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.”
Education Minister Chris Hipkins is struggling to keep up with his ever-changing story about so-called funding ‘holes’ in the Christchurch schools rebuild programme, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Last week, Mr Hipkins told The Press newspaper that he only found out in October last year that the Christchurch schools rebuild programme was funded through tranches and that there was further funding required in the programme.
“This week, he is denying he ever said it despite the story reporting his assertions that there was a $215 million ‘hole’ in the programme.
“What’s clear is that Labour’s story is rapidly changing and that it failed to account for some business-as-usual spending and existing programmes like the Christchurch schools rebuild.
“Mr Hipkins has realised it is not credible to claim he didn’t know that the Christchurch schools rebuild programme was being appropriated in tranches over successive years – there were Cabinet papers, business papers, press releases, and news stories explaining this approach.
“He now appears to be backing down, admitting that he knew about the tranche funding for the rebuild – even stating today in Parliament that he believes Labour accounted for this in its pre-election costings.
“But the fact is, there was no line item for the rest of the Christchurch schools rebuild programme in Labour’s Fiscal Plan.
“Labour has previously manufactured ‘holes’ by labelling spending for business-as-usual or existing programmes as such, so now we have this farcical situation where Labour’s own policies, that it claims to have costed, are ‘holes’.
“Mr Hipkins has a bit of digging to do to get himself out of this one.”
The cracks in the Coalition Government are deepening by the day, with the Prime Minister at odds with not only the Greens, but members of her own caucus who have since been threatened by the Deputy Prime Minister if they don’t back down on compulsory Te Reo.
“Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta has made it clear she wants to see the Green Party’s policy to make Te Reo compulsory taken up,” National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“That puts her at odds with the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, but she’s not the only one.
“Associate Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson has said he doesn’t see any difference between compulsory and universally available, and he considers the Government’s policy to mean Te Reo is compulsory.
“And now we have Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters threatening that Nanaia and Willie should be out of government if they don’t back down.
“National’s policy is for Te Reo to be universally available. We announced at the last election that we would invest $160 million over four years to ensure all children have the opportunity to learn a second language at primary school, if they choose to. That policy is currently being progressed as a Members’ Bill.
“My Members’ Bill currently in the ballot ensures that all children in years 1-8 have universal access to learn a second language, including Te Reo. It makes it clear that Te Reo is to be a national priority language and that resources must be available to any school that wants teach it and any child that wants to learn it.
“The number of students learning Te Reo increased around 30,000 between 2010 and 2016. However, there is more to do and one of the key issues we need to address is access to Te Reo teachers and resourcing.
“I am happy to work with the Government to support my Members’ Bill to Select Committee so that the public can have their say on the importance of increasing the number of young people learning Te Reo and other languages.”
The withdrawal of the Education (Protecting Teacher Title) Amendment Bill is a big win for hardworking swimming teachers, music teachers, ballet teachers and other teachers affected by the bill, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“It’s clear that National’s campaign against this flawed bill has succeeded. The lack of work on the bill to determine the number of people affected, the costings, and the general impact that the bill would have had meant that it was destined to fail.
“The bill’s misguided attempt to raise the status of the teaching profession by stopping those who have not gained recognised teaching qualifications from calling themselves ‘teachers’ was not even supported by the teaching profession.
“It’s extraordinary that it got to Select Committee with the support of Labour and the Greens despite opposition from the Government’s own Attorney-General David Parker.
“It’s good that Jenny Marcroft has recognised the overwhelming opposition to the bill she inherited from Tracey Martin and made the right call to drop it. Her heart was in the right place but the bill was not well thought-through.
“People who teach swimming, music, dance or art make a significant contribution in our communities and should have every right to call themselves teachers. Fining them for using that title would have done nothing to raise the status of qualified school teachers.
“There are far better ways to raise the status of teachers. We need to make sure we have high quality graduates choosing teaching as a career and investing in professional learning and development opportunities.
“This bill was severely flawed from the start and I hope this the last we’ll see of it.”
Labour is struggling to deliver on their wild campaign promises because they ignored the basic capital pressures of business-as-usual government, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The chickens have come home to roost. Despite billions of additional funding from new revenue and borrowed money, Labour is admitting they failed to budget for business-as-usual spending and are now crying poverty,” Ms Kaye says.
“Chris Hipkins says he has identified a ‘surprise’ $1.1 billion of school property projects that need funding. This is embarrassing for the Minister, because the projects are just part of business-as-usual that the Government needs to fund each and every Budget.
“Over the last three Budgets, for example, National set aside an extra $1.7 billion for school property – taking the total funding available for school infrastructure over the next four years to $4.8 billion.
“It is clear the Government is trying to cover up its negligence with a two-step spin programme. Step one: pretend existing programmes like the Canterbury schools rebuild and population growth funding are holes in the Budget that they never knew about. Step two: relabel initiatives National funded as their own.
“The reality is that investing in school property to get ahead of growth was a priority for National, and is part of the business-as-usual spend of any government.
“We were on track to deliver the 17,000 extra student places needed in Auckland by 2019, and were finalising the Auckland Education Growth Plan to strategically manage the increasing pressure on Auckland’s schooling network.
“We knew that growth was continuing and would need further funding each year.
“The funding for the Canterbury schools rebuild was always through a tranche process – that has always been clear publicly. It is laughable that Chris Hipkins failed to understand this.
“If it is really a surprise to Mr Hipkins that there is a need for continued investment in these areas, he clearly wasn’t across his portfolio. It is more likely that he is trying to find any excuse at all to cover up his failure to deliver on his extravagant promise to modernise every one of New Zealand’s 30,000 schools.
“These areas need investment every Budget and to try and dress that up as something new and unforeseen is spin at its worst,” Ms Kaye says.