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Trustees’ school funding concerns confirmed

Trustees’ school funding concerns confirmed by reports

Two reports just released on schools’ funding show clearly that schools are under financial pressure, says the New Zealand School Trustees Association.

“Schools are increasingly relying on locally-raised funds to meet government and community expectations,” says NZSTA President Lorraine Kerr.

Lorraine Kerr says the report of the Review of Schools’ Operational Funding, released today by the Education Minister, the Hon Steve Maharey, confirms long-held views by boards of trustees that operations grant funding is not meeting schools’ needs.

While total education funding may have increased significantly in recent times, this does not hold true for operations funding, which has failed to meet the real costs of running a school.

“NZSTA member boards will not be surprised by the report’s findings,” says Lorraine Kerr.

“NZCER longitudinal research commissioned by NZSTA has clearly shown that most schools in the three-year study could not maintain current programmes with operations funding alone, and were increasingly dependent on locally raised funds to prop up essential education delivery.”

The long-awaited report of the Operational Funding Review identifies specific cost pressures on boards, which have not been matched by corresponding increases in operational funding:

Boards themselves having to bear 100% of the approx $245 million annual cost of ICT in schools, from both operational grant funding and from locally raised funds, up until recent times,

Boards having to fund (again from a combination of operational grant funding and locally raised funds) support staff, the numbers of which have increased by 300% since 1989

Significantly increased compliance costs over the past 17 years

Growing expectations from local communities for a wide ranging curriculum, and for co-curriculum activities

In each of the above cases, there have been no significant specific increases in operational grant funding to recognize these growing cost pressures, with the exception of ICT which has received a small amount of Government recognition (currently totally approx $70-80m pa), over the past 6-7 years.

Lorraine Kerr says that the unanimity of the sector reference group during the review process was impressive, with representatives of sector groups working together with an unwavering focus on ensuring that all issues have been identified and dealt with.

The Education Review Office’s report on Schools’ Use of Operational funding, also released today, provides further evidence that schools are struggling to manage on operational funding alone. The report found that all schools surveyed raise locally-raised funds and rely on significant volunteer time to supplement their operational funding.

“Together, the two reports provide compelling evidence that it is high time to address the problem of inadequate operational funding and NZSTA looks forward to participating in further work to alleviate cost pressures on boards.”

Lorraine Kerr says that detailed modeling of costs is essential to formulate a funding system that will not only recognize the operational costs structures necessary to run a school, but also to ensure that funding retains its value over time.

“Boards will be expecting that the 2007 budget will provide for some financial relief as a temporary measure. Boards will also be expecting that continuing work in 2007 arising from the operations grant review will not only address the ongoing concerns around adequacy of ops funding, but will ensure that any future imposed costs will be automatically funded through an agreed annual adjustment mechanism,” she says.

[Ends]

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