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Education the Big Loser in 2005 Budget - QPEC

Education the Big Loser in 2005 Budget

The small spending increases on education mean it is the big loser in the 2005 budget.

So thin is education spending that the most interesting point about the government’s many media releases on budget education initiatives is their emphasis on past spending rather than spending from the 2005 budget.

Government spending initiatives in education are being made on political grounds rather than being designed to solve educational problems.

Because there is no pressure from National to spend more on public education the government cynically continues to underfund public education and spend money elsewhere where it perceives a threat from National Party policy. This despite several years of large budget surpluses.

Specific Education Spending Increases:

Early Childhood

Like the 2004 budget this area appears to be the best serviced area of education. At this stage however it appears the big winners will be the private sector early childhood centres as opposed to community provided centres.

Schools

420 teachers spread over 2600 schools amounts to just 1/7 of a teacher per school – and only after 4 years!

The $77.8million increase in operations funding appears to be over 4 years which would equate to less than 2% per year over this time – less than even the rate of inflation. Additional funding for ICT in schools will help offset the derisory increase in school operations funding however.

The Effective Schools Funding increase is a deep insult to schools. In practice it will be effectively a contestable fund – one of over 30 such funds in education which pits school against school. It is a meagre bone to be thrown to a pack of hungry dogs!

The chronic underfunding of our schools will continue and likewise parents will continue to make up the difference between what the government provides and what the school knows is neede for high quality education. Our schools in low income communities will continue to bear the brunt of government underfunding. (For example a comparison of real schools conducted by educationalist Stuart Middleton has shown that a decile 10 secondary school with 100 foreign fee-payers and average parent “donations” has 25% more income per student than the same sized decile 1 school. And yet there are far greater learning needs at a decile 1 school)

Tertiary Education

The lowest point in education is the failure to address the crippling levels of student debt and the increasing costs of tertiary education. There are some tinkering improvements such as in the eligibility criteria for student allowances and some “bonded merit scholarships” ($13 million) which are apparently focused on those from predominantly high income communities.

Overall there is no change to the policy of placing the burden of spending for the baby boomer generation on the shoulders of their children and grandchildren.

Summary

This is a cynical election year budget – designed to shift Labour further into National Party territory rather than assert the right of all New Zealanders to high quality education.

It appears clear also that public education suffers in this budget in having the Minister of Education also being an Associate Minister of Finance.

John Minto

National Chairperson

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