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.