Schools’ portion not likely to please all
Schools disappointed by the operational funding increase in this year’s Budget will see the Government has ‘‘dealt with’’ its issues in other spending areas, the finance minister says.
Operational funding, which schools use for day-to-day running, traditionally increased by about 2 per cent on Budget Day until 2016, when the-then National government froze it.
Last year, schools returned to a (smaller) increase of 1.3 per cent. The Coalition Government has given schools a 1.6 per cent increase this year.
The country’s largest teacher union is ‘‘disappointed that chronic issues of underfunding’’ haven’t been addressed this year.
NZEI president Lynda Stuart said the new spending failed to deliver more than a minimal patch up of the foundations of education that had been neglected for the past decade.
‘‘There’s little point in spending hundreds of millions on new schools and buildings if we haven’t even got the groundwork in place to ensure we have enough teachers to fill them,’’ she said. There was nothing in this Budget that would make teaching a more appealing career choice and turn the growing teacher shortage around, Stuart said.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Government was concentrating on other areas this year, particularly students with higher learning needs.
‘‘Some of the things that were causing pressure inside a school’s operating environment we’ve actually dealt with, with spending elsewhere,’’ he said.
‘‘One of the really significant impacts of today’s Budget is the impact on what we used to call special education – people with higher learning needs.
‘‘I think schools will look at that in terms of their overall operating costs and the way they operate and they’ll be pleased to see we’ve given a boost in that area.’’
This year’s Budget has delivered $394.9 million in capital investment – up only slightly on the $392m last year.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins signalled ahead of the Budget that more than $1 billion was needed over the next three years to fix school buildings and provide more teaching spaces for the expected student influx.
But the Government is only spending about $2m more than the previous government allocated last year for new schools and additional classrooms.
Hipkins said that was because of constraints around how much could be built, and there was no point pouring in money that would ultimately be underspent.
The education sector has received a boost of $649.4m of operational spending over the next four years – $370m will be used to fund 1500 new teacher places by 2021. But the big focus is on early childhood education (ECE) and learning support.
An investment of $272.8m for students with special learning needs ‘‘more than triples the operational spending in the previous Budget’’, Hipkins said.
Two areas to benefit from that are the ongoing resourcing scheme that provides speech language therapists and psychologists and a funding increase for teacher aides.
ECE is getting its first universal boost in a decade with Budget
2018 delivering $590.2m in new operating funding over the next four years. That included about
$483m to meet increased demand, Hipkins said.
National’s education spokeswoman, Nikki Kaye, said schools would see the announcements as ‘‘broken promises’’.