Govt 'throwing money down drain'

By Genevieve Helliwell

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A Tauranga principal has slammed the Government's decision to spend $19 million to establish charter (partnership) schools, saying the money is being wasted on a system that has repeatedly failed overseas.

Ian Leckie, Tahatai Coast school principal and immediate past president of teachers union NZEI, told the Bay of Plenty Times last night the Government had "side-stepped" the real issue of addressing food in schools and unnecessarily thrown money at the charter school model.

"That's a huge amount of money and could have made a huge difference to so many schools but they're throwing money down the drain which is based on a political decision when really they should be addressing children in need."

In terms of the overall Budget, Mr Leckie said it appeared the Government was "recycling current money" and not adding any new money to the industry, and as a result there would be "no real flow-on benefits in Tauranga at all".

The Government will spend a total of $9.7 billion on education.

Of this, new spending of $1.04 billion will be made up from $552 million of new money, $296 million from savings and other reprioritisation and $196 million from contingencies established in previous Budgets.

The largest spend will be $92.4 million on rebuilding and the Christchurch schooling network. Another $73.1 million will be spent on school property maintenance, including repairing and replacing leaky and earthquake-prone buildings.

Bay principals said the $79.2 million extra in operational grants funding (1.9 per cent) hardly covered the cost of inflation and schools would not be any better off.

Also announced in the Budget was an additional $6 million to be spent on a mentoring programme to help low-achieving students achieve NCEA Level 2. This would go towards the Government's target of 85 per cent of 18-year-olds achieving NCEA Level 2 by 2017 and 85 per cent of primary and intermediate aged students at or above the National Standards by 2017.

Mount Maunganui College principal Russell Gordon said any initiative to raise student achievement should be commended but the sector and the ministry needed to communicate better to ensure money was being spent on targeting the right areas.

He supported the extra $64 million to address children with behavioural problems and was encouraged by the $40 million to be spent internationally marketing New Zealand as an education destination.

"The benefits of international students on Tauranga are significant but $40 million to be spent on attracting international students compared to $6 million to help increase domestic student achievement is a little out of kilter."

The tertiary education sector was allocated about $130 million over four years, in new and reprioritised funding, to expand Maori and Pacifika trades training, additional funding for science and engineering courses and encourage more young people to gain a tertiary qualification.

Student loan allowance eligibility changes will make it harder for mature students to borrow money.

The Government will also target overseas student loan borrowers to repay loans faster.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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