New funding increases for schools and early childcare won't even keep up with inflation, educators have warned following today's Budget announcement.
Funding rate increases of over $750 million across the education system would go directly to education providers to help meet rising costs, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.
That includes a 2.75 per cent increase to funding rates in early learning services and 2.75 per cent increase to schools' operational grants - an extra $231.8m into early learning and $184.4m going into schools and kura over four years.
But many will still be going backwards with annual inflation over 6 per cent.
Nearly $3 billion is going toward the education sector but Vaughan Couillault, head of the Secondary Principals' Association, said most spending announced today was "just playing keeping up with inflation games ... if that".
More funding for school property funding, such as millions for new classrooms, wouldn't stretch far. Couillault pointed out any spending was spread among 2700 schools.
"The Goverment will say they've invested this much [into property] - but they have to, there's more kids in the sector."
Couillault said the only really big ticket item for education was the $300m as part of the transition from the decile system to a new equity index.
The absence of any extra funding for learning support coordinators was also "a big hole" which had been raised with the Minister.
James Cook High School principal Grant McMillan agreed.
"The air is going out of the tyres faster than it's being pumped back in."
NZ Principals' Federation president Cherie Taylor-Patel said the 2.75 per cent was welcome but did not come close to meeting the rate of inflation.
Mental health in schools will also get a boost through $90m for the Mana Ake programme, but NZPF would have liked to see more mental health support for Auckland where half of all students go to school.
'Progress' on early childhood pay
The Budget includes $266 million over four years to help qualified early learning teachers reach pay parity with kindergarten teachers, and an unspecified amount for kōhanga reo to continue improving pay for kaimahi.
It will also include a new minimum rate of pay for early childhood centre managers.
NZEI Te Riu Roa union president Liam Rutherford said that would help retain experienced teachers and bring new people to the sector.
"Early childhood teachers now have a transparent, consistent pay scale based on union collective agreements like their counterparts in primary and kindergarten education," he says.
But experienced teacher and managers were still on lower rates than their counterparts in kindy and primary and NZEI would keep pushing for full pay parity.
The Office of Early Childhood Education (OECE) lobby group said the cost adjustment to funding rates would be welcome news for overstretched ECEs that were struggling with higher costs.
But it wouldn't be enough for many centres which would have to increase parent fees or cut back on staffing and other spending.
OECE chief adviser Dr Sarah Alexander said the Government needed to provide pay parity for all ECE teachers in all services as it had promised.
"It is not even requiring services to pay all their qualified teaching staff at least on the bottom five steps of the base salary scale, so many eligible teachers are missing out."
Dumping deciles: 'I wish they'd hurry up'
The Government's moving ahead with plans to dump the school decile system, replacing it with an equity index at a cost of $300 million from the start of next year.
That index is intended to distribute funding according to the needs of each child, rather than the neighbourhood they come from.
Hipkins announced there would be $75 million per year in extra equity funding for schools with higher socio-economic needs.
That will be on top of the money currently shared out through the decile system, which was $150 million in 2019. Some funding has also been included to start making similar changes for the early childcare sector.
Pat Newman, head of the Tai Tokerau Principals' Association, said the index would be "a hell of a lot fairer".
The principal of Hora Hora School in Whangārei said the whole Northland school community would be better off under the index, even though most are already lower decile.
"I wish they'd hurry up - the faster they bring in the equity funding, the better."
The old system was based on what proportion of a school's students came from socioeconomically deprived neighbourhoods.
It's a relatively blunt tool compared to the equity index, which will calculate funding based on the level of disadvantage for each child. It will take account of dozens of factors that are known to affect educational outcomes, from family income to the mother's age at birth and whether the father has been to jail.
NZPF's Taylor-Patel was also pleased with the move away from deciles.
"The injection of an extra $75 million will ensure that no schools will experience a decrease in funding for 2023, and principals will welcome that."
Learning support co-ordinators missing from Budget
Principals speaking to Hipkins this afternoon queried why there were no more
The first tranche of 600 LSCs, who help children with learning needs, had not been equitably distributed and the job was "not even half done".
"It would be good to see the LSC rollout completed," he said. "There are so many schools that don't have any."
Disability education advocate Frian Wadia was also disappointed no more LSCs were funded, and said it was "absolutely ridiculous" that there was no funding for disputes resolution panels which had been a key suggestion of the Tomorrows' Schools review.
The panels were intended to give students and their families somewhere to appeal against a board of trustees' decision - a common issue for many disabled students who are more likely to be stood down or suspended.
Mum 'pretty stoked' deciles being scrapped
Sapphire Niuloa was "pretty stoked" to get one thing from her education wishlist - dumping the decile system.
Her daughter Selepa Opetaia Niuloa, 7, attends Rānui School just down the road from their house in west Auckland. It's decile 2, which means it has a lot of students who come from a lower socioeconomic neighbourhood.
It has nothing to do with the quality of the school or its teachers - Niuloa says it's a great school that works hard for its students.
But she's seen first hand how locals will drive up to an hour to take their kids to a more prestigious school, which she thinks is to do with the school's decile label.
Niuloa hoped getting rid of such labels would help remove unfair stigma from schools like Rānui.
She also welcomed extra mental health funding for schools, and funding for them to re-engage students, which were announced ahead of the Budget.