Education funding cuts laid bare

Embargoed against delivery until 2pm Sunday 25th September

Government funding has failed to keep pace with the real cost of education, leading to cuts in essential resourcing for children's learning, NZEI Te Riu Roa President Louise Green told 400 educators in Rotorua today.

She labelled Government funding as "well below standard" in a report card (see below) issued to mark NZEI's annual conference which opened this afternoon. She warned that the situation would be exacerbated if the Government moved to bulk funding of schools, as has been proposed by Education Minister Hekia Parata.

OECD statistics released this month show Government funding for primary schooling is more than NZ $1500 per child below the OECD average per child amount.

Meanwhile, for  more than five years, early childhood education has suffered the "double whammy" of a freeze in per child funding and a cut to quality teacher funding, Louise Green said.

“Kiwi kids deserve the best education in the world, and as a country we can afford to provide it. But Government funding cuts are stretching our early childhood providers and primary schools to breaking point,” she said.

“The squeeze on early childhood funding is forcing some services to reduce the number of qualified teachers and increase group sizes, which is bad news for quality learning at a young age.

“Meanwhile, the latest OECD statistics show New Zealand is in the bottom half of developed countries for investment in primary school education, spending just USD $7354 per child compared to an OECD average of USD $8477.

“It is an embarrassment for a wealthy country like ours that primary schools receive so little money compared to other countries. 

“The underfunding of primary schools will be made worse by the Government’s decision to freeze schools' operations and support staff funding for 2017. We estimate that the freeze will actually equate to a 2.3% cut in real terms when adjusted by the education component of the labour cost index.

“The Government has also under-funded the Special Education Grant that supports students with disabilities. Between 2009 and 2016, the Special Education Grant fell by 1.8% when labour cost increases are taken into account, effectively cutting the per-student value of the grant.

“It’s just wrong that students with the highest level of education need are facing the brunt of Government funding cuts.

“The early child hood funding freeze and the low level of investment in primary schooling are symptomatic of a Government that wants a cut-price education system.

“As educators we know that better funding will lead to better learning and will provide the staffing, resources and time needed to ensure every child has the support they need to succeed.

“We are calling on the Government to lift the funding freeze on the school operations grant and to restore quality funding for early childhood education. We want to see an increased funding to primary schools to move us into the top half of the OECD."

For further information please contact:
NZEI Campaigns Director Stephanie Mills 027 4486226

NZEI Funding Cuts Report Card

1. Government expenditure on primary education

The latest OECD Education at a Glance report released on September 16 shows that New Zealand falls below the OECD average, spending just USD $7354 per child (NZ $10,151) compared to an average of USD $8477  (NZ $11,701) in other developed countries. 

See: OECD Education at a Glance (Table B1.1 page 5)

2. School operational grant funding

In its May 2016 Budget, the National Government froze the school operations grant that pays for essential school running costs such as power bills and support staff wages.

The operations grant is around 30% of school funding and has not previously been frozen, even though previous increases have not always kept pace with inflation.

Independent economic researchers Infometrics say the freeze is actually equivalent to a 2.3% cut to the real value of per student funding when adjusted by the education component of the Labour Cost Index.

To reverse the cut would require an investment of between $40m and $65m in total operations grant funding next year.

See:  Infometrics Assessment of School Funding

3. Special Education Grant

The Special Education Grant (SEG) enables schools to provide an inclusive education for students with special needs. The grant is mainly used to employ teacher aides to provide 1:1 support for students’ additional learning needs.

Between 2009 and 2016, the SEG fell by 1.8% when labour cost increases are taken into account, decreasing the per-student value of the grant in real terms. 

In the same period the identification of students with special education needs has increased dramatically while there has been a state sector cap - a freeze - on Ministry specialist staffing (professionals such as psychologists, early intervention and behaviour specialists and speech language therapists).

4. Early Childhood Education

Funding for our youngest learners in Early Childhood Education (ECE) has been frozen since 2010.

Kindergarten services report the rate of funding per child per hour remains less that it was in July 2008 despite having to meet significant cost increases over that time.

The Government cut funding in 2009 for services employing more than 80% qualified teachers.  These factors have led some services to reduce the ratio and number of qualified teachers, leading to an increase in group sizes.