There’s a lot of fear in the education sector that many of the big decisions that affect schools, teachers and students are not made by educators but economists. That, to put it simply, Treasury is setting the agenda.
It’s clear that there are instances of this – the attempt in 2012 to increase class sizes for example. And it’s fair to say that charter schools have been enthusiastically embraced by them and no doubt encouraged from that quarter.
But documents released recently show that the big policy of 2014, Investing in Educational Success didn’t emerge from number 1 The Terrace. Indeed, it seemed to surprise them as much as it did most teachers. And probably freaked them out even more - as they're the ones who are supposed to be balancing the books.
Papers from November 2013 show that up to then, not long before Key’s big reveal, Treasury knew nothing about it, and had 'given' Minister Parata an envelope of $50million to spend on new education initiatives.
And after Key’s speech in January, the next meeting between Treasury and the Minister of Ed, the finance wallahs were scrambling to work out how make this new spending fit their cap.
This doesn’t prove that the motivation behind IES was as totally educationally pure and evidence based. There was no-doubt a large measure of real-politik in spending this amount on a sector that had caused such grief for the government over the last 5 years. But it could put to rest some of the wilder speculation about IES being part of a performance pay agenda driven by econometrists under the influence of people like Hanushek or Chetty.