May 17, 2005
NZEI Says Budget Must Target Four Key Education Issues
The country's largest education union, NZEI Te Riu Roa, says this week's Budget must address four key education issues if the Government is to ensure that young New Zealanders continue to be served by a quality public education system.
NZEI Te Riu Roa represents 43,000 primary and early childhood teachers and support staff in primary and secondary schools.
"New Zealand has a world-class public education system," says NZEI Te Riu Roa acting National President, Irene Cooper.
"It's essential the Government ensure teachers, principals and support staff have the resources they need to continue providing a quality education for the country's children." "Money invested in public education is money well spent because it will determine the future economic, social and cultural growth of our country," says Irene Cooper.
NZEI says new funding in the Budget should be targeted at four key issues. * Providing professional development for teachers. * Equitable pay and job security for school support staff. * Expanding public provision of early childhood and bi-lingual education * Relieving student debt.
"Professional development means developing teachers skills so they are better equipped to deliver reading recovery, numeracy and literacy programmes and to assess how their students are performing," says Irene Cooper
"Again this is money well spent as studies show that providing teachers with appropriate professional development produces better results for children," says Irene Cooper.
The second education issue NZEI Te Riu Roa wants to see addressed in the Budget is funding for school support staff.
The union is campaigning for a six percent wage increase and increased job security for school support staff who are currently bulk-funded from each schools' operations grants. This is the same pool of money schools use to buy all their equipment and pay all their running costs. Schools struggle to spread the grant across all these costs and pay their support staff, which means they face the on-going threat of having their hours cut. This is why NZEI wants guaranteed funding for core support staff jobs. School managers would be able to use their operations grants to pay for any additional support staff positions they felt they needed. The union is calling on the Government to establish a Ministerial Working Party to develop this model as a fairer and more effective funding system. Ms Cooper urged the Government to signal its support for school support staff in the Budget.
"Support staff are the backstage crew essential to the running of our public education system," says Irene Cooper.
"Without them, our children would not be getting the quality and diversity of education and the care and support that they need. We want the Government to ensure schools and early childhood centres are well-resourced to support these staff."
The third issue NZEI Te Riu Roa wants to see addressed in the Budget is an expansion of the public provision of early childhood and bi-lingual education
"Research shows that children who attend early childhood education centres staffed by qualified teachers demonstrate higher IQs and increased emotional and cognitive development," says Irene Cooper.
"We are also starting to see the educational, social and economic benefits of Maori children who have been taught in Maori and are strong in their language and culture. The investment here will reap benefits for the whole country," says Irene Cooper.
The fourth issue NZEI wants addressed in the Budget is student debt.
Recent research issued by the New Zealand University Students' Association and NZEI shows that more than 90 percent of new teachers have a student debt, averaging more than $20,000.
"Such crippling debts caused additional stress for new teachers and contributed to the immigration of young teachers just as they completed their two-year registration," says Irene Cooper.
"NZEI would like the Budget to provide redress for new teachers by decreasing teacher education fees, providing a living allowance for all students and introducing a cut-off date of 10 years after continuous student loan scheme contribution."