Posted by: Rob on 22, Jul, 2010
We wonder how many Treasury officials send their kids to state schools or use our public health services? We wonder how many have lived on benefits or had jobs that got their hands dirty, or in which they have had to face the consequences of the stupid policy proposals they seek to inflict on the population?
Treasury advice to the National government on funding for education includes the proposal to remove the automatic adjustments to base funding which occur through demographic and other projected changes and fund these changes within the allocation of new money each year or make a case for additional funding on a year by year basis.
School rolls are projected to rise to about 2024. These are demographic changes which increase operations funding and staffing levels in a predictable manner. Currently the funding for school staffing and operations is automatically adjusted to fund the increased cost this creates.
In simple political terms, current ministers of education may have to choose between using new money to implement national standards or fund the costs of the principal’s salary increases, but the money to put the extra teachers needed into schools for the extra 2000 students the following year is a given.
Treasury proposes that the extra students would not automatically generate extra funding in the education budget. Instead the minister would have to decide whether to use the new money available in the budget to fund the extra teachers, implement national standards or pay for the principals’ salary increases. Or she could go back to cabinet and make a special case (each year) for an allocation of further money. This would be made in the context of competing bids from other ministers and their portfolios.
Such a funding model would clearly signal the end of roll-driven staffing and operations funding since you could not guarantee that extra students would generate the funding from government to pay for the increased student FTE for operations funding or extra staffing.
Spend a moment contemplating how a board of lay volunteers would manage in the Mad Hatter world the Treasury lusts for, where a decline in roll would mean loss of operations funding and staffing (term by term of course) but an increase in roll would not necessarily mean any increase in either. What happens to class sizes? Treasury says these don’t matter. What happens to a school’s ability to build reserves for long term projects or even managing day to day costs of running the schools? Treasury says it does not believe that the amount of funding a school gets is important. Treasury says education should be treated like health for funding purposes. How many DHBs are operating at million dollar deficits? How far into the red and how many operations are cancelled before the government pumps a little extra funding into sinking hospitals?
And Treasury does not even believe that this prescription will improve education. It says that people will have to get used to reduced services and wants individuals to meet more of the costs of education. More user pays, less funding for state education and a declining service.
And we wonder whether this government is happy to adopt policies which will significantly damage a state education system which is performing well above its weight on the world stage or whether it will allow common sense or even just crude political pragmatism to override its ideology and put the economic Sheldons from Treasury back into the box they belong in? And sink it far out at sea.