You’ve got to hand it to John Key. He’s so good at distraction he could be a rodeo clown. Yesterday, a classic case in point. Asked about his government’s cuts to early childhood education, Key talked about getting the cruelest cut instead. The journos were so surprised they forgot their questions and gave him puff pieces. Mission accomplished.
Well, we can still look at what National is up to:
Early childhood education
We have the ridiculous spectacle of Anne Tolley arguing that forcing early childhood education centres to replace qualified teachers with unqualified staff is a good thing. This comment on a Stuff article is worth noting:
“Amber #10 8:59am I have just completed an early childhood qualification, at a cost of approx $6000. I have spoken with managers at two early childhood centres who have said that due to the change in policy, they’re now looking to hire unqualified staff rather than qualified”
Ah, National. Encouraging a high wage, high skill economy by driving down wages and skills.
Tolley also refuses to acknowledge the obvious truth – that most ECE centres will refuse to lower the quality of service they provide and will ask the parents to pay instead, destroying 20Free ECE, which National promised to keep.
After promising not to, National has introduced bulk funding by stealth. School will now be allowed to divert up to 10% of capital funding and 10% of teachers salary funding from the minima set by the ministry, and use that money for whatever purpose they like. That’s bulk funding without the name. It puts pressure on school managers to reduce salary costs by hiring fewer and more junior staff to free up the money for other projects to the long-term detriment of the teacher workforce and kids’ education.
There’s a big fight brewing over teacher’s pay too. Secondary teachers want 4%, a perfectly reasonable amount. Inflation (minus GST being offset by income tax) will be about 3% this year. So in real terms, we’re talking just a 1% pay rise. Primary teachers are, strangely, even talking about taking an after-inflation pay cut with a 2% rise. The government is trying to rip them off with zero percent. The war of op-eds and government-source articles is heating up and the teachers are already putting strike action on the table.
I think it will come to strikes but who knows how long it will take the government to buckle. They don’t care about children missing out on education or underpaid teachers – they just care about keeping spending down so they can pay for tax cuts.
For the first time in generations, would be students who have attained University Entrance are being denied access to university. The Nats have failed to increase the number of funded university places and the universities simply can’t afford to pay for any more out of other sources. National’s only response to the funding crisis at universities has been to raise the fee maxima.
That useless Steven Joyce needs to get on top of his portfolio and realise that for the sake of a few thousand dollars per student now he is undermining the future workforce. We are still feeling the effects from the cuts the last time National was in power in the form of a missing generation of skilled professionals.
At all levels, National is attacking education. It is a terrifyingly shortsighted program of cuts. We will suffer from a worse educated population for decades to come. All this shows that National does not believe in a high skill, high wage economy. What they believe in is cuts and underinvestment while awarding massive tax cuts to themselves and their rich mates.