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Bulk Funding by any other name…

Written By: - Date published: 8:34 am, July 5th, 2010 - 56 comments
Categories: education, same old national - Tags:

Still smells as crap.

Roger Douglas has a private members bill to introduce bulk funding. It (hopefully) shouldn’t get through – National are unlikely to support it and break yet another election promise. There are other impending private members bills that also aren’t going to make it because of National’s lack of support – like Carol Beaumont’s stop loan sharks bill, or David Shearer’s Oil Drilling Safety bill – but let me persist with bulk funding, because there’s another reason National won’t bother supporting it.

They don’t need to: they’ve already slipped Bulk Funding in the back door.

In the budget they made allowance for schools to drop their staffing 10% below the staffing schedule minima and cash up the difference. It’s not quite full bulk funding, which is why Roger isn’t happy, but few schools would’ve made a more than 10% funding diversion from staff to other resources anyway.

It also doesn’t entirely create the “schools as businesses” ethos (which aims to create consumers, not well-rounded members of society) and competition for good teachers that full bulk funding would. But it does still start the gap between rich schools and poor schools.

Which schools are going to need to drop staff? Poor schools. And what does fewer staff equal: higher teacher:pupil ratios. And what result does that have? Worse education.

Rich schools, able to depend on high school donations, won’t lower staff. They will do better. They will continue to attract the wealthy well-educated white middle class, and they will do better, leaving the poor to suffer National’s consequences.

Additionally we see National’s penny-pinching allowing schools to defer capital work and maintenance to balance their budgets. This will allow National to tighten those budgets, without the figures looking bad. But those capital costs will have to come sometime, and – a stitch in time saves nine – they’ll be more expensive for being deferred.

So as we march back towards bulk funding, we can at least praise Roger Douglas for one thing – he’s willing to admit what his policies are now, even if National won’t.

* for more on bulk funding round 1 and why it’s such a bad idea, watch A Civilised Society – an excellent documentary that NZ On Air have made free to view or download.

56 comments on “Bulk Funding by any other name… ”

  1. Bored 1

    Anything Roger Douglas should raise a red alert on the shit radar, bulk funding was a crappy idea to begin with, and as we know the old fart will keep up his excremental barrage until he drops. Lovely photo of brown bits,which one is Roger?

  2. r0b 2

    Ho – welcome aboard Bunji!

  3. Trevor Mallard 3

    The Nats appear to be playing things close to their chests with Douglas’ bills. Still no indication yet as to whether they will support student union abolition either.

    • query 3.1

      By abolition do you mean non-compulsory membership ?

      • burt 3.1.1

        Probably much the same thing really, without compulsion you won’t get many people joing the young Labour movement.

    • Douglas’s students’ association bill no more abolishes student unions than the Employment Contracts Act abolished trades unions. It will be bad for their financial situations, there will be a period of change, their services to members will decrease, but they’ll still exist.

      • The Voice of Reason 3.2.1

        Actually, the ECA did abolish unions, Graeme, at least in a legal sense. The ECA removed all reference to unions and referred instead to ‘bargaining agents’. That was entirely consistant with the rights’ fear of organised workers and was clearly intended to weaken and, if possible, destroy unions.

        • Graeme Edgeler

          Actually, the ECA did abolish unions … in a legal sense.

          And yet large swathes of the workforce (e.g. teachers, public servants) remained unionised. The ECA may have removed special privileges unions had under employment law, but they still existed, in a real sense and a legal sense (the Trade Unions Act 1908 is still in force, and was for the entire time the ECA was around).

          • The Voice of Reason

            Recognition is not a privilege, Graeme, it’s a right. The ILO are quite firm on that point, comrade.

            The Trade Union Act defines the kind of organisations unions are, but the employment legislation of the day is the important one, obviously. Clearly, the ECA was designed to lower wages and benefits. One of the primary ways it did that was by weakening workers’ organisations and what better way to start by not even recognising their existance at all?

            • Graeme Edgeler

              You’re reading too much into my use of the word privilege.

              I’m not saying that trades unions have or should have no role, or that people should be prohibited from using a union as a means to bargain. But I do find the union monopoly on collective bargaining odd, and indeed anti-worker. Having a prohibition on workers banding together, and collectively bargaining with an employer without a union just doesn’t make sense. Why would we prohibit collective action from non-union employees? Surely collective action should be a right of all employees, whether in a recognised union or not? Yet the pre-ECA law (and indeed, the law now) prohibits this – non-union workers are not allowed to collectively bargain with their employers.

              Now, union-based collective bargaining may be objectively better for workers, but surely non-union collective bargaining would still be better than requiring such employees to be on individual contracts? Yet we do exactly that. This was the type of thing to which I was referring as a privilege – not rights that unions have, but rights that unions have to the exclusion of others (and sometimes, to the detriment of workers).

              • The Voice of Reason

                But non union workers do collectively bargain now, Graeme. Either formally, under the umbrella of yellow (bosses) unions such as the Warehouse People’s Union, or informally, by bludging off the results of union bargaining. The latter is the most common form of non union collective bargaining in NZ by a considerable margin and should, of course, be illegal. But the wussy ERA has no power to enforce the exclusivity of union bargained agreements. More’s the shame.

                Fundamentally, your argument appears to me, to be based on the premise that unions should have no special status. All well and good, but that ignores a couple of centuries of history and current local and international law. Unions can and do have a special status worldwide. Because, without them, we’d be fucked.

                • My argument was mostly that there were still unions in the 90s.

                  And while I’m aware of that type of bargaining, it wasn’t what I was getting at. A scenario:

                  Half a dozen schoolkids take a shift a day at a local fish and chip shop. They want a raise. They talk among themselves about it, and decide to ask one’s Mum or Dad, who spent years working at a union, and has not long qualified as a lawyer, to approach the owner to get a collective agreement, including a raise and some set conditions around swapping shifts etc. They are breaking the law, which prohibits them bargaining for a collective agreement.

                  • The Voice of Reason

                    Jeez, Graeme, bad example.

                    The kids are already collectivised. By their boss. The IEA’s they are on are likely to be identical anyway (assuming that they have actually been given agreements as the law requires). Their increases are likely to be identical and given at the same time to all of them. They have no power, so getting a Dad, lawyer or not, to advocate on their behalf is going to make no difference.

                    The reality is that without unions there’d be no chance of even stopping the wage and conditions gap with Aussie getting worse, let alone narrowing it. Same with gender equality. No 4th weeks leave, either. No 5 in 05 campaigns, no asbestos enquiries, no smoko’s, bereavement leave, etc, etc.

                    The problem with your position is that it ignores the good unions do and pretends we operate on a level playing field where all the good stuff would just magically happen. Life’s not like that.

                    And to bring it back to the post, teachers prefer being unionised. They do not want a back stabbing, money grubbing work environment where only the suck ups and those with lawyer Dads get paid properly.

        • Clint Heine

          Yeah that free to join bit really upset the hardcore unionists. No wonder membership went down and productivity went up… coincidence no?

    • burt 3.3


      Without bringing anybodies family into this debate, do you think that all schools are the same and that parents should just send their kids to their local school because there is no disparity of outcome between schools?

      If you don’t think all schools and all teachers produce the same outcome then why is it wrong to give schools the opportunity to manage their resources according to their individual needs rather than just follow the one size fits all plan for ease of central administration.

      • Bunji 3.3.1

        Teachers and schools don’t all produce the same outcome – but that’s what we should aim for, the best outcome at every school. Not just equity of opportunity, equity to succeed with that opportunity. Local control over teacher salaries means rich schools (and rich parents) get the best teachers – there is no equity.

        I’m not adverse to some aspect of performance pay, but that should be centrally administered, not locally, if we want to let the poor have some chance to succeed in life as much as the rich.

      • George.com 3.3.2

        Burt. What has bulk funding of teachers salaries got to do with the question you have asked. How do you think BF will deliver this? BF is actually a fairly blunt and stupid way of paying teachers salaries.

    • Bunji 3.4

      I know it’s meant to be luck of the draw, but how come Roger seems to get so many private members bills drawn? It’s just odd.

    • Bored 3.5

      You might want to ask them to get rid of those other compulsory “unions” such as the Chartered Accountants, the various legal and medical associations etc. Then you will see them become rather selective about what constitutes a restrictive practices body and a union.

      • They already have.

        The Lawyers and Conveyancers Act abolished compulsory membership of district law societies, and organisations like the NZ Law Society and NZ Medical Association have defined and separate regulatory and representative functions. I am a member of the NZLS, but I am not required to be.

  4. burt 4

    OMG, imagine a school system where good teachers can earn more than piss poor teachers… Not as easy to administer as one size fits all – no wonder the socialists don’t like it – the key concern (their own administrative empires) will be much harder to manage if all teachers are not the same….

    • popeye 4.1

      Hey…news flash rocket scientist…teachers are not the same but guess what? It ain’t competition to earn the highest $$ that makes a difference in building quality teachers but cooperation and partnership between talented teachers and those that can learn from them. For gods sake put aside the ideology for one second and think a little more deeply about what goes on in schools and the complex factors that influence children’s learning. Don’t commodify education….some things are a little more complex than ‘sold to the highest bidder’.

      • burt 4.1.1

        Oh aren’t we the stroppy one… Don’t mention teachers leaving NZ for better pay… they don’t do that do they…

        Start of 2007 we had 1,000 too few teachers in NZ – that was Labour one size fits all policy for you. Large classes, high failure rates in certain sectors BUT a nice warm feeling of socialism and one size fits all.

        • popeye

          Thats right….teachers are in the game for the pay eh! Thats why they teach. Thats their raison e’tre. And guess what…we have one of the highest performing systems in the world (PISA data). But ok you want to argue that teachers need performance pay to improve outcomes then quantify your claim. You claim failure in the sector…what data supports your claim?

          • Clint Heine

            Plenty of Kiwi teachers over here in the UK. Earning good money too. Many tell me (I work in careers advice) they don’t miss the Kiwi Peso whatsoever and that’s even after the exchange rate drop we’re going through!

        • burt


          Thats right .teachers are in the game for the pay eh!

          Not at all, they went on strike for better pay a few years back but they were just fooling us, what they really wanted was a cuddly blanket and to be told they are all the same. I hear some were striking so that the less capable teachers could get paid more to make them feel better about themselves.

          But hey you are probably right about teachers in NZ not being in it for the pay, those teachers left the country and we just crammed more kids into each classroom and told ourselves that our one size fits all ideology works and that we were better off without teachers who want to be fairly rewarded for putting in extra effort.

          Keep it up, your union eye patch can be stretched to cover both eyes if you really want to see the world through one size fits all goggles. Status quo good…..

          • popeye

            No data huh! Just empty rhetoric. That’s the sort of clueless argument that teachers have had to put up with. The data tells a different story from the one you’re spinning.

            “Of the 57 countries participating in PISA 2006, no more than 5 countries achieved a result that was significantly better than New Zealand’s 15-year-olds in scientific literacy (2 countries), mathematical literacy (5 countries) and reading literacy (3 countries).

            I dare you to get down from your high market horse and congratulate the teaching profession.

          • burt

            The teaching profession do very well, However I think they are underpaid and under appreciated. I don’t think the way to deal with that is status quo.

            • popeye

              Unpaid yes and under appreciated yes. I agree that the status quo does need improving. The major problem is that the product (learning) is so complex that it is very difficult to have objective measures that definitively measures one teachers value added from the next. Test scores are only one approach but we know that these and other factors will be heavily influenced by a range of things outside of a teachers control. I think there are a couple of good pathways though….1) career pathways that designate the attributes (performance expectations across a whole range of professional domains) that apply to being an ‘expert’ teacher. Hattie has a research synthesis on these features. Expert teachers would be paid more. 2) Opportunities for more pay arising from expert teachers being engaged in overseeing the development of less expert teachers.

              I am not particularly interested in seeing one pay scale for all but I do want to avoid the competitive mantra in education because it is the sort of complex environment that can easily by bastardised by the application of simple market forces.

          • burt

            “Of the 57 countries participating in PISA 2006, no more than 5 countries achieved a result that was significantly better than New Zealand’s 15-year-olds in scientific literacy (2 countries), mathematical literacy (5 countries) and reading literacy (3 countries).

            Do you care to name the schools that did particularly well ?

            • popeye

              Easy….choose a school and go and review their student achievement data on the ERO website.

            • burt

              I’ve done that, I’m wondering if you would like to list the schools that did so well since you are accusing me of empty rhetoric. Now about these private schools… do all teachers get the same pay at private schools that produce such outstanding results?

              • popeye

                No, I won’t pick up your challenge…you seem to be the one with the concern here about quality schools despite admitting that teachers are doing well and providing no evidence to back up your claim that the sector has high failure rates. Balls in your court. Private schools..interesting to see many ranked low compared to public schools in the value added measure reported last year in Metro (taking away the obvious head start these schools get by having talented kids). But you know what….different pay rates in the private sector probably makes not one jot of difference on student achievement for the reasons already discussed. It is almost impossible to use student achievement data in any reliable measure of teacher performance….I could go into the reasons in-depth but that will have to wait until after work….cheers!!

              • burt

                OK, so when we compare ourselves on the international stage we lump private and public in as one homogenous “school” system and say it is doing very well. But if we try and look at the difference in outcome between private and public in NZ we spit the dummy and run away. Have a good day.

                • Bunji

                  burt sometimes people have to work, no need to get stroppy about it.

                  As someone who went to a successful private school, I would say teacher pay made little difference. We still had good teachers and rubbish teachers. What made a difference was having parents pushing success: providing tutors, ensuring their children work hard and creating a culture of competition amongst students.

                  What’s interesting is how many “successful” private school students drop out of uni when they’re no longer spoon-fed. Often public schools provide a better education for life, if not always exams.

                • burt


                  I didn’t say private was necessarily better for kids.

                  However popeye made a song and dance about how well our schools compare internationally. However time and time again our ERO ratings stack the private schools at the top of the list. Given the proportion of kids in private vs public the fact that over half the top performing schools are private (or exclusive state schools with restrictive real estate zone price barriers excluding all but above average income families) I think we are sticking our heads in our ideological asses by not having an open and honest debate about how our international standing is propped up by private and exclusive schools.

                  Sure not everyone can afford to live in Auckland Grammar or Wellington College zone. But is that a good reason to ignore how some sectors of society are being poorly served by state schools ?

                  If we can’t measure it we can’t manage it – now one size fits all might work for administrators – but it’s not working well for anyone else or we would not see such a high number of private or exclusive state schools stacking the top rungs of the ERO reports.

                  • just saying

                    You are assuming that “elite” schools are responsible for their good stats. In fact as far as I’m aware, advantaged kids excel no matter where they go to school. It’s their educationally-privileged status that is mostly responsible for their relative exam success, not the quality of the teaching.

                    • popeye

                      Burt…you are very confused. You claim you didn’t say “private was better for kids” except that is exactly what you are saying.

                      What on earth makes you think that private schools do a better job than public? Metro mag’s recent ranking of secondary schools in Auckland have McAuley High School (decile 1 and Pasifika) in the top few as well as McLeans College(decile 10, state secondary) and a whole raft of low to mid range decile schools bettering elite private schools.

                      Comparing our private/integrated schools (15.7%) of total schools with Australia (27.6%) we generate extraordinary results like 5th in reading literacy compared with Australia’s 7th out of the 57 participating countries. Now if your argument were to wash then how come with about half the number of private and independent schools in Australia do we manage to top their achievement data…..hummmmmmmmm….must be something to do with outstanding state schooling. Can’t see our private schools propping up anything here except your prejudice against the great unwashed. Want to try any other interesting theories?

                    • burt

                      I went to school in Taita then later in Upper Hutt. Talk to me about this great unwashed that I’m apparently frightened of….

                  • burt

                    just saying

                    There are three separate entities that need to work together for good outcomes in school. Teachers, students and parents.

                    It’s bloody obvious that when parents are paying thousands of $$ a term for private school that they take more notice of the results. Likewise if you need to move to get into a school zone you will be more inclined to monitor and encourage good results.

                    I never said the fault was only the school, but having policies that strive to make sure we don’t compare outcomes (allowing for the factors as noted above) is sticking our heads in the sand.

                    We can’t make parents engage across all of society, but we can make sure parents have choices over and above where they live to help them work toward a better outcome.

                    • Puddleglum

                      Burt, you missed one entity – society; particularly the economic system that repeatedly destroys communities, families and neighbourhoods and then leads to claims that low achievement is all the fault of a combination of teachers, parents and pupils.

                      A study in the US showed that SAT scores for school pupils from across the SES range improved equally during school time, irrespective of the school (and teachers). Yet, by the end of schooling, high SES pupils were scoring significantly higher than those pupils from lower SES groups.

                      The improvement in children’s scores that ended up having high SES kids doing markedly better than low SES kids were the improvements that happened when school was ‘out’, over the summer break (which is long in the US). (See Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers’ for more detail.)

                      Now I’m guessing you might say, ‘told you so – it’s the parents!’.

                      But, let’s push it further, Burt. Have you ever asked yourself why some parents are ‘more involved’ in their children’s education than others? Well, I have and at bottom it doesn’t come down to the genes, the parents’ ‘moral character’, susceptibility to ‘one size fits all’ rhetoric or any other individualistic cause. It comes down to the social and economic history of the segment of the population to which parents belong. It’s that that overwhelmingly determines family ‘culture’ so far as the value of education, and so on, goes.

                      If you want to change parents’ (attitudinal and behavioural) approach to education of their children over the long term you’d better start advocating real changes to our social and economic system, Burt, because that is what has caused the difference – and will continue to do so forever unless it is changed. It’s created a ‘two size fits all’ system throughout society, never mind the education system – one for those who already have it all and another one for the rest. That should be your ‘enemy’ Burt, not ‘socialism’.

                      Performance pay for teachers, parental ‘choice’ over schools, ‘educating’ parents about the value of education, etc., etc. is – at the aggregate level – so much pissing in the wind because it does sweet FA to change what’s underlying it all, and usually just makes it worse.

        • George.com

          Burt. We had a chronic teacher shortage in the 1990s when Bulk Funding was happening. So, based on your comments, are you also suggesting that BF of the 1990s also yielded us large classes and high failure rates, but nice warm feelings for the neo-liberals and the ‘follow ideology over reality’ ethos?

          • burt

            Yes George, the failed policies of the 90’s – go on tell me again how 9 years of Labour govt couldn’t shake the bad stuff Natioanl did back then and that now National have been in office for 18 months they are responsible for all the trouble now as well.

            I guess bulk funding wasn’t introduced to help schools overcome the teacher shortage – oh no…. it was to create a teacher shortage because National are bad….

            • George.com

              Burt, what exactly is your point? Your post is a ‘little’ disjointed.

              However, interpreting what you read (ignoring some of it helps)
              You moaned that in 2007 we had a teacher shortage due to ‘labours one size fits all policy’, that you link to pay. You link bulk funding to pay flexibility. I pointed out, quite clearly, that in the 1990s when we had BF we also had a chronic teacher shortage. By comparison with a previous period of teacher shortage, there also appears to be a credability shortage in your argument.

    • ianmac 4.2

      John Key has talked of getting teachers and schools to exchange Best Practice. Good idea. (NZ schools have been doing that freely for generations!) But the moment you introduce better pay for “better” teachers why on earth would you share your Best Practice? It would be wise to protect your ideas by being as secretive as possible.

  5. burt 5

    Perhaps we could split the state school system into two separate groups. Schools which do not report the progress of the kids and do not engage in national standards and schools that do monitor and report against standards.

    This way the ‘don’t give a shit’ schools could cater for the parents who don’t give a shit and just want their snotty-nosed pains in the ass off their hands during the day.

    The more managed schools could cater for parents who want to work with the school to ensure their kids do more than eat their lunch.

    Sure it would look like it created a division, but all it would really do is formalise the division that zoning has already entrenched.

    • popeye 5.1

      I would opt for the school not doing standards…hate to have my kid measured against junk science although I wouldn’t be happy for parents who see the world through the winners/losers lens push their as yet unaffected youngsters in factories of privilege and prejudice.

    • just saying 5.2

      Very insulting to assume that disadvantaged kid’s parents “don’t give a shit”, and that those who teach the disadvantaged “don’t give a shit” either.

      Victim-blaming in fact.

  6. popeye 6

    Funny Burt, I grew up in Naenae. Great teachers and great kids….some of my school friends are national sector leaders now and a couple are world leaders in their areas of expertise…and these were kids that grew up on tough streets. I am genuinely confused as to why a kid that grew up in Taita thinks that disadvantage=poor educational performance because this is simply not true?

    • burt 6.1

      IMHO Disadvantaged = more random outcomes. If through lack of measurement and management we are happy to have more random oucomes in lower decile schools than we see in higher decile schools then that is status quo. I don’t think we should leave that much to chance but I can understand why some people don’t like change.

      • popeye 6.1.1

        Assumptions galore…who said low decile schools have a lack of measurement and poor management or that there are lower outcomes (after socio-economic status is factored in). What evidence can you share with us that supports that link? Going on previous form….just vacant opinion. Come on, I’ve shared plenty of stats with you and given that you seem to be saying you need stats (measurement) to be convinced then back up your claim! By the way…you seem most impressed by National’s Standards….you do realise that they are the poorest form of measurement science possible….not a clear line to jump over but big ol’ bland statements that you can drive a truck through….like this telling example….

        By the end of year 8, students will create texts in order to meet the writing demands of the New Zealand Curriculum at level 4. Students will use their writing to think about, record, and communicate experiences, ideas, and information to meet specific learning purposes across the curriculum.

        In order to measure this standards accurately one has to ask……
        What sort of texts should be created?
        What depth of thinking is appropriate?
        What criteria applies to “communicate experiences?’
        What does “ideas’ mean. How do you distinguish between good and bad ideas?
        What is a learning purpose?

        I challenge anybody to tell me that a teacher in Invercargill is going to interpret this drivel the same as a teacher in Auckland. If you agree that this standard is loose then you don’t have a National Standard.

        But I guess this probably doesn’t make much of a difference to your technocratic thinking. You need numbers to be convinced and bugger whether the numbers are generated from flim-flam eh!

      • burt 6.1.2

        I challenge anybody to tell me that a teacher in Invercargill is going to interpret this drivel the same as a teacher in Auckland. If you agree that this standard is loose then you don’t have a National Standard.

        Status quo might have the teacher in Invercargill using one assessment system and the teacher in Auckland using another. Or perhaps today they might be using the same one entirely differently with different reporting standards and language. So sure, I’ll agree that situation makes of mockery of education policy.

        I think Trevor Mallard make a valid point when he advocates the use of asTTle for the standardisation of assessment. Labour never had the political balls to risk votes over it but that’s another story. From a risk analysis and potential political fallout perspective I can’t for the life of me see why National didn’t give asTTle a run.

        OK so what happens now; National piss in their corner and call educational assessment policy their own then Labour get back in power 3-15 years from now and piss in their corner and change it all over again. Wa-hoo – go partisan politics of popularity.

        • Fabregas4

          AsTTle is flawed too and if everybody uses it it becomes a National Test when in actual fact the best thing about it is its formative value. i.e. that is a bad idea.

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