National’s flip-flop on class sizes shows not only what a poorly-thought through policy it was but that this government still values its skin above doing what it thinks it right. Faced with a popular revolt and the possibility of marches to eclipse even the anti-mining demonstration, and with its polling slip-sliding away, National had no choice.
But hang about – how come the Nats dropped the extra money for ‘improving teacher quality’ at the time same? If that was a top priority worth cutting a thousand teachers for, isn’t there something else in the budget that could go instead?
Parata’s tone almost seems churlish in the press release as she says that “The Government will no longer be able to make that investment at this time” – ‘if you won’t accept larger classes, you can’t have improved teacher quality, so there’. Of course, there’s no such dichotomy. If the Government thinks that teacher quality needs improving, it should find the money from elsewhere…. Unless (say it quietly) this was really always about weakening the teachers’ union by creating an oversupply of teachers,
And what about the remaining $114m shortfall in Vote Education? Parata says “The remainder of the savings will be achieved through a combination of a pre-commitment against Budget 2013, and other savings we will work to find within Vote Education.”
You see, the Nats have got rid of the savings they were going to make from increasing class sizes. Basic maths means tells you that if you remove a negative function from an equation, the total needs to increase. But the Nats are clear they won’t increase Vote Education, the pot of money available for education, by a single dollar.
That’ll just mean cuts somewhere else. In education, that can only mean a few things: fewer teachers, fewer resources, or less professional development. There’s no free lunch and, despite the back-down on class sizes, the Nats still aren’t paying up.
Meanwhile, the $2 billion tax cuts for the rich, the $1 billion greenhouse polluter subsidies, the $12 billion motorways to nowhere, and the $400 million water subsidies for farmers remain untouched.
PS. Now, Hekia Parata is claiming that what reports she receives on education is a matter for the ministry. Um, what? Since when was what reports the minister reads the responsibility of anyone but the minister? The fact that government patsy oral questions regularly go “What reports has the minister seen on X?” shows that it’s a matter of ministerial responsibility. Looks like Parata fails again.