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.