The Government must better manage negotiations and reach a pay agreement with primary teachers and principals to prevent disruption to kids’ learning, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The announcement today that primary school teachers and principals have voted overwhelmingly to strike in August after rejecting the Government’s pay offer is yet another example of Labour causing an escalation in industrial action since it came into office by promising more than it can deliver.
“If it goes ahead, it will be the first primary teachers’ strike since 1994. It will mean massive disruption to kids’ learning and to parents who may have to take time off work to ensure their kids are looked after while their teachers are on strike.
“Labour built up high expectations around pay rises and working conditions for teachers during the election campaign. Now Labour is in Government, it can’t follow through.
“National increased teacher salaries by around 17 per cent over our time in Government, all while dealing with the Global Financial Crisis and the Canterbury earthquakes.
“Labour has no excuse for not being able to follow through on its promise to significantly increase teacher salaries, given the billions of dollars more that it has to work with.
“This is simply a case of Labour prioritising tertiary students over primary school teachers and students. It can’t say there’s no money left when it chose to spend $2.8 billion on a fees-free policy that saw next to no increase in university participation.
“We know that teachers work very hard to educate our young people and that industrial action is a last resort, which reflects how badly the Government has managed expectations.
“It’s up to the Government to urgently get back round the table and negotiate with teachers and principals to avoid strike action so that children are able to continue learning.”
MP for Auckland Central Nikki Kaye says Waiheke residents will soon be paying extortionate petrol prices as additional fuel taxes drive up the existing high prices on the island.
“National opposes the Government’s regional fuel tax legislation. I drafted an amendment to the legislation to permanently exempt Waiheke and Great Barrier from the tax, because the cost of fuel on the islands is already high and residents will see no local benefit from the tax.
“The Government has voted down my amendment. This means people on Waiheke Island, who already pay $2.60 per litre at the pump, will soon be paying up to 23 cents per litre more.
“The Minister of Transport said Waiheke residents should pay the tax because the fuel tax will fund the upcoming expansion of the Downtown Ferry Terminal. The reality is that the upgrade is not new – it has been discussed in Auckland Transport’s ferry development plans since 2014. The terminal services a range of areas in Auckland, and Waiheke commuters already pay a wharf tax on every ferry trip.
“My amendment also proposed excluding Great Barrier Island from the tax. The Minister has said that due to Auckland Council proposing this exclusion he will support it. I hope the Minister will follow through and use his powers outlined in the legislation to exempt Great Barrier, where residents are already paying $3.30 per litre for petrol.
“Waiheke and potentially Great Barrier will get hit three times with the regional fuel tax, national fuel tax increase, and the additional costs of living on an island. This isn’t fair, and to top it all off they are not going to reap the benefits of new transport projects.
“The $150 million per year that the regional fuel tax raises is equivalent to a 4% saving by Auckland Council. The council has done little to justify the tax by demonstrating it has run a ruler over its expenditure to attempt to find savings in areas such as its use of external consultants.
“The fuel tax will drive up the cost of living for all Aucklanders, and it will hit those who are struggling the hardest.
“The Government needs to start thinking about how this regressive tax is impacting communities – particularly those on Waiheke and Great Barrier who are already facing the high costs of living on an isolated island.”
National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says the extraordinary admission by Kelvin Davis that he will not answer questions regarding the impact of his Government’s policies on young Māori raises more serious questions about the Government’s handling of partnership schools.
“There are close to 800 young Māori in partnership schools that have been terminated by the Government with no certainty about their future and yet the Associate Education Minister refuses to address the impact this will have on them.
“Kelvin Davis promised to fight for these students by offering to resign if partnership schools close but has now confirmed today that he has declared a conflict of interest and will not take any questions or have any responsibility for the young Māori in these schools.
“The timing of his admission that he has now declared a potential conflict is of public interest given that papers have already been to Cabinet over the last six months on partnership schools. The timing also matters given he had discussions with schools in his electorate in his role while potentially conflicted.
“Questions also still remain as to whether other ministers have declared conflicts regarding these schools.
“I lodged a complaint several months ago with the Office of the Auditor-General and raised issues of potential conflicts and perceived preferential treatment, however, the Deputy Controller and Auditor-General did not speak to Kelvin Davis about this.
“The Deputy Controller did note that the Minister of Education was keeping Cabinet informed and ‘might need to seek Cabinet approval if any policy changes or new funding are necessary.’ He also said that ‘depending on the nature of these decisions or input, any potential conflicts of interest will need to be identified and managed.’
“Despite questions to the Prime Minister to try and determine conflicts in the past this information has not been in the public domain.
“The Minister and other Ministers need to release both information on the exact nature of any declared conflict of interests and the date(s) they were declared to ensure no breaches of the Cabinet Manual.
“This latest development follows a long line of process issues and bad treatment of partnership schools.”
The Minister of Education’s handling of the process around partnership schools has been incompetent, uncaring and reckless, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“A number of schools have now received a ministerial termination letter while they are still in the dark about whether or not they will be able to reopen as a different school – with final decision from the Minister not due till the end of July.
“This is the latest development in a shambolic process which has also included the Minister meeting with one school but refusing to meet with others and prematurely announcing that schools will not open before decisions have been formally made.
“He has also circumvented the Select Committee process by ruling out changes to allow the schools to maintain aspects of the partnership school model before the committee deliberated on the matter.
“This means that people are submitting on changes they would like to occur to the special character model not realising the Minister has already ruled them out.
“He also admitted in Select Committee last week that it’s his view that there shouldn’t be hearings at partnerships schools to provide opportunities for families to submit.
“It seems the Minister, along with Labour and Green members, were determined to go the extra mile to silence the voices of vulnerable children and their families.
“He has even tried to celebrate that all the partnership schools applied to become either designated character schools or state integrated schools. The reality is they had no choice, given the legislation in Parliament to axe the partnership school model.
“There are also reports that a Waitangi Tribunal claim is being considered. If this does occur I will not be surprised, given the positive difference these schools have made for so many young Māori.
“This Minister has consistently shown a lack of care and respect for these students and these schools. They deserve better.”
At a Select Committee hearing today Chris Hipkins confirmed that there are a number of holes in Labour’s education budget, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The Education Minister confirmed today that only the small Ministry support staff pay equity claim is expected to be met within current baselines. This leaves a number of other collective bargaining processes underway without any clear funding available.
“Primary and secondary teachers are currently in pay negotiations for increases of up to 16 per cent, which could cost more than $700 million. We also know there are a range of pay equity claims in the pipeline covering Ministry support staff, teacher aides and ECE teachers and staff.
“There is no funding set aside for the two larger claims which is a huge issue. As we have seen with the TerraNova pay equity deal, the cost of these settlements can be significant, particularly given the teacher aides claim covers more than 22,000 staff.
“We also know that at the rate Auckland is growing, there should have been a much larger allocation of capital funding for Auckland growth.
“The previous Government were taking the Auckland Education Growth Plan through Cabinet, which would have seen funding for Auckland growth dramatically increase. However, the new Government appear to have shelved this plan, as this dramatic increase was nowhere to be seen in the Budget.
“The Minister has also confirmed today Labour’s campaign promise to modernise all school buildings by 2030 has never been properly costed and there is no cost estimate available for it. This is likely to cost billions of dollars.
“It is bizarre that Labour have been in office for more than six months but still haven’t managed to produce a costing for one of their key education commitments. However, this could show that the Minister is looking to backtrack on this policy, given he is now referring to it as a ‘vision statement’ rather than a promise.
“Chris Hipkins also flat out promised to end school donations in the Government’s first Budget, and today he admitted he put up a budget bid which failed to get through.
“Labour have failed to deliver on almost all of their education promises in Budget 2018.
“With the looming large chunks of cash needed for potential pay equity claims and collective bargaining, it is difficult to see how Labour can keep claiming they will deliver their list of manifesto promises.”
The Government has taken an axe to the education sector and scrapped a large number of valuable initiatives in Budget 2018, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“First Labour scrapped partnership schools with no regard for where it leaves their students, who have previously struggled in mainstream education.
“This ideological decision may cost taxpayers up to $15 million in compensation payments, plus additional costs as the schools transition to special character or integrated schools.
“Then Labour scrapped the Aspire Scholarships, which changed the lives of many Māori and Pasifika students by giving them the opportunity to attend a private school.
“The Government says it wants to help lift achievement for disadvantaged students, but scrapping this scholarship and partnership schools demonstrates the exact opposite.
“And the axe hasn’t stopped there. As part of Budget 2018, $2 million was cut from the Prime Minister’s Scholarships for Asia, United World College Scholarships were cancelled, the $5.8 million careers education pilot was canned and funding was cut to the Kea Network which links international students and New Zealand-educated alumni around the world.
“The Government is happy to spend big money on diplomats abroad, but at the same time is cutting opportunities for aspiring Kiwi leaders with an interest in international relations.
“Communities of Learning have also taken a big hit. $47 million was slashed from the Investing in Educational Success programme, which takes away career opportunities and $10,000-$20,000 salary boosts from 2350-4700 teachers and principals.
“The Correspondence School is getting a $4 million cut, while ERO, which has an important role in holding schools to account, received a drop in funding of over 10 per cent.
“The Government had plenty of cash to spend, so there is no excuse for cutting so many beneficial initiatives on top of breaking almost all of its election promises.
“Chris Hipkins promised on the morning he was sworn in as Minister to end school donations in his first Budget. In February this year, he refused to release information on this policy on the grounds that it was ‘Budget sensitive’. But come Budget Day, this promise was nowhere to be seen.
“It’s becoming very difficult to trust the word of this Minister when he continues to say one thing and do another.
“This is about priorities, and sadly this Government doesn’t consider investing in the futures of Kiwi kids to be more important than spending money on diplomats.”
Parents and teachers will be feeling let down by the Government after realising education is one of the big losers in Budget 2018, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“After making big promises and creating high expectations, parents and teachers were expecting significantly more for education than just the business-as-usual funding for growth and increases in schools’ operational funding.
“The increase in schools’ operational funding is less than the average increase under the National Government, 1.6 per cent compared to National’s average of around 1.9 per cent.
“Jacinda Ardern and Chris Hipkins talked a lot about this being a ‘rebuild’ Budget for areas like education, yet the percentage of funding going into compulsory education drops from 13.2 per cent this year to 12.8 per cent next year as a result of this Budget.
“For all Mr Hipkins’ talk about so-called ‘holes’ in the school property budget, he has provided an almost identical amount for school infrastructure to last year and that’s to cover the usual growth in student numbers.
“Noticeably absent is funding to keep pace with accelerated growth in Auckland which would have required capital spending to double to between $300 million and $350 million a year, or any funding for Labour’s promise to modernise all school buildings by 2030.
“Mr Hipkins’ attempt to create a story about ‘holes’ seems more bizarre now – after claiming there was a $215 million hole in the Christchurch Schools Rebuild Programme and promising to speed the programme up, he has only provided $62 million for the final tranche.
“In fact, Labour has failed to deliver on almost all its promises in education. There will be no iPads for every child, no incentives to scrap donations, no extra funding for 100 per cent qualified teachers at early learning centres – and that’s just a handful of the litany of broken or watered-down promises.
“Another glaring example of Labour underdelivering is teacher supply, after only spending about two-thirds of what it promised to spend on addressing the issue.
“The one positive is the extra funding for learning support which will be welcomed by the families and schools that need it, though they might wonder what happened to Labour’s promise of uncapping the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme.
“What makes the small increase in funding and the many broken promises so surprising is that not only did Labour inherit a strong economy, it is also borrowing more and taxing more.
“At a time when the Government is awash with cash, Mr Hipkins couldn’t even get the basics right in planning for growth or getting serious about teacher supply. His Government overpromised and has underdelivered, which will go down as the hallmark of Budget 2018.”
Parents and teachers will be expecting a lot from the Budget following Labour’s many big promises, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“After spending the last few years criticising everything the National Government achieved in education while talking up its ability to do more, Labour has created very high expectations.
“Among its many big promises, Labour committed to ensuring every school in New Zealand has modern learning environments by 2030 which could cost anywhere between $10 billion and $15 billion.
“Along with the funding needed for the Canterbury schools rebuild programme that Labour did not include a line item for in its fiscal plan, there will be an expectation that there will be a significant injection of funds going into school infrastructure.
“On top of that, Labour also promised to provide $150 incentive payments to try to end school donations, provide free iPads or devices for every child in every school, boost early childhood education funding by $193 million, put in place Te Reo lessons for all early childhood and primary school teachers, remove caps on the number of children accessing the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Scheme, and introduce a School Leavers’ Toolkit – just to name a few.
“It also built up expectations around big pay increases for teachers and support staff. With pay talks underway and teachers seeking a 16 per cent pay rise, Labour will need to have plenty of money tucked away to cover a significant increase. Not to mention pay equity settlements.
“And there will be plenty of business-as-usual spending, for things like school growth and existing programmes, which Labour will attempt to present as shiny and new.
“National increased education funding every year we were in office, all while dealing with the GFC and major earthquakes. Labour inherited a strong economy and will be taxing people more and borrowing more.
“In fact, before new taxes this Government is already predicted to get an extra $20 billion in tax revenue by 2022 as the economy grows.
“That means that the Government has choices. It will have some serious explaining to do if it fails to meet its lofty promises or presents watered down versions of its commitments.”
Education Minister Chris Hipkins has engaged in a terrible process over partnership schools, ruling out changes to allow the schools to maintain aspects of the partnership school model that enable the success of their students before the Select Committee has deliberated on the matter, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“A letter released by a partnership school reveals that Mr Hipkins several weeks ago dismissed any possibility of changes to improve provisions for partnership schools as he forces them to become designated character or state integrated schools, including requested changes around governance, funding, and staff employment agreements.
“And this is all while the Select Committee is mid-way through hearing submissions on the Government’s policy to scrap the partnership school model. What’s the point of the Select Committee hearing submissions if the submissions are just going to be ignored?
“It is also clear that he is signing off some partnership schools under new models ahead of the Select Committee deliberations, with his announcement today that all schools have received termination notices, which makes a mockery of the Select Committee process.
“He has confirmed that three schools’ contracts have ended. Mr Hipkins needs to confirm all funding and compensation paid so far, including if any legal action is expected.
“It’s highly unusual for a Minister to circumvent the Select Committee process, but not surprising given Mr Hipkins’ arrogant and close-minded approach to the matter so far.
“Last week he tried to celebrate that schools had applied to become either designated character schools or state integrated schools. Several schools pointed out that this was done under duress, given the legislation in Parliament to axe the partnership school model.
“The partnership school that released the letter has confirmed that it has asked that the Select Committee considers public hearings to be held at the school. Many of the families can’t afford flights to Wellington, and even getting across Auckland may be difficult for them.
“National will be supporting the push by the school and their students and families to have their voices heard. We hope Labour, NZ First and the Greens listen and ensure the school has the opportunity to directly speak to the committee.”
The Government’s $21.5 million investment in early intervention is a positive step for children and families who need additional learning support, but there is a need to focus on reforming the system, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye and Early Childhood Education Spokesperson Nicola Willis say.
“Labour inherited a strong economy and is awash with cash, so it’s good that it is building on National’s solid investment in education and directing more money into learning support for young children – even if it’s borrowing more and taxing people more to do so,” Ms Kaye says.
“We must continue to invest in the early years which has been a large part of our of social investment approach. That’s why last year National invested additional funding for the Incredible Years programme which assists children with autism aged two to five.
“We also provided more than $34 million in specialist behaviour services for an extra 1,000 children, and $6 million to support young children with difficulties talking and listening.
“Despite the GFC and Canterbury earthquakes, National increased the education budget from $8 billion to $11 billion, including record amounts into learning support – around $658 million a year by the time we left Government, a 30 per cent increase since 2008.
“But we recognised that the learning support system wasn’t working well enough for the children, parents and teachers who needed it. We knew we had to do more than simply pour extra money in – we needed to reform the system itself.
“That’s why we kicked off an update of learning support which included testing a new model that aims to make accessing learning support much simpler and quicker for all involved.”
Ms Willis says the Government must continue this work to ensure that young children with complex needs get support as early as possible and for as long as they need it.
“Parents and teachers will welcome this boost to learning support. The Government must now ensure all ECE services make the most of these resources for children in need.
“There is also a need to invest in the learning support workforce so that young children who may have additional learning needs, like dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism, have the right support they need from specialists, teachers and teacher aides, now and into the future.”
“The Government must also build on our Budget 2016 investment of $16.5 million for the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme, which significantly increased the number of children getting access, as well as the investments we made to lift the number of teacher aide hours by 550,000,” Ms Kaye says.
“But most importantly, we need to get the system right so that we can give children the best opportunities to help improve their lives – that should be the focus.”