Budget 2021: $2 billion in new education spending

Photo: RNZ
Photo: RNZ
Future changes and historic payroll mistakes are among the targets of more than $2 billion in new education spending in today's government Budget.

The four-year total included $1.7b on school and early childhood education and $470 million on tertiary education.

The biggest areas of new spending also included new school property and catch-up funding for polytechnic courses.

The Budget provided a 1.6 percent increase to school operations grant next year and a 1.2 percent increase to early childhood and tertiary education subsidies.

However, subsidies for vocational education and training would get an extra boost to raise their value by 13.4 percent by 2024, an increase that accounted for more than half of the Budget's new tertiary education spending over the next four years.

Minister of Education Chris Hipkins said the increase would address a long-standing imbalance in tertiary funding rates.

"Between 2014 and 2019, the average amount of government tuition funding per learner for vocational education and training increased by 2.4 percent, significantly less than the average rate for degree education (11.4 percent) and also less than the increase in the Consumer Price Index," he said.

For schools, a big chunk of the new education spending, $277m, would be used to compensate staff who had been underpaid their entitlement under the Holidays Act.

Another significant area of new spending would advance reforms announced in 2019 following the Tomorrow's Schools Review Taskforce.

It included $23m to replace the decile system for allocating extra funding to schools with children from low socio-economic areas with a new system, the equity index, by 2023.

There was also $240m to create a new division of the Education Ministry that would give schools more direct support, including a curriculum centre and greater ministry management of school property.

The Budget also delivered increases in funding for school property and children with special needs - areas many principals had been hoping would attract more spending.

The Budget provided about $684m over four years for school property.

The funding included a one-off $53 million payment to integrated schools for property upgrades, $150m to fast-track 25 school redevelopments, and $428m to build new schools and expand some existing schools.

There was also $77m to expand and build Maori-medium schools.

For learning support, the Budget provided an increase of $67.3m to pay attendance services to work with 7500 more students, support children at risk of dropping out of school, and increase support for alternative education.

Updating the NCEA qualification attracted $100m over four years.

The Budget included the previously-announced increase to pay rates for many early childhood teachers worth $191m over four years.

The Budget also showed areas of unspent and redirected funding.

It cancelled $42m for Workforce Development Councils that advise the new national polytechnic, Te Pukenga, and redirected the money to cover increased enrolments in apprenticeships.

It said $171.6m set aside in the Covid Response and Recovery Fund to prop up early learning services during the pandemic had not been required and nor had $8.8 million for teacher aide hours for children with the most severe special needs.

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