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Education reform: the new bulk-funding?  

Radical new funding proposals were announced just as collective bargaining finished

The government is floating radical changes to school and ECE funding, including a new form of bulk-funding for schools, as part of its Education Funding Review.

Last term, government invited a group of sector leaders, including NZEI president Louise Green, to join the review as an Advisory Group. However, instead of being asked to give advice, the group is being stepped through a series of documents that indicate a pre-determined direction.

Graphs showing that although GDP per person is growing, relative spending on students is projected to fall.
Click the image to view at full size.

Schools would receive a mix of cash and credits for teachers. Both these would be generated on a per-student formula. Schools could decide how much of their funding to use on credits, and how much to use as a cash component paid in instalments to cover operational costs. At the end of the year, schools could cash up unspent credits. This would likely penalise more experienced “expensive” teachers, incentivise schools to use unqualified staff, and lead to increased class sizes.

There are many unknowns, in particular, how the per-student rate would be calculated, but it is a given that certainty and transparency on staffing would go.

Currently, the system of school staffing means that every year a school is entitled to a certain number of teachers, based on teacher-student ratios and year levels. Schools and centres also look to lose equity/decile and special education funding components, and this funding would instead be tagged to children who meet criteria, including being in a long-term beneficiary-dependant household.

This is of particular concern to kindergartens and not-for-profit ECE services which currently receive a much larger share of equity funding, for demographic reasons, than for-profit ECE services.

As EA went to press, the government was refusing Official Information Act requests for its modelling and research related to the changes, instead putting up selected documents online.

Documents that have been released also indicate private schools are in line for more money. The current cap on private school funding would go, and private schools would receive a percentage of public school, per child funding.

At the same time the review is underway, figures show the government is also intending to cut education spending, relative to income, in the next few years. The dollar amount of funding may rise, due mainly to roll growth, but the share of national income going to education will fall.

The graphs (right) were compiled for NZEI Te Riu Roa by award-winning economist Dr Brian Easton, and are from documents released in the 2016 Budget.

 

Collective effort!

At the end of last term, primary teachers and principals voted to accept new collective agreements.

It took months of intense negotiations, within a legal framework, but achievements included: a day of release time in 2017; a 2%+2% pay rise, backdated, over the two-year term; improvements to the Maori Immersion Teaching Allowance; an acknowledgement of the importance of teachers being able speak out publicly on education; an agreement on education; and an agreement on Career Path development.

Negotiator Liam Rutherford, a teacher from Palmerston North, said the move to a two year term, from the previous three years, acknowledged the enormous amount of change currently going on in the sector. “Members were clear in meetings they may want to deal with some of this industrially.”

More frequent negotiations give members more options.

 

Future of teaching

Educators have also won an agreement to undertake Career Path Development work with the Ministry of Education.

Its aim will be to make teaching more attractive so that experienced practitioners have more options on how to stay in the classroom.

The work will cover a number of claims that were raised in bargaining, including recruitment and retention, and roles (U1 principals and SENCOs).

NZEI member leaders will continue this Career Path work over the next two years with ministry officials, and any agreement will be brought back to collective agreement negotiations in two years’ time.

Teachers in ratifications meetings last term were already discussing questions to feed into the work, including:

• What sort of support should be available to all teachers (time, teacher aides, resourcing, etc)?

• What sort of opportunities for professional growth and career development should be available (professional development, qualifications, etc)?

• What sort of roles would be available across the primary sector (AP, DP, SENCO, specialist roles, new roles)?