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It's not how big it is, it's how you use it

Education Budget 2003: It's not how big it is, it's how you use it

The Budget increase in education spending places much responsibility on the government and education agencies to ensure the money delivers improved outcomes, says Education Forum policy advisor Norman LaRocque.

The Budget has brought in an increase of $715 million annually in new education spending by 2006/07.

"Putting the money there is one thing, making it matter is another," Mr LaRocque said.

"Cross-country evidence shows that the link between more spending and better education outcomes is weak. Good policies are required to ensure that the money translates into better outcomes."

Two initiatives - Visioning the Future of Schooling and Support for Legislative Reform - provide vehicles for introducing much-needed market-based reforms to the school sector.

"These offer good opportunities for a new direction in schooling policy, but will require much leadership from the Minister to overcome the defenders of the status quo," Mr LaRocque said.

Other useful initiatives include: additional childcare assistance for low-income families, initiatives around effective teaching and Maori education, increased funding for performance-based research, information provision for tertiary education students and 'network' reviews of schooling in areas with declining populations.

Mr LaRocque said the effective delay in the application of the fee maxima for private providers was welcome.

"The government should take the opportunity to ensure that the scheme is as flexible as possible and minimises the impact on education delivery to students attending private providers.

The fee maxima levels are low and appear to be more constraining for private providers than for state institutions.

"The fee maxima policy amounts to nothing more than the government sticking another pin in its private sector voodoo doll. This is disappointing given that the private sector contributes significantly to helping meet the skill requirements of New Zealand industry," said Mr LaRocque.

Additional taxpayer subsidies to the tertiary sector will do little to advance the government's policy goals.

"Once again, the tertiary sector has gobbled up money that could have been used much more effectively to address real educational challenges at the early childhood and school levels."

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