Governments have long blown off links between SES and educational outcomes (despite the erstwhile decile system being premised on this concept in 1995). Now, from the heavens, a school resourcing thunderbolt based on… socio-economic factors! (Albeit more ‘targeted’ ones).
While we in the sector marvel as the sun rises on an approach where additional funding could arrive at schools where it’s needed, Ministers Parata and English temporarily bask in the glow of a funding sleight of hand that seems to have wide support in the tempestuous climes of the education sector.
However, grey clouds lurk.
We are told the MOE have better data to ‘identify need’ but ‘targeted’ funding to schools apparently requires a narrower approach to how ‘need’ is described.
The list released earlier this year caused a sudden storm. Privacy issues aside, the ‘risk factors’ to guide school resourcing may not target the capacity of many families to support access to learning at school. If parents don’t earn enough to provide what their children require (when their children aren’t victims of trauma or beneficiaries) how will it work?
Sadly, it probably won’t – in isolation.
In fact, without funding all state schools adequately to ensure local schools can provide enough, the transitory practices of many (usually lower decile) students will continue and the impacts on school funding when decile component is removed and only ‘targeted’ needy get additional funding may be like a lightning strike to (previously low decile) school operating budgets. Further, the additional resourcing for a ‘targeted’ few may actually do little to lessen the tail wind to the exodus of ‘non needy’ students whose parents already shop for higher decile schools – not believing that “decile is no proxy for quality”.
Without ensuring sufficient and stable funding for all state schools as well as investing heavily in those that need targeted support, the internal migration of students across schools may become a tornado wreaking havoc on our public system.
While ‘needs based funding’ sounds like something we should all support, the fog around the ministers’ true intentions needs to clear. Is it a chance to invest in public education as a priority, doing our best to give every student a reasonable start regardless of birth or background? Or is a new resourcing model an ill wind that will simply rearrange the current resourcing and breeze over the social apartheid that is currently occurring under deciles?
In particular, is the statement that funding will be modelled on the “size of the educational challenge” a red sky warning to schools that the isobars of accountability and the apportioning of blame will move closer and closer together – that is, a more punitive rather than aspirational system?
If the government’s intention is that all state schools are adequately funded - with more where it’s needed - the imminent resourcing review could lead to a balmy summer for schools and communities to continue improving; with access to high quality education at local state schools, additional supports for students (and educators) to bolster what is already provided and a schooling system that can be lauded as equitable.
Unfortunately, it appears that instead of enabling all students to access quality education in their local community, the Minister is happy to rain education dollars into Charter Schools – which does nothing to support stability in state school funding. On the contrary, when operational funding to state schools is already insufficient, the freeze is on for 2016. Correspondingly, Minister Parata has been quoted as wanting to “protect parents’ right to choose” the schools their children attend – which suggests there will be little urgency to ensure true equity across state schools. In fact, if the Minister’s intention is to protect school choice and fund individual students then we are in the eye of the hurricane: parents will chase whatever rainbow they choose and take their pot of gold with them (to the detriment of the school they have left) as happens now with Charters and quarterly funding- only worse.
Rolling out more and more Charter schools and indexing funding to Private Schools without guaranteeing that the ‘global funding’ to state schools is sufficient is a bit like addressing global warming by selling carbon credits.
The myth of ‘free schooling’ disappeared like autumn mist over ten years ago. Therein, a small shower is unlikely to relieve the drought faced by communities who can’t rely on massive family contributions and foreign fee paying students. Sadly, English’s long range forecast does not seem to pay much attention to the impacts of increasing house prices and low wages on a family’s ability to stump up with the increasing cost of ‘free’ education in NZ.
Perhaps someone needs to tell him that if it doesn’t guarantee public education is adequately funded, a needs based approach is just hot air.
Until Bill and Hekia (and no doubt Under Secretary Seymour) present an actual model, discussions about their true intentions may be a storm in a tea cup -but when representatives from the education sector approached Minister Parata to be involved in getting a new approach to ‘resourcing need’ right their warm front was met with a cold snap.
We can only hope that we won’t be left out in the cold for too long.