Schools’ por­tion not likely to please all

The Press - - National News - Jo Moir

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’’.

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