Like Labour, National has a strongly held view of the importance of education. Unlike Labour National prefers that the system is tailored so that market forces operate in such a way that the children of its supporters benefit.
When it was first elected National obviously wanted to increase state support for private schools. In the 2009 budget briefing for Education it was suggested that an increase in funding of $17.5 million per year was appropriate. National made it $35 million while at the same time cutting funding for many worthwhile education programmes. It was clear from the start what National’s priorities were.
National MPs have always been upset at the prospect that poorer kids should have more spent on their education. The reason why this is the way schools are funded is obvious. Resources should follow need but National MPs do not see it that way. Their propaganda surrounding education is to suggest that failing educational standards are the fault of individual teachers even though it is abundantly clear that poverty is the primary cause. Many on the right would be sympathetic to the funding model being “flattened” so that support for the poorest schools was lessened to the benefit of the wealthiest.
It seems that Education Minister Hekia Parata is interested not only in flattening the funding for students across the different deciles but she wants to actually tilt things so that kids in wealthier schools tended to receive more funding per student than kids in poorer performing schools. Because this is the only interpretation that can be given to Parata’s latest announcement.
The Government is looking to fund schools according to the progress their pupils make, the Education Minister has revealed.
In an interview with the Herald on Sunday, Hekia Parata described the existing regime, in which schools with deprived neighbourhoods are paid more, as a “blunt instrument”.
The Ministry of Education is calculating new decile rankings for the nation’s 2500 schools from last year’s quake-delayed Census. Parata agreed that schools in some gentrified areas, especially in Auckland, could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars, while others would gain similar amounts.
Parata said the current funding system was unsatisfactory. “I think we need to be looking for something else.”
The Government is spending a record $9.7 billion on education, she said, but achievement levels were below the 85 to 100 per cent New Zealand needed. The most successful funding systems narrowed the gap between high-achieving rich kids and under-achieving poor kids by “strongly incentivising” pupil progress, she said.
The Government did not want to fund schools according to their raw results in National Standards or NCEA, but on how much teachers had helped students to learn over the course of six months or a year, “the consistency and the progress”.
“You’ve got to work out which school is delivering achievement, which schools are focusing on how they raise the quality of their teaching and leadership practice, and how is that translating into kids demonstrating that they’re learning more?”
Parata presents no information on what are the “most successful funding systems”. The PPTA states that overseas experience in the area is that funding is taken away from the poorest students.
There are four major concerns with Parata’s proposal. Firstly the rate of improvement in education standards tends to be lower in the poorer areas. There is just too much happening for schools to be able to provide education on top of dealing with a myriad of social problems. Secondly “white flight” will be exacerbated as pupils seek out the “better performing” schools that receive greater resources. Thirdly gaming of the system will become more pronounced as schools make decisions based on what will enhance their statistics and not on what is good for their pupils. And finally why should we tolerate a system which claims that by definition half of our schools are not up to scratch and should therefore be penalised financially because of their inability to comply with an arbitrary statistical norm?
This morning there appears to have been an effort to shut down the story. A spokesperson for Parata has said that the proposal is not currently on the table, that said it could be looked at in any future overall funding review but not before the the election.
A better reason to vote this Government out of office I cannot imagine.