Schools across Rotorua closed early today so more than 1000 teachers could unite against the Government's proposal of "bulk funding" for the sector.
The meeting was one of more than 50 being held nationwide from September 5, ending this Friday.
Around 1200 educators from early childhood through to secondary attended the meeting, run by the country's two major education unions, PPTA and NZEI Te Riu Roa.
Bright yellow banners with slogans "better funding, better learning" and "better funding, not bulk funding" hung from the ceiling of the Rotorua Energy Events Centre.
It was the final Bay of Plenty meeting, with previous meetings being held in Taupo, Whakatane and Tauranga.
Speakers included PPTA representative Jack Boyle, NZEI Te Riu Roa spokeswoman Jan Tinetti, Taupo early childhood educator Angela Palmer and support staff representative Sue Poole.
The speeches expressed a common concern that the Government-proposed ''global budget'' could mean 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.
There were also fears the proposed funding system would lead to the increased "casualisation" of teacher jobs and pressure to hire cheaper, less experienced teachers, undermining the quality of teaching.
Ms Palmer and Ms Poole said their positions were already affected by bulk funding.
"Moving dollars around is not going to solve anything... I am already bulk funded and I do not want to see that extended to teachers. I also want support to end it for us," Ms Poole said.
"We in early childhood education are already living and breathing bulk funding... it's a mechanism for under funding and has been an ineffective model. It has been detrimental to early childhood education and has created a environment of competition," Ms Palmer said.
Mr Boyle told the crowd they were there to "make sure John Key and the Government hears loud and clear we don't want bulk funding".
"We are putting the pressure on and it's working but we need to keep it going."
Ms Tinetti told the Rotorua Daily Post the reason educators were coming to the meetings was to find out what the Government proposal actually meant for them.
"When they do find out more they are horrified and want to know what we can do moving forward."
She said there were "one or two" parents put out by the early closure of schools but when the reason for the meeting was explained "they became more than supportive".
A vote was made during the closed session of the meeting to determine what next steps the unions would take. The result of that vote has not yet been revealed.
Rotorua Primary Principals Association president Grant Henderson said he did not attend the meeting, but sent representatives, with his vote.
"I know myself and a lot of other principals were supervising and teaching children so other staff could go.
"It was not the ideal but it was the best solution we came to that allowed minimal disruption for the children and the community."