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The importance of bulk funding

Friday 18th Feb 2000
Donna Awatere Huata
Speech -- Education

In the past 20 years, New Zealand has gone from being number one in the world in maths and science to midtable. If Maori results were taken out and put into a separate category, then Maori would be the 46th county in the world. There were only 45 countries in the last survey.

New Zealand has seen the amount invested in education per child nearly double since we were world leaders yet our educational results are still dropping. In response to these falling levels a group of forward-looking policy makers implemented bulk funding as a solution. Bulk funding allows communities to decide what is best for their interests, it allows school boards to achieve their goals, but ultimately it gives parents a direct input into their children's education.

However bulk funding scares the current Government. They and their union friends don't like people looking after themselves, or deciding what's best for their children. They don't like communities having an input into their schools. They would rather children's growth and development was dictated by the state through centralised funding. Let me tell you now that centralised funding has one outcome and one outcome only - union domination at the expense of children.

Trevor Mallard and the PPTA have decided they know what's best for your children. They are attempting to remove bulk funding from all schools and return to the system of 20 years ago. This is Labours idea of progress. Is this your idea of progress? Trevor Mallard and the PPTA say that bulk funding will drive funding levels downwards so you better watch out because they will employ any tactics they can to get their own way.

When bulk funding was introduced at Tuakau College, near Auckland, the teachers boycotted the school's prizegiving and withdrew support for students. At Cambridge High School the PPTA president came personally to inform the Board of Trustees that should they accept bulk funding "the full industrial might of the PPTA would be brought into play and the school would become unmanageable".

What is it about bulk funding that might have turned educated teachers into urban terrorists? Their acts of cowardice were based on ideology, not facts. There has been no drop in monies under bulk funding; schools have been flourishing and children excelling.

When Massey University researchers interviewed the boards of bulk funded schools, one hundred per cent stated they loved bulk funding and "its significant positive outcomes". They reported that it allowed greater freedom and flexibility and it increased "the school's ability to solve problems as and when they arose". Principals reported improved management incentives and commented on the freedom it offered to adopt fresh approaches. A good example of this was that 41% of schools had given bonuses and incentives to teachers. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Kura Kaupapa O Otara summed up the feelings of Kura when he said "We are happy. It's the sort of thing we were aiming at in terms of Tino Rangitiratanga which is taking control of our own destiny".

In spite of this conclusive evidence Helen Clark, says "bulk funding is a no-no. I congratulate the PPTA for its strong stand against it. I see performance pay as a destructive force within staff now". The Government is determined to remove bulk funding. Statistics, logic and common sense prove that bulk funding is working, yet for ideological reasons they will persevere.

I propose to stop the Government's plans but I will be unable to do this alone. I implore you to join me in the fight for parental freedom and educational achievement. We need to lobby the current Government and show them our disgust with their policy direction. We need to ring local MPs and strongly express our displeasure. We need to write to newspapers and vent our frustrations in words. We need to fight, and fight hard for the freedom of our children. Yet strangely the outraged voices have been silent.

The Chairman of the Association of Bulk Funded Schools John McGowan has reacted to this silence by calling for compulsory bulk funding. He wrote, "Where are the parents in all this? It is their children who benefit from bulk funding so why aren't they speaking out against the teacher bullies and speaking for their children? Perhaps they are swayed by the propaganda that bulk funding is bad. Perhaps they have not heard from the 728 bulk funded schools in New Zealand about how good the system really is for students."

We, as parents in New Zealand, have to make a stand against a Government determined to restrict our rights. Bulk funding allows parents to choose the best environment for their children and grants schools the ability to tailor their staff to reflect community needs. We need new solutions to address suspension rates up 300 per cent in the past five years, for the 800 students who are permanently suspended and are then lost to every educational opportunity.

It is only bulk funding that allows schools the flexibility to distribute their resources to offer exciting initiatives to meet the needs of these children. It is only bulk funding that allows parents to have a direct input into their children's education, and it is only bulk funding that can improve our the educational achievement of all children. Yet somehow, I think the PPTA will carry on arguing that bulk funding is just a cost cutting exercise. And somehow, I think the Government will continue to use scaremongering tactics to support its position.

But I ask you all as parents, teachers, principals or just concerned citizens to ignore these clumsy scare tactics and make your voice heard in the fight to keep choice alive, and fight for bulk funding and our children's right to education.

Bulk funding is not the whole answer to New Zealand's falling educational performance against international standards. But it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

Contact Donna Awatere Huata 04 4706623 or Kathryn Asare 04 4706637

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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