Primary teachers say they are pinning their hopes on New Zealand First or the Greens becoming part of the next Government.
Lynda Stuart, president of the primary teachers' union the NZ Educational Institute, told the union's annual conference in Rotorua today that both NZ First and the Greens were "brave and staunch advocates for quality public education".
"There's a lot to be hopeful of due to the fact that either NZ First or the Green Party are likely partners in any Government to be formed, and both are brave and staunch advocates for quality public education," she said.
"We've worked alongside both over the past three years, fighting for the better funding and support that schools and early childhood education need.
"For our part, we've endorsed their policies when they have been good, and we've welcomed the promises."
NZ First education spokeswoman Tracey Martin and Labour spokesman Chris Hipkins are expected at the four-day conference, but National's Education Minister Nikki Kaye was listed as having provided an apology.
Stuart attacked National's flagship education policy, National Standards, as "abhorrent".
"Teachers are underpaid, undermined and demoralised, weighed down by new policies thrown at them, including the abhorrent National Standards and all that they entail," she said.
"Our principals and teachers are under horrendous stress, due to a lack of special education funding, lack of professional support and work-life balance.
"We have a teaching shortage that's now become a crisis."
Stuart said those issues made the stakes involved in post-election negotiations "just so high".
"On the one hand, we have a potential Government made up of three parties - Labour, Greens and NZ First - that have all committed to fixing public education, restoring funding that's been eroded over the years, and getting rid of things that don't work such as national standards and charter schools.
"And on the other hand we have National, which is negotiating with at least one of those other parties to form a Government.
"So although we don't really know where this is heading, there is still hope."
Looking ahead to the next year, Stuart said the union would be fighting for big pay equity claims for education support workers and teacher aides.
It will also be claiming more paid preparation time and higher pay in collective agreements which expire next year for primary teachers and principals.
"I'm warning you now, this is a big deal," Stuart said.
"Teachers and principals are sick of seeing kids miss out on the education they deserve. They're sick of being underpaid, undervalued and overworked.
"We want time to do our jobs properly, and a decent pay increase that reflects the quality of the commitment that we put into making a difference for children every day."