to following OIA request to the Ministry of Education to attempt to better understand the scheme as announced.
Please provide the following information under the OIA 1982. In the Minister’s published speech to the National Cross-Sectional forum on 27 May this year, she noted:
To this end, Budget 2016 targets an additional $43.2 million over four years to state and state-integrated schools educating up to 150,000 students from long-term welfare-dependent families.
These students are one of the largest identifiable groups within our education system that is most at risk of educational underachievement.
Please answer the following questions related to this announcement:
1. Please provide copies of any briefing papers, policy papers or cabinet papers related to this announcement.
2. What data matching approach will be used to discover how many students from long term welfare dependent families attend each school, so that the funding can be allocated?
3. How is ‘long term welfare dependent families’ to be defined?
4. What legal basis allows for data-matching for such a purpose?
5. We gather from the Minister’s statement that the $42.1 million (as it shows later in the Minister’s speech) includes: “$15.3 million for an extra 1250 students to access in-class support.”
6. This leaves a net $26.8 million for allocation to the long term welfare dependent families over four years. Is that figure roughly correct?
7. This then indicates an annual sum of around $6.7 million available for allocation. Is that figure roughly correct?
8. This appears to translate to an annual sum per long term welfare dependent student (if there are 150,000) of just under $45. Is that figure roughly correct?
9. What is the total estimated cost to the Ministry of Education in developing, testing, implementing and administering this scheme over the four years of its life?
10. What are the next steps in developing and implementing the programme?
– Liz Gordon, Pukeko Research
Instead of addressing the underfunding of the education system, this year’s budget has hit schools with a funding freeze for everyday running costs.
Educators are appalled by the freezing of schools’ operational grants which would have a significant impact on already low-paid teacher aides.
NZEI Te Riu Roa President Louise Green said teacher aides and most non-teaching staff were paid out of schools’ operational grants, so this meant a third of the education workforce could again say goodbye to any hope of a much-needed pay rise.
“The teacher aides helping our most disadvantaged students are on little more than minimum wage and often suffering the effects of poverty themselves,” she said.
Ms Green said that parents faced with increasing school charges and donation requests knew how much schools were struggling to deliver the education we expect for our children.
“We agree with targeted funding, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of overall funding, which was already inadequate.”
Instead of an increase to schools’ operational grants, the government is putting $43.2m over four years into schools educating about 150,000 children who have spent a significant proportion of their lives in benefit-dependent households.
Ms Green said that a separate $10.5m per year for students with special needs would also get nowhere near meeting the demand. It also did not give any extra assistance to special education schools already working with special needs children.
“Let’s be clear, this is peanuts when we know that tens of thousands of children aren’t getting the educational support they need to meet their potential.”
The Government announced today that it’s “reviewing the funding systems for schools and early childhood education (ECE) services”, and were keen to reassure observers that the aim is “to improve the overall design of the education system and ensure that all New Zealand children and young people receive the best possible education”.
I’ve read through, and here are my initial thoughts…
The review says it aims to give children “the best possible education”.
However, agreeing what constitutes “the best possible education” is a huge hurdle to begin with. Of course, the matter does need to be addressed; I simply urge caution, as there is huge debate around what education is for, and it is by no means a settled matter.
For example, what I think is important for my child may not be remotely what another parent thinks is important for theirs, and neither view might match with what, say, David Seymour or Hekia Parata think is important. And that’s before we even ask the experts …
So when the Ministry of Education says it aiming for “the best possible education” they really must – before all else can progress – get a very clear idea of what that means.
The system as it stands is not fit for purpose – I think just about everyone agrees on that. The decile system is, as Hekia Parata herself said, “a blunt instrument”, and money is often not there where it is most needed. So it is right to consider how it can be improved.
However, there are myriad ways things could be changed, some for the better, some not so much.
I was struck by the assertion in the Ministry’s terms of reference for the review that “accountability is weak”. What is meant by that? And how will accountability be strengthened? The same section mentions “progression”, but since National Standards have been allowed to embed despite the very clear fact that they fail to map progression in any way that is appropriately matched with child development, I do worry what any progression measure might look like.
I admit that I fear more standards, tick boxes and data-gathering exercises – hoops for teachers to jump – none of which will improve much, if anything at all.
The review document says that any new system must “better support children at risk of educational under-achievement”. This is laudable, of course. But again, we come back to what good support looks like, and given the support from certain quarters for charter schools – which have yet to prove they do anything better than a similarly resourced state school would – one has to wonder what the Education Minister and Under-Secretary view as “better”…
And this thing about property … why is that ringing alarm bells? The review will “…support school leaders to focus more on leading teaching and learning by clarifying property- related responsibilities and accountabilities…” Huh? Anyone got any thoughts on that one? Redcliffs? Peggy Burrows? Te Pumanawa o te Wairua charter school? Anyone?
And despite reports from all manner of experts, including the OECD, saying that school choice has no positive impact on education systems, the review says it will protect “diversity of choice for parents/whānau and consistency and certainty of funding for different types of schools.” That could be a great thing; It depends what it means.
Because, as soon as education reformers bandy around the word choice, you should make like a meercat and be on full alert. In that vein, my GERM BS Spotting Systems are flashing code red, and I can’t help but ask, is “consistency and certainty of funding for different types of schools” just code for promising to fund private schools and charter schools to the same level of state schools? If not, what is it?
The review document states that the Advisory Group is to engage with the Ministry to “comment on the work being undertaken”. However, it can’t comment outside of that … no discussion is to be had without permission, it seems. In fact, it’s very clear that “Advisory Group discussion is also confidential to the group” and “Members may be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement”. So much for transparency.
Forgive me if I appear overly cynical – but, sadly, I know my civil service speak, and I know the convoluted and slippery language of education reformers, and the one thing years of observing both has taught me is that one has to employ one’s best analytical skills to uncover what is really being said.
Or to put it more bluntly, to find out what’s really going on, you have to cut through the crap.
And what’s going on here could be a whole lot messier than it first appears.
We can only hope, then, that all members of the Advisory Group do what is best for school students rather than what is in their self interest, and that they are fairly heard within the group.
~ Dianne Khan, SOSNZ
You can read more about the Advisory Group on the Ministry of Education’s dedicated page, here.