Trustees urged to speak out over Gov’t funding
School trustees urged
to speak out over inadequate Gov’t funding
The New Zealand School Trustees Association is calling on schools to lobby the Government over the inadequacy of school operations grants.
NZSTA President Chris France says the association has today sent information out to all member boards, advising them of the imposed costs on boards operating grants over the past three years, and which have not been covered by subsequent operations grant increases.
“We’re saying to boards that if they want to see the Government making a significant increase to operational grants in this year’s Budget, then now is the time to write or email Education Minister Trevor Mallard and their local MP about the issue,” he says.
The particular issue is that the cost of School Support Staff settlements over the past three years or so have well outstripped the effects of annual increases to boards operational grants. NZSTA believes the shortfall in funding to boards is now in the vicinity of $4 million in base support staff salaries alone each year, and with a potential total loss to all boards of up to $10 million a year.
“Many boards and principals have raised concerns for some time now that recent wage negotiations with support staff have resulted in settlements that impose significant net accumulative losses to the board’s operating grant, quite regardless of the annual inflation based adjustment that applies.
“Boards of trustees are in the unusual position of having a third party – the Government – decide how much they pay the school’s own employees. What the Government needs to do is provide boards with sufficient funding to meet pay imposed increases for staff, without the board having to put at risk funding it has aimed at the schools core business of raising student learning outcomes” he says.
Boards of trustees are placed in the impossible position of having to reduce support staff hours and/or reduce support staff staffing to live within available funding, and this in turn adversely impacts on the schools ability to deliver quality education.
Chris France says the shortfall in funding arising from settlements in the Support Staff Collective Agreement is a classic example where boards are wanting to focus on learning outcomes for students, but are being deflected and constrained by the need to meet the associated rising day-to-day operating costs within a constrained operations grant.
“Quite apart from the costs of Support Staff Collective Agreement settlements, boards are hit by, or will be hit by, other compliance costs, including legislative change to the Holidays and Health and Safety Acts, and the introduction of teacher non-contact hours he says.
“Year by year, these all add to the increased financial pressures on boards operational grants, and to the point where a significant adjustment is required to “rebalance” the books. While boards accept that they have to live within their budget, and that not every little imposed cost can be reasonably reimbursed at the time it is incurred, our members are now clearly telling the Association that the “rebalance” is now due.
While NZSTA has commissioned research which, amongst other things, is likely to throw some light on the adequacy of operational grants, that project spans three years and outcomes will not be known until it is complete.
“Schools have in effect been hit by “a thousand cuts” of escalating costs and compliance requirements and we need the Government to acknowledge this problem and address it with a substantial increase to the operations grant in this year’s Budget,” he says.