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New housing policy threat to rural schools

New housing policy threat to rural schools

The Education Ministry’s new school housing policy is a kick in the guts for rural schools struggling to recruit and retain teachers, in some cases on top of school reviews, according to the PPTA.

PPTA senior vice-president Jen McCutcheon said though the association was pleased that non-core houses currently tenanted would be retained under the new policy, ultimately there would be fewer school houses and rents for those left would go up.

Under the new policy, a significant number of teachers will see their rents rise by up to $25 per week next year, and $25 per week each subsequent year until service tenancy rents – 75 per cent rentals – are reached.

“We’re pleased schools won’t be compelled to sell houses if they have teacher or principal tenants,” Mrs McCutcheon said. “However, this new policy still has the potential to further degrade rural education and hamper rural schools already struggling to recruit and retain teachers.

“Feedback from teachers and principals tells us that higher rents – though below market rental – act as a severe disincentive to teachers moving to rural and or isolated areas.”

Mrs McCutcheon said cheap housing encouraged teachers to teach in rural areas, to live in the community, help maintain it and prevent rural decline. It also enabled some teachers to teach in resort areas such as Queenstown which would otherwise be too expensive.

“The Ministry of Education – and the Minister – have a responsibility to ensure that schools in rural areas are not disadvantaged.

“The effect of the increased rents might be disguised in the short term but long term could lead to an increase in teacher shortages in rural areas and thus a lowering of educational opportunities for students in these areas.”

Mrs McCutcheon said PPTA was disappointed the Ministry was encouraging school boards to buy houses, effectively forcing boards to spend operations grant money to either maintain or sell them on.

“They are exporting the problem to boards who should be using operations funding on educating children, not maintenance and administration of school houses.”

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