Teacher unions say a below-inflation increase in funding for day-to-day costs will force schools to ask parents to pay more through fees and donations.

The Government announced the 2.9 per cent increase to operations funding in the Budget, following on from a 4 per cent increase last year. It will give schools an extra $34 million a year.

PPTA president Robin Duff said it effectively left schools with less money per student because it was not enough to cover inflation of 4.5 per cent and growing rolls.

"Parents will be under pressure to pay more voluntary donations to schools due to increased funding pressures on secondary schools."

The Budget allocated $66.7 million over four years for the development of the first public-private schools, intended to be a primary and secondary school in Hobsonville.

Education was one of the few areas to get an increase this year - lifting total spending from $12 billion to $12.2 billion next year.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said the total increase was $1.4 billion over four years, as well as a further $356 million which was not used last year and had now been directed to other areas.

Other funding announced for this year includes an extra $16.7 million for National Standards, $51 million for broadband and computer upgrades, and a total of $39 million on Maori initiatives, such as building kura kaupapa and extending the Maori-focused teaching programme Te Kotahitanga to 20 more schools.

A further $67 million was also allocated for National's Youth Guarantees initiative, which allows 17- and 18-year-olds to train at tertiary-level institutions free of charge.

Mr Duff said the funding for broadband in schools and $6 million for alternative education were positive moves.

Ian Leckie, president of primary teachers' union NZEI, said extra money for National Standards was a waste.

"That simply acknowledges that the National Standards policy is a shambles and teachers and schools are confused about how to use them."

For early-childhood education, the Government is investing $550.3 million over the next four years.

Mrs Tolley said the Budget provided an 11.5 per cent increase on last year - or an additional $147 million in the 2011/12 year.

"Our priority is to increase participation for those groups that will benefit the most from early-childhood education, including Maori, Pasifika and children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, while also controlling Government expenditure."

Features included more money to meet the increased demand for early- childhood education and increased funding rates for services to allow for cost increases.

More than $20 million over four years has also been allocated to fund early-childhood education for children in care, and to extend the Home Interaction Programme for Parents and Youngsters.

Labour's education spokeswoman Sue Moroney said the funding announcement contained "a lot of smoke and mirrors".

She said the Government had taken $585 million out of the early childhood budget in the course of the last two Budgets and it was going to take four years to put $550 million of it back in.

"In that time they are predicting they will have an extra 47,000 children accessing early-childhood education so basically they are going to have less money per child."

Early Childhood Council chief executive Peter Reynolds welcomed the increased funding, saying it was an improvement on last year.

* Total budget - $12.2b next year.
* Up $200m on previous year.


* $550m for early childhood education.
* $118m or 2.9pc boost to school operations.
* $66.7m for public-private schools in Hobsonville.