Catherine Delahunty

School Funding – What’s the plan?

by Catherine Delahunty

There is absolutely no doubt that Hekia Parata told the Herald on Sunday she wants a school funding system that pegs school funding to the achievement of its students. The question is, why won’t she admit that to parents before the election? What has she got to hide?

The transcript of the interview is abundantly clear that she wants changes to the overall school funding mechanism that would allow some money to go to schools based on their achievement “outcomes” and “progress”. She said so. Lots of times. Like when she laments the current inability to “peg” (her word) 3 out of five of the dollars that go on education, but don’t go on school property, to the achievement outcomes of schools. And when she talks about “strongly incentivising” achievement.

Performance based funding is absolutely her plan.

That’s why, in answers to my questions in the house today, Hekia Parata refused to rule out funding changes that would see a low decile schools paid less than others because they can’t meet her achievement requirements.

It’s a horrible idea, but true. Schools in poorer areas will be forced to teach to the test or die. This is the future of public education in New Zealand unless we change the Government this year.  It is time to join the dots, as the Educational Institute says. And join them quickly.

National standards, plus school funding based on “achievement” (or value added “progress and consistency”) equals an education system that is all about teaching to the test. And while that may mean New Zealand can inch up closer to the Singapore and Shanghai systems on the PISA rankings, it will destroy everything that is wonderful about our public education system in the process.

If you really want to see the dots joined up, and read a mother’s tale about how bad things could become if Hekia and John Key have their way, read this:

The decile system may be a blunt instrument, as Hekia says, but at least it recognises the inequalities that exist in communities and the realities for schools. Any change in the funding system needs to make that recognition more strongly, not lose focus on it altogether.

Meanwhile, let’s make it more possible for kids to achieve their potential and take their whole family along for the ride. The Green Party’s school hubs policy is directly addressing the need to strengthen and support communities and their local school by some very practical programmes. Let’s spend the education dollar where it is needed and allow schools and communities to provide lunch, after school programmes, nurses and a coordinator for their chosen activities.

And if we’re going to have a discussion about changing the overall funding mechanism,  let’s have it before the election, so parents and the rest of the community know what policies they’re actually voting for.

Published in Education by Catherine Delahunty on Tue, March 18th, 2014   

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