Unease at schools' funding overhaul

By Patrice Dougan, Anna Whyte -
4 comments
Merivale principal Jan Tinetti likened the proposed school funding changes to the bulk funding of schools in the 90s.
Merivale principal Jan Tinetti likened the proposed school funding changes to the bulk funding of schools in the 90s.

A new proposed funding scheme for schools and teachers has been likened to 90s bulk-funding and has already received criticism by both the secondary and primary school unions.

In consultation documents published on the Ministry of Education's website, the department proposes a new funding system with "the potential to increase flexibility in schools' use of funding while simplifying funding arrangements".

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

The documents stated: "This is a significant difference from historical bulk funding proposals which would have seen schools charged the actual salary."

Despite this, NZEI national executive general member and Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti said she was wary about the proposals.

"I've looked at the cabinet paper and to me it looks like bulk funding just with another name, and the only difference I can see is that it is coming from the centre rather than coming from the school.

"I'm really concerned because there is almost incentive for schools to employ fewer and cheaper teachers. I cannot see anything that could be beneficial to my children, whatsoever.

"What we don't want is rearranging the system to something that is going to be detrimental to children, to something that is going to have less experienced teachers in front of children, cheaper teachers on the whole in front of children and making it harder for schools to employ support staff."

Ms Tinetti hoped the discussions could turn the proposals into "something better".

"I'd imagine there would be lots of strong debate about it," Ms Tinetti said. "The way it is at the moment, I would be very, very scared about it going ahead. We're an underfunded system as it is."

Post Primary Teachers Association president Angela Roberts agreed.

"Schools are going to be in the terrible position of trying to make decisions about how to pay for the entire school to run and there will be significant pressure on them to reduce their staffing costs, both teacher aides and teachers," she told Radio New Zealand.

Teachers and parents had rejected bulk funding 20 years ago, Ms Roberts said, and she expected they would do the same with this proposal.

Tauranga principals are to meet on Wednesday to hear about the proposed changes.

The proposed changes would mean:

* Principals would determine the split between cash and credit, with the flexibility to make adjustments during the year.

* Unspent credit would be paid out at the end of the year and a process for recovering credit overspends would be established.

* Teaching staff salaries would be charged against the "credit" portion at an average rate.

* Non-teaching staff salaries would be charged against the "credit" portion at actual cost.

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