Extra matches inflation, but is that sufficient?

Darrell Latham
Darrell Latham
While the Government's $857.8 million investment in early childhood, primary and secondary education over the next four years has been applauded, an education expert is questioning whether it is enough.

''Too often, schools are simply treading water rather than getting on top of funding issues,'' University of Otago College of Education senior lecturer and master's co-ordinator Darrell Latham said.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said despite the tight fiscal environment, the investment in Budget 2014 would take total spending in the sector to $10.1 billion in 2014-15.

''This is a significant investment in our children and New Zealand's future, and is part of a comprehensive range of practical measures in Budget 2014 to help families and children.

''Raising student achievement continues to be one of the Government's top priorities and my colleagues have recognised this by supporting a further substantial boost to funding for early childhood and school education.''

Ms Parata said work had started on establishing the $359 million Investing in Educational Success programme, which creates four new career roles to support the education profession and build quality and consistency of teaching and leadership across the system.

School operational grants would also be increased $85.3 million over the next four years to maintain the ongoing viability of state and state-integrated schools, and an extra $155.7 million would be invested in early childhood education (ECE), including a $53.6 million increase in subsidy rates to help the Government meet its target of 98% of children participating in ECE.

''We are also investing an additional $111.5 million in operating funding and $172.5 million in capital funding over the next four years in a range of initiatives to maintain, improve and expand school property.''

Dr Latham said in a tight fiscal environment, it was pleasing to see education was receiving a ''gentle nudge'' in funding.

''Raising student achievement in schools is, and will always be, a priority.

''Of course, the devil is always in the detail, and there will be disagreement as to how the funding is targeted.

''The spending of $359 million creating new leadership roles does not have universal support in the educational sector, so expect further resistance to this proposal.''

Dr Latham said it appeared there was little support for the initiative and the sector would prefer to see the funding spent in ''far more effective ways'' to lift pupil success.

The $85.3 million increase in schools' operational funding would be welcomed and would help schools with increasing costs, including the costs of non-teaching staff, he said.

''Whether it is enough is the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question.

''From my reading, it would appear that the funding increase in this area is only in line with inflation, so schools really are only in a situation of once again playing catch-up, rather than being better off with what might appear to be an increase in operational funding.''

New Zealand Educational Institute president Judith Nowotarski said the increases in education spending were in line with inflation but did not keep up with the increasing cost of delivering the 21st-century education that parents expected.

''This Government is basically telling schools to carry on driving our children's education on the smell of an oily rag.

''As usual, parental donations and fundraising will be crucial to keep schools running.''

- john.lewis@odt.co.nz

Education
- $857.8m over the next four years for new education initiatives, sector support.
- Operational grants to increase $85.3m over the next four years.
- $172.5m of capital from the Future Investment Fund and $111.5 million of operating funding over the next four years in new schools, classrooms and other school property improvements
- An additional $2.5m in 2014-15 to continue to provide computers in homes and digital literacy training for low-income families
- $2.4m over the next four years to expand the Reading Together programme into more than 140 decile 4 and 5 schools
- $155.7m over four years for early childhood education
- $4.7m over four years for additional teacher aide support for pupils with high health needs