Who is actually surprised that proposed changes to Educational Resourcing are being sold as providing ‘flexibility’ for schools?
Disappointed certainly. But not surprised – and we shouldn’t be: Buzz words like ‘flexibility’ have long been part of the dissembler’s lexicon. Let’s call it what it is – bald faced lying to hide the fact that this is an attempt to cap (and ultimately cut) the cost of providing public education in New Zealand. Again.
Worse. The Education Minister’s disdain for those in the profession is apparently so pronounced that she believes dressing up a failed market ideology (bulk funding) with weasel words will somehow hide the Crown’s refusal to guarantee free, high quality education for kids in the state system.
The proposed Resourcing Review papers to Cabinet not only show a lack of will to resource education adequately, (there is no new money), but also seem to promote passing the buck for this failure to schools – under the guise of ‘flexibility’.
Of course, the premise that Boards and Principals can carefully manage their staffing budgets to ensure sufficient cash is available for other operational costs is patently false when they will have less in the pot– And that’s the reality for secondary schools: Less money.
Already secondary operating budgets are insufficient and under the Minister’s proposals most will get smaller, as decile weighted per student funding and base funding are removed and per capita funding for different year levels are flattened (for secondary that means cut). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that there is simply no way for the current curriculum breadth and class size controls to be retained with less money. Rather, with a fixed ‘global budget’ schools will be tasked with robbing Peter to feed Paul, and those schools who can’t rely on massive donations and foreign fee paying students will starve. (The $1.79 per day for ‘needy’ students under this year’s additional ‘needs based’ resourcing should prove the point). Further, those previously lower decile schools who don’t have sufficient concentration of more narrowly defined ‘needy’ will see even bigger holes in their budgets that will leave them with few options beyond increasing class sizes by cashing up teachers.
The Minister failed to push through larger classes earlier in her rule, now she’s trying again by stealth, and setting up Principals as the patsies.
Last week she said it was Principals who “decided class sizes” – here again she is being ‘flexible’ with the truth: The staffing formula (that would be removed under the global budget proposal) actually guides class sizes. (However, by enabling reductions in staffing ratios under the global budget proposal the buck can well and truly be passed).
Of course, such gumption may be lauded by some outside education, but for those who actually work in schools, the hubris of an Education Minister who says that ‘needs based’ resourcing premised on the ‘size of the educational challenge’ is her focus when her proposed model will likely deliver less money to schools and lead to increased class sizes so that teacher salaries can be spent on something else is not just galling, it is taking political doublespeak to a disgusting nadir.
The sad reality is that instead of having a much needed investigation of the real cost of educating our children, the proposals rearrange the deck chairs and look to blame somebody else.
As you read this, schools are being enticed to make staffing a movable feast in the Ministry’s travelling roadshow – using glossy presentations and words like ‘new’ and ‘flexible’. (Of course, when Principals and teachers say it just won’t work the Minister’s language changes – such as last week’s Q&A where the proposal was described as ‘improving the line of sight’ for Crown spending. If value for money is the real motivation why do we still have Charter schools?)
The truth has to come out: Ring fencing money to maintain Ministry owned buildings and not doing the same to ensure that the best teachers are in front of students in small classes with additional support where it’s needed speaks volumes.
Of course we are told that nothing is definite yet –but at the same time we are told in the media that we mustn’t question the sense of such ‘flexibility’ and that individual boards deciding how much bang they get from their staffing buck will be ‘good for learners’. Pigs might fly.
Thankfully, nobody has been insane enough to come out in support of the global budget proposal -but given the Minister’s prior form with ‘consultation’, education unions, principals groups and other sector leaders have taken the extraordinary step of calling public meetings to actually tell the truth that is hidden behind her verbiage.
Of course, teachers and unions will be vilified for such an action – but it is simply too important to sit quietly and hope that the Minister will be ‘flexible’ because we know through painful experience the value she places on teacher voice: She has already characterized our public consultation as ‘industrial action’ and called unions ‘misleading’ and ‘mischievous’. She has continued to play word games around the name ascribed to the latest iteration of bulk funding. She has defended a proposal nobody in the sector wants at every opportunity while wiggling out of questions about impacts in parliament by saying, “she will honour the consultation process” and at the same time telling the media she will reserve the right to do what she wants anyway.
With the Advisory group due to make its submission at the end of the month, we need to speak with one voice to ensure her ears don’t stay painted on – the implications are just too great if we don’t.