10 Aug 2016

Education Minister defends school funding consultation

7:20 am on 10 August 2016

The Education Minister is defending her consultation process for the government's plan for the school funding system, despite two unions joining forces to fight it.

09082016. Photo Rebekah Parsons-King. Caucas run. Hekia Parata.

Education Minister Hekia Parata says the plan is not bulk funding. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

In an unprecedented step, the Educational Institute and the Post Primary Teachers Association have announced they will hold joint meetings to oppose the global funding proposal, which would let schools exchange teacher positions for money they could spend on other things.

The two unions have more than 60,000 members between them.

Labour's education spokesperson Chris Hipkins said the global funding plan was definitely bulk funding, no matter what the government called it.

The joint meetings sent a very strong signal that the idea would not fly, he said.

"The government tried to increase class sizes three to four years ago and the entire education community, including parents, teachers, principals, board of trustees, all rose up against it. I think we're going to see the same kind of response to bulk funding," Mr Hipkins said.

But Education Minister Hekia Parata was adamant the plan was not bulk funding.

"I don't describe it as bulk funding because it isn't bulk funding, and it's only one of the seven proposals which are being discussed with a very big representative group," Ms Parata said.

That group consists of members from the Secondary Principals' Association, Principals' Federation, School Trustees, Kindergartens NZ and the Early Childhood Council.

And while Ms Parata was disappointed and surprised by the unions' joint protest, she scoffed at the suggestion it was the result of a flawed consulation process.

"We've got minuted meetings that have been going on since the 20th of May, and these representatives have been coming, some 18 or 20 of them."

Ms Parata had not ruled out going ahead with proposed plans, even if the unions continued to disagree.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said that was a big mistake.

"Sometimes when you're politically suicidal, as National looks at the moment, you'll make comments like that. But nobody's going to be impressed, particularily parents, who are concerned about the quality of education for their children," he said.

Green Party education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said it was clear the government had planned something no one wanted.

"We should not be doing this kind of imposed review of funding without the teachers on board," she said.

But ACT leader David Seymour said the teacher unions needed to realise it is about the children, not them.

"The thing you got to understand about the teachers union is there's a reason they don't call it the childrens union, because they're not there for the benefit of the kids, they're there for the benefit of the teachers. Well as a taxpayer, I pay taxes for the kids," Mr Seymour said.

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