Andrea Matheson writes:
Today, as a Mana [Porirua] resident, I had the ‘pleasure’ (amusement) of receiving the Minister’s MANA MATTERS newsletter. It has a feedback section, in which I particularly like the comment:
“I’m always interested in hearing your feedback and learning more about which issues matter to you. I’d appreciate it if you could spare a few minutes to complete the survey below.”
Well Minister, I would appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to read and respond to the TWO letters I have sent you where I outlined very clearly what issues matter to me! So I really don’t think you ARE interested in hearing about what issues matter to me or anyone else for that matter!
And I’m intrigued by your statement in the letter:
“We are expanding the ORS and the Intensive Wraparound Service to ensure that every child is catered for, no matter their circumstances”
How, pray tell, are you planning to achieve that, when you have made it quite clear there will be no increase to the special education budget!?
Dear Ms Parata,
I am very disappointed that it has now been a month or so since I sent you my letter regarding the proposed overhaul to Special Education funding and I have not yet had a reply from you. I had very high hopes that my words would make a difference – I guess I am a glass half-full kind of girl.
You state in your opinion piece on Stuff, dated September 25th that “I will work with any groups or individuals that are seriously committed to improving children’s learning and raising achievement.” Well, Ms Parata, we have been trying to get your attention for WEEKS now – parents as individuals and as part of wider groups, have written letters, organised education rallies across the country, commented on news articles, commented on your Facebook page (and been blocked for their efforts), spoken to the media, left messages on the Ministry’s phone line and signed petitions. These efforts have been plastered all over social media – you surely cannot have missed these actions by passionate, proud, exhausted, anxious parents who are praying that the dire situation of inadequate funding in special needs is rectified, and fast.
The lack of response has given me additional time to think of more important questions I need to ask you as well as provide you with some further thoughts that have arisen during this long wait.
In several articles I have read in recent weeks, you have stated that no child currently receiving funding will lose that funding. This implies that individuals such as myself only care about their own child/children and will be satisfied with this reassurance. BUT – I wrote to you expressing my concern about the education system as a whole – I am NOT an individual parent who likes to whinge, who only cares about the impact for her own child – I care deeply about what will happen to children who desperately need funding who do not have any to begin with. So whilst your statement on this point seems to imply that my son will not lose the ORS funding he currently has, he was NOT my only concern. I am not that selfish. Therefore your ‘reassurance’ is of no comfort to parents of children about to enter the school system without ORS funding or teacher aide support, or to parents like myself who care about the bigger picture in education.
Could you please outline any school visits you SPECIFICALLY made as a part of the ‘consultation’ process to help you create your cabinet paper on inclusion? For example, did you:
Visit and personally meet with a wide range of children who have additional learning and physical needs?
Spend time with them in their school environment to understand how crucial additional funding is to ensure their success?
Observe a wide range of learning and physical difficulties, eg: neuro-developmental disorders such as autism, GDD and ADHD, physical disabilities, genetic disorders and learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia etc?
Ensure that you saw the VAST differences between what a teacher, teacher aide, child and parents can achieve with adequate funding, versus a teacher and child who have no additional funding or teacher aide support?
Or was consultation done without the real-life context of what it is like to be struggling to meet the demands in the classroom without support?
How do you propose to support children in primary school who do not meet the criteria for ORS funding? There is currently not enough funding to support children with learning difficulties or disorders, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, ADHD, and autism. If a school cannot meet their needs through their operational or SEG grants, what becomes of these children? Are they supposed to struggle through their school years with little or no support? What will the outcome be for them when they have to enter society as an adult? It is a frightening prospect. We are meant to be a forward thinking and innovative country but at the heart of it, we are not supporting the children who are struggling through every day and having their confidence eaten away bit by bit. I am sure I am not the only person in New Zealand who strongly feels schools need targeted funding to meet the needs of children with these disorders if they do not achieve ORS funding (and we all know the vast majority of children with these disorders do not). We all know these disorders are on the rise Minister – what does your government plan to do about this issue?
We have repeatedly asked you how you plan to improve services to ECE without increasing the overall budget for special education. No satisfactory answer has come from you as yet. Instead we have to listen to radio interviews and read articles where the majority of journalists have not dug deeper to properly dissect the information that is being fed to them. But we as parents have a vested interest in the changes to funding and we know how to read between the lines. We will not be satisfied by the usual vague statements such as “The proposed changes that we’re making in education are all about putting our kids at the centre of the education system, lifting the educational success of every young New Zealander” and “Everything I’m working towards is about putting children and their achievement at the centre of the education system.” Are these statements intended to keep us quiet? I’m afraid they won’t. I guess the giant governmental PR machine may have underestimated our fortitude and determination.
Whilst we can appreciate the sentiment behind your statements, which I’m sure is genuine, you have not given us the answers we are seeking. How will you achieve better funding to students through ‘streamlining’ and what will streamlining look like? Until we get those answers we will continue to be noisy (deafening in fact).
We as parents are striving 24/7 to raise children who can become happy, appreciated, well-understood and productive members of society. All we ask for is that you work with us to better understand their needs, and the successes they can achieve with better funding and more support. Please LISTEN to what we are trying to tell you.
We want to be listened to, we want to be heard. You say that you want to work with us – why are you not responding to our questions? Why are you deleting perfectly reasonable questions and comments from your Facebook page? As a passionate parent and advocate recently suggested, we see plenty of pictures of you planting trees and other lovely photo opportunities, but where are the photos of you working alongside children with additional, high or very high needs, trying to understand how teachers meet their needs with no funding? Where are the photos of you talking to parents whose children have been turned away from schools or stood down because there are no teacher aides to help the teacher support their learning and behavioural needs? Where are those photos Ms Parata?
I respectfully ask (again) that you respond to these thoughts and concerns with REAL answers. We WANT to be involved in the direction that these changes will go, nobody knows the needs of children with ‘special’ needs better than their parents. We want to give you the benefit of our guidance. I am not setting out to be a trouble maker. I have spent an hour and a half on this letter, an hour and a half I could have spent playing with my son. But I am forced into this situation because I need to fight to be heard. Please respect our combined knowledge and experience, there is so much that we could add to help you lead an education system that we can ALL be proud of.
With kind regards,
Mum to a super special, endearing, pride-inducing and heart-warming wee lad.
Letter reproduced with Andrea’s kind permission.
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
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.
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
If you don’t follow charter school goings on worldwide (and for your sanity, I kind of want to suggest you don’t), you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’s just the odd blip here and there. But, to be honest, it’s more like a volley of blips coming thick and fast. In fact, if blips were locusts, we’d have a plague on our hands.
Take just this week’s revelations, for example…
Nga Parirau Matauranga Trust (NZ)
Waipareira Trust (NZ)
The E Tipu E Rea Trust (NZ)
Academy Transformation Trust (England)
NET Academies Trust (England)
Paradigm Trust (England)
Gulen/Harmony Charter Schools (USA)
Michigan study (USA)
Ohio Department of Education invoiced (USA)
Cabot Learning Federation (England)
Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (England)
Oh I could go on… this is but a drop in the ocean… but you get the idea.
The charter schools movement is not about education – it’s about privatisation and diversion of funds. As always, I ask you to follow the evidence and follow the money.
Featured Image courtesy of pixtawan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Taxpayers fund large wages and lavish perks of academy school chiefs , The Guardian, Published online Sunday 24 July 2016 00.05 BST, retrieved 6.59pm NZ 25/7/16
Trust given $500,000 charter school contract without going to tender, NZ Herald, published online 10:43 AM Monday Jul 25, 2016, retrieved 9.18pm 25/7/16
Are charter schools making the grade? – The Nation, TV3, Saturday 23 Jul 2016 10:34 am, retrieved 9.38pm 25/7/16
Charter school a waste of public money – PPTA, Radio NZ, published 7:19 pm on 28 January 2016, retrieved 9.31pm 25/7/16
Parents at Bath Community Academy say school has failed their children and failed them, Bath Chronicle, July 23, 2016, retrieved 9.59pm 25/7/16
Kindergartens and early childhood education centres will face an even bigger battle to maintain quality teaching and learning following the Budget announcement that there will be no increase in funding.
This is the fifth year in a row that funding for early childhood education has effectively been frozen, says NZEI National President Louise Green.
“This year funding will not even keep up with increased costs that kindergartens and ECE centres will face.
“It undermines quality learning and means that parents will likely have to dig deeper into their pockets .”
“It’s ironic that the government talks of increasing teaching quality while squeezing the funding for this important area of education.
“Quality early childhood education is vital for children, especially those from vulnerable backgrounds, so once again, the government’s actions do not match its rhetoric.”
The $397-m increase in this Budget for ECE will only allow for extra places to keep up with roll growth.
Many school principals are appalled at reports that charter schools are receiving funding for students they don’t have enrolled while public schools are desperately short of resources for vulnerable children.
It’s been estimated that more than a million dollars has been lost to the public sector to fund up to 180 so-called “ghost students” at charter schools.
Principals say public schools are finding it increasingly difficult to find resources for the growing number of special needs students.
“That’s public money going straight to the private sector – money that we need for our public schools,” says May Road School Principal Lynda Stuart.
She says that while new public schools are set up in areas of population growth, charter schools are being established to compete with nearby schools. This requires huge amounts of unnecessary establishment funding in addition to funding for children that don’t even attend.
In Whangarei, Maungatapere School Principal Judy Eagles says that in the public sector, schools lose funding if students don’t come to school for 20 days.”
“So where’s the equity in that?”
She says extra funding siphoned off for charter schools could create more programmes and provide extra support in her school for teachers and students with special needs.
“What’s particularly galling is there is just not enough resourcing to deal with the increasingly high needs of children coming into our schools, or for much-needed building upgrades,” says Lynda Stuart.
Auckland’s Fairburn School Principal Frances Nelson says the bar for receiving extra support is getting higher while at the same time there has been a big increase in the number of children starting school with major learning difficulties.
“This includes children starting school with conditions such as autism that have not been picked up earlier. Five years ago, we could have got funding for many students that we can no longer get funding for.”
Between them, New Zealand’s nine publicly-funded charter schools are guaranteed funding for at least 860 students but enrolment figures have shown they have fewer than 700.
Here is what the Minister said (Oral Questions no. 8, 29 July 2015):
“Te Pumanawa o te Wairua will continue to operate under its contract and will therefore receive $412,000 per quarter.”
“This is the money that would have been spent had these kids attended other schools.”
Wrong, Hekia, wrong.
Under her charter school funding model, the government pays $355,200 per quarter for the fixed costs that it pays the school’s Sponsor. These costs would cease once the school was closed.
Add in the additional $129,000 in emergency funding that she has thrown in, and the taxpayer will pay a total of $839,400 over the balance of 2015 because the Minister of Education decided not to close the school at the end of the second term.
The charter funding model has four components for each school: two of these are “fixed costs” and two are “variable costs”. But only the variable, or per student costs, would continue and follow the students if they were to transfer to another school in the network.
Here’s the breakdown of the quarterly funding for Wairua for 2015:
Base Funding $252,128
Property & Insurance $103,072
Sub-total Fixed Costs $355,200 [86.2%]
Per Student (based on a Guaranteed Minimum Roll of 40) $54,188
Centrally Funded Services $2,760
Sub-total Variable Costs $56,948 [13.8%]
Total Quarterly Funding: $412,148
So, when Hekia quoted a cost of “412,000 per quarter” she was referring to the total funding that the school receives from the Government.
But $355,200 per quarter would not be payable, if she were to close the school, as her officials clearly recommended.
~ Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools NZ
Save Our Schools would like to make a few points about the Minister’s answers that warrant comment.
The Minister attempted to deflect the primary line of questioning by saying that the Paraoa charter school Sponsor, He Puna Marama Trust, was responsible for several entities and that the charter school was only one of these entities.
True, Hekia, but the surplus relating to Paraoa on its own is $2,535,196. Total Trustee’s Equity, as at 31 December 2014, was $6,697,084, as shown in the Trust’s published 2014 financial statements.
The Trust was established in October 1997, but in only 15 months, a brand new charter school now provides over 37% of the Trust’s total net worth.
The accumulation of a surplus of $2,535,196 arising from total government revenue of $3,897,323, indicates there are real problems with the funding model: both in the generosity of the one-off Establishment Payment and the method and amount of the annual operational funding.
And the Ministry of Education knows this.
In a Ministry paper prepared for Cabinet in October 2013, the Ministry made this observation:
“36. The cost is particularly high, especially for small secondary schools. The development of a resourcing formula for Partnership Schools based on an equivalence with state schools highlighted the significant amount of base funding that small state schools get that is not roll-related. This is to ensure that they are viable, regardless of the number of students enrolled. Property funding for Partnership Schools is essentially a leasing model and is based in the school’s final roll so that the school does not have to move as its roll builds up.
37. These factors mean that the cost of small schools is much higher on a per student basis than larger schools (Figure 2 refers). [p. 5]”
And therein lies the heart of the problem.
Why is the government fully funding the establishment of small, expensive schools when there is capacity in the network that the taxpayer has already built and paid for?
And what happens if the model produces an amount of funding that proves to be greater than necessary to operate the school?
Why is the government fully funding the establishment of small, expensive schools when there is capacity in the network that the taxpayer has already built and paid for?
Overfund a State school and it’s an asset owned by the Crown and operated by a Board of Trustees, which is a Crown Entity; overfund a charter school and the private sector Sponsor gains directly from the government’s generosity.
All of the charter secondary schools, including Paraoa, are small and therefore bear high “fixed costs” funding. The Base Funding alone for each charter secondary school is over $1 million each year.
But this problem is compounded by the fact that the model is “cashed up” and paid out to the Sponsor, whereas State school assets are still owned by the Crown.
The funding model is also allocating the Sponsor an amount based on the assumption that the roll is heading for its Maximum Roll, as per the contract, of 300 students. This would still be a small secondary school by New Zealand standards, but in 2014, the actual roll for Paraoa ranged between 50 at opening and 52 in October. The 2015 opening roll is 76 but this is still only a quarter of the target roll.
A further problem lies with the “Property & Insurance” component of the annual operational funding. The funding model produced an annual allocation for this school of $737,936 but property costs incurred in 2014 amounted to only $239,097.
So, the property funding component alone generates additional net income for the Sponsor of half a million dollars a year – every year!
Save Our Schools calls on the Ministry to conduct an urgent review of the charter school funding model. There are flaws in its policy base, the method of funding and the amounts it is allocating to the individual schools.
A detailed analysis of the 2014 charter school financial statements is being prepared by Save Our Schools and will be released once the outstanding Sponsor financial statements have all been published.
~ Bill Courtney
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.”
More than $32 million of funding for children with special needs has not been spent by the Government, despite families of children with special needs complaining for years that they’ve been denied the support they deserve.
“It’s hard to know whether this is deliberate penny pinching or a complete lack of understanding about the extent of the need in schools; either way children with special needs are missing out,” Green Party education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said.
“This is what happens when the Government is not focussed on the needs of kids, but on other things, like keeping its disastrous Charter School experiment alive.
The Green Party commissioned analysis after last year’s budget showing that spending on education and health was falling in real terms under the National Government. Yesterday we saw the Prime Minister pretending he was spending more on education this year when all he was doing was re-package funding that had already been announced for new schools needed to keep up with population growth.
“The Government likes to be seen to be doing things in education because it knows that is what New Zealanders want, but the experience of special needs kids and their schools is that the promises are increasingly empty.
“The special needs sector has been crying out for more resources for years, and its shocking that the Government is not even spending what they said they would on the most needy learners in New Zealand,” Ms Delahunty said.
We have written before about the “Shroud of Secrecy” surrounding NZ’s charter schools.
The Ministry of Education finally released the ERO Readiness Review of the Whangaruru charter school in February 2015, one complete year after the school opened.
The school is now under a formal review process to ascertain whether it should continue. This is after I was told by the Ministry that “all of the identified challenges have now been overcome or are being managed.” Yeah Right!
We now have more fun and games from the Ministry with their refusal to release the 2015 funding details for the first round charter schools.
This is in response to an Official Information Act request lodged on 21 November 2014.
Despite regular (and cordial) e-mail correspondence, as of early April the Ministry has refused to disclose the 2015 guaranteed minimum rolls and funding details for the five schools. They tell me that the “contract variations” have not yet been signed by the Minister. How convenient.
The Guaranteed Minimum Roll is set at the outset of each contract with the proviso that for each subsequent year, it will be agreed by the Minister and the Sponsor in writing by way of a variation to the contract, by the end of the then current year. [Emphasis added].
So, if they were supposed to be in place by the end of 2014 and, of course, cash payments would have been made to the schools at the start of term one 2015, why can’t they now be released?
The charter schools are outside the normal public sector transparency framework that all State and State-Integrated schools must comply with but we were told that relevant information could be obtained via the Ministry itself. So much for that whopper!
Although we don’t know their 2015 funding details, we can see the opening rolls via the 1 March roll returns contained in the Schools Directory.
Of the five first round schools, only one – South Auckland Middle School – has now reached its Maximum Roll of 120 students. The attraction of class sizes of 15, free uniforms and free stationery is undeniable.
The Vanguard Military School has expanded this year to include Year 13 students for the first time. Its opening roll is 137, which is close to its Guaranteed Minimum Roll of 144 (at least that’s what we think it is).
But Vanguard will be watched closely again this year to see if its roll falls away during the year, as it did in 2014. The effect of the Guaranteed Minimum Roll is to ensure that the school is funded for at least that number of students throughout the year, regardless of what the actual roll proves to be.
In 2014, Vanguard was funded for 108 students, even though its actual roll fell from 104 as at 1 March to as low as 79 in October.
Whangaruru charter school is under formal review and its future is uncertain. Its opening roll of 36 students compares to a figure of 63 in March 2014 and last year’s Guaranteed Minimum Roll of 71.
The third charter secondary school is Paraoa, based in Whangarei. Their opening roll for 2015 is 76, up from last year’s figure of 50, but this is a long way short of the school’s Maximum Roll of 300. This figure is the highest target roll of any of the nine charter schools established to date and illustrates just how small these schools are proving to be.
The last of the original batch of schools is Rise Up Academy, a primary school based in Mangere. Interestingly, it appears to have changed its status from being a Year 1 to 6 school to offering Years 1 to 8. This may have contributed to its roll increasing from 48 in October 2014 to 70 on 1 March 2015.
The opening rolls, Guaranteed Minimum Rolls and funding details of the four second round schools are set out below:
|School||Guaranteed Min Roll||1 March Roll||One-off Establishment Payment||2015 Annual Operational Funding|
|Te Kura Maori o Waatea||60||34||$506,694||$637,313|
|Pacific Advance Senior School||100||36||$1,151,825||$2,171,019|
|Middle School West Auckland||160||131||$959,121||$1,940,456|
|Te Kapehu Whetu-Teina||65||40||$512,481||$601,253|
We will watch their progress with interest – subject, of course, to what snippets of information manage to escape through the shroud of secrecy surrounding this controversial initiative.
_ Bill Courtney, Save our Schools NZ
The Ministry of Education has produced a brochure that attempts to explain “Partnership Schools” funding. Unfortunately, it does a good job of highlighting the problems, rather than answering the real questions.
In particular, their worked examples reverse out the most troublesome items and then proudly claim that this explains the “facts”.
Parents are not going to make comparisons with notional Ministry of Education worked examples. They are going to compare the effect of the actual funding Partnership Schools receive with the schools that already exist in their local areas.
For example, the primary school worked example seems to be the Rise Up Academy, based in Mangere. This is compared to a Decile 3 State school in an unknown location with a roll of only 44 students.
Furthermore, it appears that the secondary school chosen in the brochure worked example is Paraoa, with a projected maximum roll of 300 (although its roll this year did not exceed 53). This is the largest of the maximum rolls of the first five Partnership Schools, so this helps the illustration look better by spreading the fixed costs over the highest number of projected students.
In the short term, Sponsors seem to have used the excess funding they have received to provide more teachers and other perks, such as free uniforms and free stationery.
Creating smaller class sizes has been a feature of the initial batch of schools and even the Education Review Office has commented on this point.
But this cannot persist in the long term. If the Ministry assertion that costs will equalize over time proves correct, then staffing ratios should become more consistent between types of school. But if they persist, it could signify that the Partnership Schools are permanently overfunded.
Our full analysis of the brochure is detailed below. The brochure itself is available here.
Issue 1: “Partnership Schools are fully-funded schools outside the state system…”
Why are Partnership Schools fully funded by the State, when they are schools of choice? Why is their funding model inconsistent with other types of school, such as Catholic schools?
If parents choose to enrol their children at a Catholic school, for example, then that school is funded for operational grants and the same teacher staffing entitlement as an equivalent State school. These are the two largest costs, by far, of providing education.
But when the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act 1975 went through, it was made clear that the State would pay for those students’ education but would not be responsible for the schools’ assets, which remain the property of the Proprietors. Why are Partnership School assets, which are owned by a private sector Sponsor, paid for by the State?
Issue 2: Is the funding model consistent with the original National / ACT Party Agreement?
The agreement, in December 2011, mentioned the issue of funding but vaguely stated that:
“Public funding would continue to be on a per-child basis. (Details are included in the attached Annex).”
Annex: Public funding would continue to be by way of normal operational grant funding and may include funding targeted at disadvantaged groups. Schools may also be eligible for capital funding for school property, although overseas experience suggests use of private capital will be required. Schools may choose to rent, rather than own the school building and hence may instead receive equivalent funding to cover rental costs.”
This statement raises two questions: how much private capital is invested and at risk in the new schools? And how would be the “equivalent” funding to cover rental costs be determined?
Issue 3: “Partnership schools receive much the same funding as comparable state schools.”
What does “much the same” mean? As the brochure quite rightly points out, “Funding for all schools, even those of a similar size and decile, varies.” No two schools will ever be identical for all sorts of reasons. Fair enough. So, how was the “equivalence” funding model determined and what assumptions were used? What would be the implications if the actual outcomes were different from those assumed in the model?
Reading the detailed funding model background paper released by the Ministry gives us an insight into just how vague this equivalence approach really is and how many assumptions underpin it:
“The Crown believes funding Partnership Schools on the basis of “Cash for Buildings” provides equivalence with the property support for State schools where property is leased. The following table provides indicative amounts of property funding for Partnership Schools based on Cash for Buildings model. The amounts below are indicative only and subject to change.
|Roll||Primary||Secondary||Yr 1 – 13|
Please note that the amounts above may alter if a school is not proposing to reach its maximum roll in the first few years. Composite school (Yrs 1 to 13) funding may also vary depending on the balance between the numbers of primary and secondary students enrolled.” [Emphasis added]
And therein lies the key problem: the equivalence approach is based on two key assumptions: the school moves within a few years towards its maximum roll and that the costs it will incur are similar to those of equivalent state schools being funded on this particular “Cash for Buildings” model.
But note the large difference between a 50 roll secondary ($209,724) and a 300 roll secondary ($745,112). The larger school is funded for this cost component at a rate that is 3.5 times the amount of the smaller school!
So if the new school simply projects that it will grow, then it will be funded at a much higher rate in the short term than may ultimately prove to be necessary to cover its actual costs.
Issue 4: Small schools are expensive.
The brochure makes two statements about how certain costs associated with a new school mean that average funding will appear higher than in established schools; but that eventually as any new school reaches capacity, its average funding per student will fall. The economists would call this “economies of scale”.
The allowance for fixed costs of this nature is called Base Funding. The Base Funding for the three Partnership secondary schools has been set at $997,044 per annum. The middle school receives $571,448 and the primary school receives $145,856 per annum.
But if the schools remain small, even at their projected maximum roll levels, they will remain expensive and not achieve the same reduced average funding per student that larger schools achieve.
Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, is on record in parliament acknowledging that small schools are expensive.
Issue 5: Then why create more small schools?
Why are we creating new schools at all, given that many of the new Partnership Schools are not in areas of roll growth? This is also inconsistent with Treasury’s advice to the incoming government in 2011, which advised the government to “rationalise the school network”!
New partnership schools in 2014 have been created in South Auckland (South Auckland Middle School and Rise Up Academy) Albany (Vanguard Military School) and in Whangarei (Paraoa). The four schools proposed for 2015 will be in South Auckland (Pacific Advance Senior School and Waatea), West Auckland (Middle School West Auckland) and Teina, a sister primary school in Whangarei for the Paraoa secondary school. That makes a total of 8 schools that are, in reality, in areas where schools already exist.
Why, therefore, is the State using a funding model which is seeking to fund these new schools on an equivalent basis to that used to create new State schools, when there is existing capacity in the school network?
Issue 6: “All new schools are also funded for a minimum roll even if the school, on opening, is below that roll number.”
What has been the actual experience so far with the schools’ rolls?
The roll return information is contained in the “Schools Directory” spreadsheet available on the Ministry’s Education Counts website at
|School||Guaranteed Minimum Roll*||1 March Actual Roll||1 July Actual Roll||October ActualRoll||Maximum Roll|
|South Auckland Middle School||90||108||110||107||120|
|Rise Up Academy||50||42||46||48||100|
|Vanguard Military School||108||104||93||79||192|
Based on actual roll experience, three schools were funded during the course of the 2014 year on a “Guaranteed Minimum Roll” number of students that was greater than their actual roll returns ever recorded.
What evidence is there that the Partnership schools’ rolls are consistent with the projections and assumptions underlying their funding model? In particular, the Ministry comment that “the amounts above may alter if a school is not proposing to reach its maximum roll in the first few years…” is certainly relevant here.
How were the “Guaranteed Minimum Rolls” determined for the 2014 year? What, if any, changes are to be implemented by the Ministry in the procedures used to determine the Guaranteed Minimum Roll for any new schools in the future?
At what stage of their development will the secondary schools be subject to the same funding reduction regime that now applies to the funding for State and State-Integrated secondary schools, where funding is reduced during the course of a year if the school’s actual roll falls?
Bill Courtney – SOSNZ
Okay, it’s going to be tricky, because the answers don’t make any kind of sense and might lead to migraines or turn you to drink, but give the quiz a go anyway:
Q: Which type of school is paid even when the pupils leave or are never enrolled?
A: Charter schools.
Note – State schools are funded per pupil – lose the pupil, lose the funding.
“A rural Northland charter school that has cost taxpayers $2.4 million this year, has only 48 students enrolled, despite the fact it is funded for a minimum of 71 students.” Source
A: Charter schools.
Note – State schools never own their buildings, and so do not and cannot walk off with millions of your tax payers’ dollars.
“The Ministry of Education confirmed if Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru closes, the school has no legal obligation to return the land, funded with $620,000 of taxpayer money, to the Government.” Source
Tell me again what great value for money these schools are….?
Read more here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/northern-advocate/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503450&objectid=11325511