Only money matters

Written By: - Date published: 8:21 am, June 6th, 2012 - 12 comments
Categories: budget2012, education, national, schools - Tags: , ,

Over at Red Alert, Chris Hipkins asks a question that must have occurred to almost every politician and commentator since the budget – how did National get it so wrong on the cuts that would costs too many schools far too many teachers? Chris shows how easy it is to get rough figures:

Today I pulled up a spreadsheet of every school in the country from the education counts website. A quick calculation of teacher numbers at each school based on the current teacher:pupil ratio and the new teacher:pupil ratio allowed me to get a very rough idea of the scale of the gains and loses schools might experience. …

  • When ranking schools according to the number of teachers they stand to lose, almost all of the top 100 are intermediate schools
  • Around 300 schools stand to lose more than one teacher as a result of the new ratios
  • Fewer than 20 schools will gain more than 1 teacher, and those that do gain are more likely to be in wealthier areas (deciles 8-10)

It defies belief that the Minister of Education took this proposal to Cabinet, it was signed-off and made it all the way through the Budget process without the school-by-school impact being adequately considered. … This doesn’t just reflect poorly on Hekia Parata either. Where were all of the other Ministers when this went through Cabinet? Where was John Key? This was a big decision and it clearly didn’t get the level of scrutiny it should have.

So how could this have happened? I wonder if this piece from Vernon Small last week gives us a clue:

IRD believed the tax changes would tidy up the system, remove anomalies and have little impact on relatively few people. … Due to the need for Budget secrecy, and the short timeframes involved, the normal consultation process did not go ahead. “Treasury and Inland Revenue were the only agencies involved in developing the proposals and carrying out the analysis,” it said.

So in the case of some budget content at least “the normal consultation process did not go ahead”. The excuses offered are laughable: “Due to the need for Budget secrecy” – every budget is treated as secret; “and the short timeframes involved” – every budget has a year to take shape; in short it’s nonsense, the Nats didn’t consult as usual because they didn’t want to. But beyond the excuses, it is notable that the only input that the Nats did actually care about was from Treasury and the IRD.

It’s likely that the same mindset underlay the whole budget. Excuses were made, decisions were made without consultation, the only factor that mattered was how much spending could be slashed. There doesn’t seem to be any way to explain the bungle on teacher numbers other than the most obvious, and most unbelievable explanation of all, that quite literally no one actually looked at the effects of the cuts. It’s what happens when a party has the mindset that only money matters.

12 comments on “Only money matters”

  1. Akldnut 1

    Another case of consultation within themselves and pulling figures out of their arses. Say it with a smile, tell us that its a good thing and we should be happy. That’ll get it through.

  2. ianmac 2

    I suspect that Anne Tolley was handed National Standards as a political Decision. Regardless of what she actually thought.
    I suspect that Hekia Parata was handed Increased Rolls as a political decision. Regardless of what she actually thought.
    Two poisonous chalices. This however doesn’t alter the facts and if Parata’s interview (?) on National Radio this morning is anything to go by then she is stuck with nothing but spin.
    [audio src="http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/mnr/mnr-20120606-0639-parata_dodges_question_about_class_ratio_policy-048.mp3" /]

    [audio src="http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/mnr/mnr-20120606-0712-education_minister_responds_to_criticisms-048.mp3" /]
    I still don’t know just how 50,000 teachers are going to be “improved.”

    • tc 2.1

      When you base decisions on ideology rather than facts or evidence spin is all you’ve got as the facts will not support a rational argument.

    • felix 2.2

      Indeed ianmac, there are only a couple of ministers in this cabinet involved in making those sort of decisions. The rest of them are just charged with selling the decisions to the public.

      Hekia is definitely in group (B).

    • Draco T Bastard 2.3

      This however doesn’t alter the facts and if Parata’s interview (?) on National Radio this morning is anything to go by then she is stuck with nothing but spin.

      Everything that NACT say is nothing but spin.

    • Dr Terry 2.4

      ianmac, I agree entirely, except for one thing. Do we buy it that Tolley and Parata actually “think”?

  3. fabregas4 3

    I don’t believe it but regardless if the plan was to lift quality to allow for increased class sizes wouldn’t you lift quality first?

    • ianmac 3.1

      What still bothers me fabregas4 is just exactly what will be done to lift the quality of teachers? There are 50,000 of them so that would be a mammoth job! Inservice courses? Specialist Improvers? Finding out just what a good teacher is? Haha on that one!
      The Minister keeps on saying how committed they are to “improving” teacher quality but no one seems to ask how?

      • Dr Terry 3.1.1

        Most teachers today possess lots of quality already – otherwise how in the devil do we think they qualified to be teachers in the first place? Perhaps the government had best look at those who “teach the teachers”.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.2

      That would be making decisions on fact and through a precise methodology. National only ever make decisions on ideology and how they, personally, can benefit.

  4. Billy Fish 4

    From discussions with those in the right levels of the relevant ministries I gather the issue is this
    The Nats come up with an idea and say make it happen. They ignore policy people who may be able to actually understand the issues
    Labour would come up with an idea then go to the policy druids and see how it could be done. Also Labour would accept suggestions from the policy druids if they were good and fitted in with the agenda.

    Note that a lot of the cuts in civil servants the nats are pushing seem to be hitting the policy departments. I suppose this fits Nats free market view of the world – outsource to a policy team who are ideologically driven as opposed to the in house team who actually have a clue.

    • Murray Olsen 4.1

      Yep, and at ten times the price. There are no budgetary constraints when it’s going into their mates’ pockets.

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