May 6th, 2008
Any Increase In School Operations Grant Must Target Low Paid Workforce
A campaign to push the government for an increase in school operations grants is being welcomed by the education sector union NZEI Te Riu Roa, as it highlights the cause of one of the lowest paid workforces in the country.
Ten secondary school principals on Auckland’s North Shore have banded together to fight for more government funding to run their schools. They say the rising cost of living has made fundraising difficult and more and more parents are struggling to pay their voluntary donation fees.
They also say any money they are able to raise is having to be spent on paying non-teaching and support staff.
NZEI Te Riu Roa represents 11,500 support staff in primary and secondary schools throughout the country. They include non teaching staff such as teacher aides, administration workers, sports co-ordinators, librarians, and nurses. They are among the lowest paid workers in the country, and have very little job security.
Last year NZEI won a 4% pay rise for support staff but many teacher aides for example, still only receive just over $12 an hour. This does not recognise their skill or commitment or the contribution they make to schools.
Support staff salaries are also bulk funded through schools’ operations grants and many schools struggle to find adequate funding to pay them. It means their pay packets are competing with other essential costs faced by schools. When a school’s power bills soar in winter, the principal may be forced to contemplate cutting support staff hours to meet the school’s operations grant shortfall in order to make ends meet.
NZEI says meaningful increase in the operations grant, above the rate of inflation, would give schools extra funding and take some of the burden off them in terms of paying and keeping support staff on.
However NZEI also wants to see targeted funding for core support staff positions so their salaries would be paid centrally, by government. This would give them job security and make them a less vulnerable workforce. They deserve a fairer and more effective system.
NZEI President Frances Nelson says “we hope this month’s Budget will deliver an increase in the operations grant and that the government will recognise that there is a real issue of low pay that needs to be addressed. Any increase would also help schools retain experienced and valuable staff which are needed to provide quality education.”