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.
Audited financial accounts released to the charities commission show the He Puna Marama trust, which opened a charter school last year received $3,897,323 in government funding to the end of 2014.
Just $1,464,093 of this has been spent on setting up and running the school, which last year was funded for 50 students and six teachers.
PPTA president Angela Roberts was disturbed to see such a surplus when there didn’t seem to be a spare penny to spend on other schools in the area as their buildings rotted around them.
“It must be wearying for the rest of the Whangarei community to see all this surplus when other local schools are falling down,” she said.
While the trust was given $1.8 million as an establishment payment towards the end of 2013 to begin operations, only $123,000 of this was spent. In 2014 the trust received $2 million for property, staffing and operations, and just $1,355,782 was spent.
The salaries for six teaching staff came to $622,740, contributing to a drain of teachers from surrounding schools.
This is the same charter school that came under fire earlier this year for the purchase of a $100,000 waka. At the time the school leadership hit back at critics saying that other schools simply ‘need better accountants’ if they cannot afford to buy such things.
The audited annual accounts of He Puna Marama are available from the Charities Commission register or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
NZEI National President Louise Green says the government shows it is more concerned about increasing participation rates in early childhood education than about ensuring children receive quality education.
“We’ve been telling the government for some time that many kindergartens and community-based early childhood education services have been struggling to maintain qualified staffing levels against rising costs.
“This has been a major challenge for the ECE sector since the government reduced its subsidy for 100 percent qualified teaching in 2009.
“Unfortunately the budget increase of $75-million in ECE subsidies over the next four years will simply keep pace with growing numbers of children attending ECE, leaving nothing in the coffers to maintain or improve quality. So this is not a real increase in ECE funding.
“This risks centres being forced to reduce the ratio of qualified teachers and this is bad news for quality early childhood education.
“It is ironic that the government talks about improving the quality of teaching and yet is failing to support quality at such an important time of a child’s life.”
This is a problem which can be fixed by ‘throwing money at it.’
Fix child-related tax credits (Working for Families) so they include the poorest children, are simple, inclusive, and don’t discriminate on the basis of how many hours parents are working.
Tax credits and child benefits should not be used as a carrot only for parents able to find work. It should be about ensuring adequate income and a standard of living that supports children’s wellbeing.
Limiting tax credits and child benefits’ availability for parents who can’t find enough work punishes the most vulnerable children.
Tax-funded income support should be universally available to help parents help their children flourish. Making it conditional discriminates against some children and only makes the problem worse.
This is about priorities
We can afford to invest in children if we choose to. This is about our Government making the youngest and most vulnerable citizens a priority and recognising its role in supporting parents.
The options for raising $1bn would need to be carefully considered but they could include taxing high income earners or introducing housing taxes.
It’s also worth noting that the 2010 tax cuts stripped $1bn out of Government coffers, which could have been targeted towards the children in most need.
Children are the population group most likely to live in poverty in New Zealand, with significant impacts on their physical, mental and social development. Child health data illustrates how damaging poverty is on young children:
24% of Kiwi kids live in relative poverty and 17% go without the things they need (eg protein, milk, fruit and vegetable)
In contrast, New Zealand has a low level of elderly poverty – at about 7%. Older people are protected from poverty through the provision of a simple, inclusive, income payment that doesn’t discriminate against them on the basis of work status and is maintained even in hard times.
We should treat our children as well as we treat our elderly, through policy that doesn’t discriminate and is inclusive.
National President Louise Green says this is money that it was going to have to spend anyway because of population growth and demographics.
“Where is the new funding for education initiatives that will help build a quality public education system and improve quality teaching and learning for all children?
“Parents know that quality education includes smaller class sizes, more funding for children with special needs, targeting vulnerable learners, as well as better funding for support staff and quality early childhood education.
“We know that many schools are struggling financially. In many cases this means having to make tough choices between competing needs such as new equipment, employing more teacher aides or providing opportunities for teachers to upskill to respond to kids’ needs.
“We also need to ensure that teaching remains an attractive career choice so that we continue to encourage good people into the profession and ensure that, once there, they stay in the job.
“There is nothing new in today’s announcement. We want to see a real Budget announcement with new money to help all children get a great education.”
A recent poll has found that two-thirds of New Zealanders are concerned at the amount of taxpayer money that is being diverted into charter schools.
Yet despite this, NZEI Te Riu Roa Immediate Past President Ian Leckie says the government is clearly committed to this expensive ideologically-driven experiment.
Yesterday the Ministry of Education released the names of 19 new applicants hoping to set up charter schools next year. The list includes a number who failed in their bid for funding last year.
Ian Leckie says time and again the government has been told that New Zealanders want to retain a quality public education system and do not want education funds diverted into propping up costly charter schools.
“Money to charter schools means less money in public schools. That’s not fair and it must have an effect on kids’ learning.”
He says a recent NZEI survey found that 63 percent ranked the diversion of taxpayer money to charter schools as either a “top concern in education” or were “somewhat concerned”.
The government has set aside more than $12m over two years to support charter schools – money that is not being used to support quality public education. Currently there are five charter schools operating with a total of just 367 children.
“This is an incredibly high per-head cost compared to the amount of funding the government pays for students in the public sector.
So far the five charter schools operating receive an operational payment per student of between $11,500 and $40,300 compared to an average of around $5,800 at lower decile public schools.
“Clearly the government is not letting up in its path towards privatising our education sector despite the overwhelming view of the education sector and the wishes of the New Zealand public.”
It appears the government has earmarked millions of dollars this year for Novopay remedial work, says the NZEI.
Costs associated with payroll services had previously been included in the budget for “Support and Resources for Education Providers”, but in the 2014 Budget, $43.2m has been pulled from that budget to create a dedicated budget line called “Payroll Services”.
This year’s budget also shows that last year $9.2m was diverted from “Support and Resources for Teachers”, plus another $4.348m from other education budget lines to prop up the disastrous payroll system:
$1.025 million from Curriculum Support (p 20 of Supplementary Estimates document)
$1.5 million from the National Study Awards (p 207)
$1.823 million from Primary Education (p 210)
$300,000 from Special Needs Support (p 212)
NZEI Te Riu Roa spokesman Ian Leckie said students and teachers were missing out on resources to support teaching and learning because of a payroll mess that had been going on for two years and appeared to show no signs of improving.
“The ministry needs to fess up and tell us how much of this $43.2m is for normal service charges and how much is for projected cost overruns and fixes. We asked the ministry last week and they haven’t been able to supply an answer,” he said.
Mr Leckie said parents of special needs children would be particularly galled to hear that $300,000 had been scraped out of special needs support to prop up Novopay.
“Special needs education is extremely underfunded and kids are missing out on help that will enable them to succeed at school. Parents and teachers have been calling for more funding. Not only was there nothing for these children in the budget, but the government has quietly siphoned much-needed funds out of the previous budget,” he said.
Meanwhile a report by the Auditor General details the extent of the problems that the school sector faced in completing their 2012/13 audits. It shows that Novopay has caused significant delays in auditing school accounts and caused an extra $1.5 million in auditing costs.
Ian Leckie says he’s not surprised by the auditor general’s report.
“Novopay is continuing to cause ongoing issues for schools and this is diverting attention away from providing kids with education.”
The Green Party is challenging the Government to come clean about how much
it’s planning to spend on the latest round of charter schools, as officials
warn of the serious risks involved in opening more schools without first
seeing whether the existing ones are working.
A list of groups who expressed an interest in applying to run a new charter
school next year was released last night. Many of the organisations are
religious and many failed in their bids to run charter schools in the last
This comes as Ministry of Education officials warn that the Government has no
idea how charter schools may be hurting other schools, that there are
inconsistencies in the size of charter schools and what’s considered
efficient for other state schools, and that there is a risk of continuing to
fund them every year before evaluating whether they’re working well.
“Officials are warning of considerable risks associated with ploughing
ahead with more charter schools without knowing whether the existing ones are
working for kids, whether they’re hurting other schools in their
neighbourhood, or are even good value for money,” Green Party education
spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said today.
“It is amazingly arrogant to plough ahead with plans to open more charter
schools when the ones already open have not been proven to be successful,
could be damaging other schools in the area, and are sucking up so much
“The existing five charter schools are already set to cost $9 million more
than was budgeted last year and the Government is keeping secret how much it
is planning to spent on the entire next round of new schools.
“The total amount being spent on the current round of charters is now $26
million over their first four years – a staggering amount – which is probably
why the Government is keeping secret how much it plans to spend on the next
“There was no mention at all in the budget about how much National and Act
were planning to spend on the new round of charter schools. Instead the
amount is buried somewhere in the overall contingency fund.
“Public schools throughout the country can only dream of being given the
amount of money that charter schools get. Imagine what schools could achieve
with five times the amount they currently receive.
“No wonder charters can afford to feed their kids, don’t need to ask for
parent donations and can provide free transport to and from school.
“Charter schools were sold as an alternative to ordinary state schools,
which didn’t need to follow the curriculum, meet quality standards or
employ trained teachers.
“But how is it possible to see how well these schools are really doing when
they’re getting five times as much money as other state schools?
“Charter schools are an extreme right idea that’s rooted in the belief
that the state does not have a role in running schools. They’re an attack
on public education which use children in poorer communities to experiment
on,” said Ms Delahunty.
Link to official advice listing the concerns about the Partnership School
Figures in yesterday’s Budget show that millions of dollars are being skimmed out of public schools to pay for the government’s ideological experiments with the Global Education Reform Movement.
More than $12m over two years is being transferred to five charter schools (which currently teach a total of just 367 children) and $1.145m into Public-Private Partnerships.
NZEI Te Riu Roa President Judith Nowotarski said the incredibly high per-head cost of running charter schools was being paid at the expense of public school students and teachers.
“It seems parents of special needs children can beg for more funding until they’re blue in the face, but when it comes to the government’s ideological projects, money is no problem – just take it out of the public system,” she said.
“Treasury officials warned that any Public Private Partnerships for building schools would result in minimal savings – after all, tax payers have to pay the construction company’s profit margins. But on top of that, the government has pulled more than $1m from public school budgets for the PPP projects in Hobsonville.”
Charter schools received an extra $7.978m from the Secondary education budget line through appropriations (p 211 Vote Education Supplementary estimates of appropriations document) and an additional $1.252m from Primary Education (p 210 of the Supplementary Estimates) for the first tranche of schools in 2013/4 and they will get an additional $3.384m in 2014/15. (page 2 of Vote Education Initiatives paper).
Public Private Partnerships
$1.145 has been transferred from the School Property Portfolio Management to Hobsonville Point PPPs.
The NZEI-commissioned poll of 400 people found that 38% of those polled reported being less likely to vote National because of its handling of education. Another 19% were more likely to vote National and it made no difference for 43% of voters.
NZEI Te Riu Roa President Judith Nowotarski said that 95% of those polled agreed with the statement: “Investment in education is an investment in our children’s future – public education must be and remain the first priority of any New Zealand Government.”
The poll showed strong levels of concern (41%) about the Government imposing a business model on education.
“New Zealanders have made it very clear that education is their number one priority, but this government seems more focussed on silencing teachers and pushing through policy without consulting those who will have to implement it,” she said.
“This poll shows that when it comes to education, this government has lost not just the confidence of the teaching profession, but the wider public as well. In the poll, 42% of voters rated the government listening to teachers, principals and school boards as a top concern.”
The government’s $359 million Investing in Educational Success policy, which was dumped on the sector without warning in January, is becoming increasingly unpopular. Based on research of what parents and teachers believe should be priorities, NZEI will be releasing an alternative plan for prioritising investment in education before next Thursday’s Budget.
In the lead-up to the 2014 Budget, less than 6% of people think the government’s plan to establish new leadership roles for some principals and teachers is a good use of increased education funding, according to a new poll.
The poll, commissioned by NZEI Te Riu Roa, surveyed a cross-section of New Zealanders last month and found little support for prioritising the $359 million Investing in Educational Success policy, which has also been widely panned by teachers.
Respondents were somewhat supportive of the package (56%), but when asked what were the most important areas of education in which to spend extra money, the components of the policy were bottom of the list by a wide margin (paying $40,000 to executive principals to oversee a group of schools – 1%; paying $50,000 to experienced principals to turn around struggling schools – 6%; paying $10,000 to experienced teachers to work with teachers in other schools two days a week – 3%).
The poll showed that the public was more interested in
NZEI President Judith Nowotarski said the poll showed that teachers were not alone in believing putting the money into frontline teachers and support would be a far more effective way to lift student success.
“The government dreamed up this policy with the idea that it would somehow benefit students. It’s a great pity they didn’t bother to consult anyone who knows anything about what students need for educational success,” she said.
Parents are starting to ask questions about the lack of consultation in the spending of this significant amount of money.
An Auckland mother has set up an online petition asking the government to consult teachers, principals, boards of trustees and parents before implementing the policy.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
NZEI National President Judith Nowotarski: ph 027 475 4140
Communications Officers: Debra Harrington ph 027 268 3291,
Melissa Schwalger 027 276 7131
Today Hekia Parata came out of the woodwork after a lengthy quiet period (in hiding? Bali? Who knows…) and took great delight in telling Kiwis that she was giving $80,000,000 of new money to schools.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know budgets mean things are cut and other things are brought in – the money does a shuffle, new priorities appear and so on. But it’s just pure political pre-budget spin to keep saying it’s “new money” as if it has been simply added to the current spend. Luckily now every just accepts the headlines – and even some of the mainstream media (msm) questioned the spin this time.
So why pretend it is new money?
Why the constant spin?
Why the smoke and mirrors?
And why the feel-good announcement prior to the budget?
Is the full education budget announcement going to be THAT bad that they have to sweeten us up?
Heaven help us if it is, given the onslaught education has seen this past year, t’s hard to imagine it could get worse.
But then it can, and it will, with the continued debacle over National Standards and the faulty tests the results are based on, and the Charter Schools legislation about to be put through.
Can it get worse? Yes.
And it will.
NZEI Press release today:
“Millions paid by taxpayers to bail out Wanganui Collegiate a sign of things to come with failing charter schools, NZEI says
NZEI National Secretary Paul Goulter says the Government’s proposed charter schools are effectively taxpayer-funded private schools. They can be run for profit and will have fixed-term contracts, setting out financial and student achievement targets, with the Government.
The Government has argued that charter schools’ fixed-term contracts will make them more accountable because if they fail they will simply be taken over by the State, or closed down. However, the Government has failed to release information about the risks and costs this may bring to the taxpayer. Under legislation currently before Parliament, the Government will allow charter schools to be exempt from the Official Information Act, so the true costs may never be known.
“Paul Goulter says the Minister has described the process at Wanganui Collegiate as a “difficult and drawn out” one, but has omitted to detail the costs to the taxpayer already. Public documents and Official Information Act requests show the Government allocated $3 million allocated in Budget 2012, on top of $800,000 which had already been paid to keep the school afloat. The school has also been receiving $554,740 annually via the private school per pupil subsidy. Paul Goulter says the Minister should make clear what the total cost of Wanganui Collegiate to the public purse would be, and should be equally transparent about charter schools costs in future.”
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green):
I am delighted to take a call on this issue because the estimates debate is very is important on education and the last year of spending on education reflects some of the most contradictory policy and priority setting that I have seen since I have been a parliamentarian.
It starts right at the top, for example, when the Prime Minister came out and said that he would not be too worried if his children were taught by unqualified teachers. That is right from the very top — a message that is completely at odds with what the Minister of Education has been saying about the importance of professionalism and qualifications, and, in fact, reviewing the Teachers Council registration policy. So what is it that the Government is saying?
Sure, at King’s College where the Prime Minister’s son has been, there is a snowball in hell scenario that they are going to hire unregistered or untrained teachers. It is simply not going to happen. They are going to have small classes and highly qualified staff. Meanwhile we have the Minister constantly arguing for teachers to improve their qualifications and professionalism. So which one is it: untrained and unaccountable, and publicly funded for-profit charter schools, or professionalism; national standards for students aged 6 years old, but none-standards for teachers and selected experimental not-for-profit situations.
Let us talk about charter schools just for a minute, because they are addressed in the estimates. The Government put aside $230,000 for the charter school working party headed by Catherine Isaac — clearly not exactly a neutral figure in the eyes of anyone who has anything to do with education or politics. And what that working party has said is that they will develop options for schools where there will be public money put in, but people like those in Destiny can apply. All kinds of people can apply, they can be as fundamentalist, as ideologically driven as they like, and they will not necessarily have to meet the same standards that are expected in public schools, which, when you think it is public money, is pretty appalling.
The Green Party is not arguing that there should not be choice in education. If people want their children to be taught by fundamentalists of any stripe, or encouraged to believe that homosexuality is a sin, or that climate change is a myth, or that evolution is anti-Christian, for example, then do that, but pay for the privilege. Do not ask us to pay as a country for that privilege. That is what the private education system offers. We are talking about public money going into a weird experiment that has failed all over the world.
So we are very concerned that this Budget reinforces that idea. We are also appalled by the contradictions between statements the Prime Minister has made and the statements the Minister has made on this issue. Let us then move to the other disaster area in education: the class size one, as my colleague Nanaia Mahuta has touched on, was a back-down that reflected a long planned, but badly planned, vision that nobody except Treasury could give any credence to. It just shows you what happens when people do not have a vision in education: it is not about anything except money. Treasury wrote the book and said: “Let’s have a plan to actually make this affordable. Let’s cut back on education. Let’s pretend it’s an investment.” But Treasury could not convince the rest of the country.
It had the Government on its side but nobody else — nobody else. So we saw fantastic unity across a sector that is not always unified and does not always speak with one voice, and the Government was forced to do a back-down. Well, that is an indication not that it had learnt, and not that it believed that the parents were right, but that it had realised it could not sell the policy. This was a cynical and depressing scenario, because we asked the Minister of Education whether she had changed her view after hearing from parents, and she said she had not. She still thought it was a great idea, and it is very, very sad for the parents and children of New Zealand that that was the agenda.
Some information on national standards was put on the website last week, and, again, it is a real mess. It is a real cut-and-paste job. You cannot understand what you are reading, you do not know what it is that you are going to get — sorry, not you, Mr Chair — what the parents will get, and it does not make any sense. The moderation tool that is being developed at great expense — about $5 million has been spent so far on developing the work around national standards, but it is not finished — will not be ready until 2014.
So what are people going to make of that? The Government put up a policy that had no tool for creating any kind of moderation, and although it will not be on offer until 2014, somehow the parents are going to get the benefit of reading the data that are completely different from school to school. That is somehow supposed to be softening the parents up for the standards. Even if you believed that was a good idea, it is a bad way to have gone about it. The Green Party does not think that league tables are a good idea. We think that league tables are for sports teams. League tables are great in the Olympics, but they are not for children. Labels are useful on jam jars, but not on children.
Our fundamental problem with national standards is not the way that they are being delivered but the idea that a narrow mechanism that reduces the New Zealand curriculum — which is upheld around the world as a valuable and broad curriculum — to a narrow set of literacy and numeracy standards is narrowing teachers’ requirements to teach-to-test. No matter what the Government says, there is huge anxiety out there. It would be interesting if people listened to the evidence of people like Professor Martin Thrupp, who went to England and looked at the model over there. Some countries have gone around the track, and they have followed the track of increasingly narrowing and teaching-to-test—Britain is one of them—and others, for example, Finland and some of the Asian countries, have gone the opposite way and have invested in a broad curriculum. The results are very clear.
Britain and the United States are failing the children who are already struggling because of poverty and social context. Initiatives like national standards only create anxiety, and they are driving teachers out of the profession — because people become teachers from the sense of moral mission to give an input into children’s lives. Children need the best people in this country, but the best people will be driven out if we narrow what has been established as being an excellent curriculum and turn it into a bunch of mechanisms. It is lovely to read numbers; they make life really simple, but guess what? Numbers do not reflect the reality of what the complex matter of each child’s individual learning is actually about. I wonder whether the Government actually looks at what learning means instead of what numbers mean when it set up these standards, because the standards are absolutely incapable of delivering rich and contextual — which is what the Minister calls it — information for parents.
It is a sad sight when you see this being justified on a daily basis in this House. It is not what people voted for at all. They voted for the idea of our kids all doing well. What they got was this mechanistic, failed system, which is incoherent and has not even been properly moderated. Quite frankly, that, along with class sizes and charter schools, is an unmitigated disaster. What is also a disaster is the lack of coherence in the Government’s way of relating to the sector. You cannot improve children’s learning unless you have good relationships not only with child and teacher but also with teachers and politicians. I am not saying the teachers always get it right, but what I am saying is that declaring war on the education sector, the academics, and the professionals is not the way in which you make change happen. We all agree that there are kids who need more support in school. And some of us know that is because the goal of the school system should be equity.
The Finns are at the top of the Programme for International Student Assessment table, because the goal of their education system is not achievement; it is equity. Equity comes first, then participation, and then achievement. But why listen to the experts? After all, the Finns have many good models, which we would do better to look at than looking at Britain and the United States, where we have these bizarre failures. Look at New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina has turned into an educational disaster. What happened is that public schooling has collapsed. Because of the disaster they have brought in these experimental charter schools — these for-profits — and as a result you have children falling through the cracks in greater numbers than ever before. That is a tragedy.
We must make sure that we do not let what has been a good education system become a game for Treasury, an experiment for the Government, and a sacrifice of the good things, under the fake mythology that what we need is running schools like a business. What we need is to run education for liberation, for life, and for life-long learning. It is not a mechanistic business. It is a mission. We should take on the Finns’ ideal, which is that not everybody can be a teacher. They invest a huge amount in teacher training. They say that if you want to lift the quality of the education system, you must lift the quality of the people who are allowed to be teachers. So instead of saying the most fabulous job you can have is to be a corporate financial speculator, or some kind of merchant banker, or that being a lawyer or even an MP is the best job in the world — the best job in the world needs to be a teacher.