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NZPF reacts angrily to Minister’s comments

NZPF reacts angrily to Minister’s comments
- New Zealand Principals’ Federation -

The New Zealand Principals Federation is disappointed and angry, following comments by Education Minister Steve Maharey on the operational funding of schools.

Maharey today released the findings of a Ministry of Education review of schools' operational funding. Maharey stated that schools are managing their finances well, but was critical of wide variation in spending on overheads and teaching and learning, and wide variation in the ability of schools both to plan and manage their finances strategically.

NZPF President, Pat Newman, was highly critical of Maharey’s comments. “We’re glad to see the Minister thinks that principals are managing school finances well. In reality, we’re working miracles just to keep the doors open and pay our bills, in light of the financial pressures we face every day.”

Newman says the reality is that schools are only able to function thanks to the efforts of local communities. “You can say that the finances of New Zealand schools are okay, but that’s only because of the huge amount of local funds given by parents, raised by staff and sourced by Boards to cover the real costs of education. Neither of the reports released by the Minister today can break down what is paid for by government funds and what is paid for by local funds. The plain truth is, if all schools stopped raising money from parents and community, schools would go belly up in a very short time.”

Maharey was promoting the fact that funding for schools has increased from $3.8 billion a year in 1999 to around $5.6 billion this year. But Newman says that years of underfunding meant this was not a total solution. “We still have children in our schools who don’t have all the resources they need. $5.6billion sounds a lot, but when you split that across the thousands of schools we have in New Zealand, it still doesn’t cover our costs. That’s why parents are increasingly being asked to foot the bill for their childrens’ education.”

Newman was disappointed that the Minister seemed to suggest that some schools are not using their funds strategically. “Maharey suggests the cure is to change the system and to give more training to Principals. That’s rubbish. No matter how many times you train or change systems, every parent knows that the reality is unless you have the funds, you just can’t make ends meet!”

Newman was also critical of Maharey’s comments on the use of some operational funds. “The Minister is well aware that it not possible to clearly define whether schools are using their money for learning and teaching. A simple example is photocopying. Some schools charge their photocopying to administration, which means it doesn’t fall within the learning and teaching budget. Other schools charge it to classroom resources, which means it is classified as learning and teaching. Maharey is twisting data to suggest some school spending is irresponsible, and it absolutely is not. The vast majority of schools are managing their finances extremely well.”


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