Parents are being asked to pick up their kids early from school this week as hundreds of Northland educators meet over a government funding proposal they fear will see teachers traded off against other costs.
The Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) and New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) have called two paid union meetings in Northland this week which will focus on key proposals in the government funding review - including the introduction of a "global budget" which they say will decrease wages and force schools to choose between spending on quality staff or other resources.
Parents of students from several schools in the region have been asked to pick there kids up early because of the meeting, although not all schools are closing and some will have non-union staff on site to supervise.
Pat Newman, Te Tai Tokerau Principals' Association president and Hora Hora Primary School principal, says the global budget proposal is essentially bulk funding.
"The minister says it is not bulk funding and she is correct. It is not the same as what we had. But if you've got something that looks like a pig, smells like a pig and lives in a pigsty you can call it a giraffe but it's still a pig," he said.
Bulk funding was introduced on a voluntary basis in the 1990s and schools that opted in were given money linked to their allocation of teachers.
They could then spend the money as they wished. It caused widespread protest and was ditched in 2000.
The proposal would include cash instalments for school expenses and a credit system for salaries. Principals would determine the split between cash and credit, and have the flexibility to make adjustments during the year.
The two meetings next week will be at Rodney College on Monday from 1.30pm and Whangarei at ASB Stadium on Friday from 1.30pm. A meeting was held in Kaitaia last Wednesday.
Mr Newman wanted to remind people that the meetings are not strike action but said teachers and principals were concerned about the proposed funding.
"The concerns I have is that at the moment I am required to appoint the best person to the job, which is in the best interests of parents too. Under this, I will have to appoint the best person I can afford," he said.