Schools’ por­tion not likely to please all

The Southland Times - - National News / Budget 2018 - Jo Moir jo.moir@stuff.co.nz

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, has 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 have 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.

PPTA pres­i­dent Jack Boyle saw it as a ‘‘missed op­por­tu­nity’’.

‘‘It’s great the Gov­ern­ment is plan­ning for fu­ture roll growth, but we were hop­ing for more ac­tion to fix the twin crises of de­clin­ing num­bers of teacher grad­u­ates and high lev­els of at­tri­tion in the pro­fes­sion.’’

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.’’

The 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 un­in­hab­it­able 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 $590.2m in new oper­at­ing fund­ing over the next four years.

That in­cluded about $483m to meet in­creased de­mand, Hip­kins said.

KEVIN STENT/STUFF

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Grant Robert­son is con­grat­u­lated by Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern af­ter de­liv­er­ing the Labour led coali­tion’s Bud­get for 2018 in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Welling­ton.

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