May 21st, 2008
Government Scores Poorly On School Funding
The education union NZEI says the government’s just-announced education spending is disappointing because it does not address issues of low pay for thousands of essential support staff in schools. Schools will continue to have to juggle serious funding shortfalls, it says.
In a pre-Budget statement this morning, the Minister of Education announced that the schools’ Operations Grant will increase by 5% a year over the next four years, totaling $170 million. Included in this is $65.3 million to help schools meet the costs of Information Communication Technology.
NZEI earlier called for a meaningful Operations Grant increase of at least 10%, saying that’s the amount of extra funding schools need to meet their running costs and the increasing demands of providing quality public education.
It says once inflation is taken into account and the percentage of the extra ICT funding is removed, a 5% funding boost will hardly touch the sides. NZEI President Frances Nelson says “what we’ve actually been given is about the rate of inflation. The money for ICT is not ring-fenced so there is no guarantee that schools will actually spend it on what it is intended for if their operational funding is inadequate. It doesn’t make sense.”
The largest disappointment is that there is nothing in this Budget for school support staff whose salaries are bulk funded through the Operations Grant. As a result they are low paid and have little job security as schools have to juggle their salaries with other essential costs.
NZEI was hoping to see tagged funding in the Operations Grant for support staff salaries and a commitment to centrally fund some core support staff positions in schools. It has taken part, along with other sector groups, in an Operations Grant review, in the hope of making positive change.
Frances Nelson says “we’re totally frustrated by taking part in working groups and being ignored. The recommendations which came out of that review from the majority of sector groups have not been taken on board.”
“Schools and support staff are left in the same situation they were in before this announcement. Schools will just pay what they can of their ever-rising costs, and support staff will continue to be the ones to miss out,” she says.