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Government Needs To Get Real About The Costs Of Educating A Child In The 21st Century

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

17 JUNE 2008 - The education sector union NZEI Te Riu Roa is calling on the government to take a realistic look at the cost of delivering quality education in the 21st century.

It sympathises with the position of a group of Auckland secondary school principals who are threatening to boycott discussions on the new Schools Plus initiative, due to a lack of clearly identified funding.

NZEI, which represents over 41,000 education staff in primary and intermediate schools, says the 5% increase to the School Operations Grant, announced in last month's Budget, was very disappointing. It had called for a meaningful increase of at least 10%, to meet school running costs and the increasing demands of providing quality public education.

NZEI acknowledges that the government has put extra money into schools, but says it has also ratcheted up expectations in the face of serial underfunding over time.

It is important to note the wide range of extra curriculum initiatives that require time, money and resourcing to underpin the core work of schools, which is teaching and learning.

NZEI President Frances Nelson says "schools can't keep asking parents for extra money through the payment of donations. There is a sense that we have reached the threshold and parents are resistant to the request for "donations". It's getting more difficult to fundraise but without this essential funding stream, schools just can't meet the expectations of both the government and their community."

"It is now critical that we determine what should be centrally funded and what shouldn't. One solution would be to fund teacher aides and other school support staff centrally rather than through the operations grant. Schools are asking the questions and we stress that solutions need to be found," she says.

Ms Nelson says it's disappointing to hear the Minister claim that schools and principals have their facts wrong and are being disingenuous about their funding. "Principals strongly resent the inference that in advocating for fair and equitable funding that matches expectation on schools, they are not doing their job and that self-interest is at the core of the argument."

"The fact is that funding is not enough to meet the demands of providing education in the 21st century. Principals and their boards want to be part of the solution. Individually and collectively, they are prepared to work with government in the best interests of students."

"It's time for a robust discussion around this issue, solutions need to be found and the government, the sector and the community need to move forward together with a will to solve the funding issues we are faced with," says Ms Nelson.

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