A Labour government would reverse the Government's funding cuts for night classes, leader David Cunliffe said today as he launched his party's adult and community education (ACE) policy in Auckland.
Labour would provide $13 million a year in additional funding for the sector over two years, and a further $9 million after that in what Mr Cunliffe said was a restoration of money taken away by the National Government's "devastating funding cuts" in 2009.
Labour would also provide an additional $1 million a year for English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) courses.
Speaking at the Whau ACE centre in his New Lynn electorate, Mr Cunliffe said Labour would work with the sector "to ensure funding is targeted to the areas offering the most value".
"ACE gives Kiwis the chance to make their lives better; be it through literacy and numeracy classes to improve their employment chances, computer training for new career options or ESOL classes to ease their settlement into their new communities."
He cited a 2008 PricewaterhouseCoopers study that found that for every government dollar invested in ACE there was at least a $16 return.
However, the National Government's 2009 Budget cuts to the sector saw the number of people enrolled in ACE courses fall by 150,000 from the 400,000 level beforehand and the number of schools being funded for courses falling from 212 to just 23.
While schools which got no funding had technically been able to run their own user-pays courses, few had actually been able to do so without Government support, Mr Cunliffe said.
"Schools in lower income areas are particularly unlikely to be able to afford it. Whole areas of New Zealand, such as Hawke's Bay and the Hutt Valley, were left without night classes. Even some sign language classes across the country have been stopped because of the cuts, despite assurances in 2009 that sign language courses would be protected."
The Government had ignored petitions calling for the cuts to be reversed signed by more than 53,000 people, but Labour would " ensure that all Kiwis, young and old, born here or overseas, get a fair go at improving their lives through further education".
Announcing $54 million in funding cuts over four years in the 2009 Budget, then-Education Minister Anne Tolley it was "hobby courses" that would be affected and the remaining funding would be focused on courses that offered "the highest likelihood of helping participants go on to tertiary education or into the workforce - that is, literacy, numeracy and foundation skills".