Bay teachers meet to discuss funding fears

By Michele Hunter

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Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti is concerned about the Government's new school funding proposal. Photo/File
Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti is concerned about the Government's new school funding proposal. Photo/File

More than 1500 Bay teachers will leave the classroom and gather at ASB Baypark this month, amid fears the Government's education review will see teacher numbers cut in favour of other school expenses.

In an unusual move the Post Primary Teacher's Association (PPTA), which represents secondary teachers, and the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI), which represents primary, early childhood and teacher aides, have joined forces to discuss and form a united response to the proposal.

Notices have been sent to parents informing them schools will be "closed for instruction" between 9am and 11am - 11.45am on September 14 (depending on the school), with supervision available for those students who cannot remain at home.

PPTA Western Bay of Plenty chair Tania Rae said the proposed "global budget" would mean parents on Boards of Trustees would have to make trade-offs between the number of teachers they employed and other non-teaching costs of running a school.

Read more about the who will get what, and who will miss out here.

"Students need more laptops, a school nurse or an additional teacher aide? Simple, cash in a teacher. And research from around the world shows that teachers are what make the difference to student achievement," she told the Bay of Plenty Times.

Ms Rae said members were also concerned the global budget would lead to increased casualisation of teacher jobs and pressure to hire cheaper, less experienced teachers, undermining the quality of teaching.

The proposal would also lead to the removal of the Government's responsibility for issues like class sizes and lead to uncertainty about increases in funding to keep up with rising costs or population growth, she said.

"Teachers care deeply about the students they work with. We won't sit back and allow their futures be affected by the effects of a bulk-funding system," Ms Rae said.

The review also failed to consider whether New Zealand schools were adequately funded at present, she said. "That's a big mistake. We think the Government has put the cart before the horse by not finding out how much is actually needed to provide quality teaching before it started the review."

The change would set a "global budget" for each school, delivered as cash instalments for school expenses, and a credit system for salaries.

The Ministry of Education website states the global budget: "Has the potential to increase flexibility in schools' use of funding while simplifying funding arrangements."

A cabinet paper on the website states: "The global budget differs from the bulk-funding experiments of the 1990s, under which schools were charged actual teachers' salaries. With the global budget salaries would be charged against school funding allowances at an average cost."

 Otumoetai Primary principal Geoff Opie. Photo/file
Otumoetai Primary principal Geoff Opie. Photo/file

NZEI national executive general member and Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti said fixed school costs went up every year, and the proposed funding model would leave schools with tough decisions to make.

"We want our members to tell us how they feel about this," she said. "We would just like cabinet to know the feelings of our members. John Key did say that if the sector wasn't on board with this it wouldn't go through," she said.

It was also a chance to discuss better funding options and greater equity in the system, she said.

"More funding to lift our tail and lift our children that are at risk of not achieving."

Otumoetai Primary School principal Geoff Opie was concerned the new funding model would make it difficult for schools to afford more experienced teachers who commanded higher salaries.

While the current system, was not perfect it actually worked reasonably well, he said.
"This (the global budget) has the power to make class sizes a lot bigger."

Mr Opie was also interested to hear how private and charter schools would be funded under the scheme.

Ministry of Education deputy secretary for strategy, planning and governance Ellen MacGregor-Reid said it was very early days in the discussion with no chanced proposed until at least 2019.

"We've been talking since May to representatives of all the major groups in the early childhood and schooling system about new ways of funding education for 0-18 year olds, because we wanted to get their input at the very earliest stage, well before any decisions are made, and well before a new funding system is even designed," she said.
"This process is about determining what should be included in commissioning any further, more detailed work, on possibilities for a new funding system.

"What happens next is the Minister is due to receive a summary of that group's recommendations, before considering with Cabinet what to take to the next stage of work.

Ms MacGregor-Reid said the global budget was one of seven proposals in the funding review.

"The intention of the global budget proposal is to give Boards of Trustees more choices in how a school uses its resources. Boards of trustees, which include the principal of the school, work to provide a high quality teaching and learning environment for staff and for children. It's unlikely boards would choose to use their funds in a way that would undermine either of those things," she said.

"We'd like to reassure principals that under the global budget concept the actual salaries of teachers, including those of the most experienced teachers, would continue to be met by the Government."

There was no proposal to change the current policy of increasing funding to keep up with population growth and inflation, she said.
"The funding review is about how that money can best be directed to ensure that every child and young person receives a great education."

THE DETAILS
PPTA Western Bay of Plenty and Bay of Plenty NZEI paid union meeting
Wednesday, September 14 from 9am
ASB Baypark Stadium, Mount Maunganui
- Teachers are entitled to attend the meeting under the State Sector Act 1988.
- Non-union members are welcome to join the first section of the meeting.

TEACHERS' CONCERNS
- Fewer teachers and larger class sizes
- Less job security for teachers
- Lower quality teaching
- Fewer hours for teacher aides and support staff
- More complex financial work for Boards of Trustees

- Bay of Plenty Times

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