Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Global Funding - Bulk Funding in fancy dress - why it's a bloody bad idea.

On Tuesday 9 August a momentus event happened.  NZEI and PPTA launched a joint campaign to educate the wider public about the Education Funding Review.  They also announced there will be fifty joint Paid Union Meetings held around the country from Monday 5 September.  We are currently in the middle of them.
And I will be attending my Paid Union Meeting in Hamilton with bells on this Monday 12 September.
The review was set up by the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, due to the decile funding system currently used to fund schools being seen as "a blunt object".  Many different groups were asked to participate in the review, including Louise Green the NZEI Te Riu Roa president and Angela Roberts the PPTA president.

To date, no one from the Education Funding Review Panel has stood up and said publicly: "Global Funding is great and we support it".  Absolutely no one.
Hekia Parata is disappointed in this action and she told journalists that no decisions have yet been made, that consultation is continuing.  She claimed that NZEI and PPTA had left the Review table.  A no point did either Louise or Angela say that either organisation was withdrawing from the Review. 
On the Paul Henry breakfast show (8/9/16) Hekia said that teachers had had many opportunities to be consulted as the Ministry of Education had run 80 roadshows around the country outside of school time.  Where was my personal invitation Ms Parata?  I was aware of a couple of meetings - during school time when no working teacher could attend.  Teachers simply were not enabled to attend these meetings, so Hekia is once again reinventing the reality of the situation (not unlike how she "has the  support of the Special Education Association").  These Paid Union Meetings have been the only opportunity for teachers to be consulted.
Watch Hekia Parata with Paul Henry here.  And Paul Henry, these are Paid Union Meetings, not strikes.
When the Education Funding Review was announced, Hekia Parata said that the panel would be reporting back to her before the end of August/first week of September.  We expected an announcement from Ms Parata over this at the end of last week. 
No announcement.
She said on Paul Henry's show she was still awaiting the report and recommendations.
I had been suspecting the Education Funding Review panel had reported back last week (not that she only received the report last night or this morning as she claims in the House today) and recommended that her proposals were rubbish and the panel would not support them.  Hekia Parata has engaging in a round of PR opportunities over the last two days (Paul Henry 8/9/16, Radio NZ's Nine to Noon 7/9/16) trying to swing public support her way as NZEI and PPTA have garnered the lion's share of the media over the last few days.
As I was in the middle of writing this, Hekia Parata released the recommendations of the Education Funding Review panel in Parliament during Question Time this afternoon, which I will discuss further down.

While Hekia claims that NZEI and PPTA are being silly in holding these meetings, this is the two education unions being proactive because we don't trust Hekia and we want to make sure our voices are heard before it is too late.  Louise and Angela sit on that working party that is to advise the Minister and are obviously concerned by what is being presented to them and what is being said.  Hekia can say that nothing is set in concrete, but that is not the case.  We can not afford to wait as Hekia suggests, because to do nothing is to let the public think we agree with these proposals.
Teachers and support staff gather at Nelson College hall to hear from union representatives against government funding plans. 
( 8/9/16)
These meetings were planned for school time to send a very strong message to the Government as well as the wider community about the seriousness of the concerns NZEI and PPTA hold about Global Funding.  It was considered that the inconvenience to parents and students for two to three hours was better than the long term, over a generation, that Global Funding would create due to under funding, higher class numbers and less teachers.
The eighteen members of the Education Funding Review Panel went into the first meeting expecting a blank slate and the ability to brainstorm proposals.
What they got was a wad of paper on the table by the Ministry of Education representative who said "This is what we will be looking at.  That is the proposal."
Hekia Parata can protest all she likes and say what she says to the media, but that was the reality of our representatives on that Education Funding Review Panel.

This is about the government abandoning their commitment to staff schools appropriately and provide the best education for all children. 
Under the current system there are formulas for staffing according to the roll. Under Global Funding that goes. The result is that teachers will be seen as a fiscal risk and no new teacher appointments will be permanent - every teacher will have to reapply for their position every year and have no job security. 
Think about how this will impact any teacher's ability to get a mortgage to buy a home or plan a family. 
It also means that as an experienced teacher at the top of the scale I would be unemployable as I would be considered expensive. 
This will result in less teachers so then there will be a higher number of kids in every class as teacher:student ratios would go out the door. Less teachers mean a narrowing of the Curriculum. 
Hekia Parata argues that she is not wedded to anything yet, that how it will work has not been worked out.  It is fully expected that Hekia will be taking her recommendations to Cabinet in October.  How can she take a half baked proposal to Cabinet?  How do I know it is half baked?  Because every question asked to her by one of her political opponents or a journalist asking the detail gets the reply that details have not been worked out yet!  This is the typical National Party approach to developing policy:  put forward a half baked idea and make it up as we go - that's how we got National Standards, Charter Schools, Investing in Educational Success not to mention the current housing crisis, climate change, employment law, health and safety....
As I mentioned further up, as I was writing this, Hekia Parata released the recommendations from the Education Funding Review panel (which I bet she has been sitting on for a week).  This was published by the Education Review magazine (8/9/16):
Six out of seven of the School Funding Review proposals will go forward for further work following the Funding Advisory Group's report on the proposals. The unpopular global budget proposal was rejected by the group, following intense opposition from teachers who feared a return to the days of bulk funding. 
The six proposals the majority of the Group agree should proceed for further work are:
  • Taking a per-child approach to funding
  • Additional funding for those most at risk of underachievement
  • Supplementary funding for small and isolated schools
  • Proposals over the way property funding is delivered
  • Better accountability for student achievement
  • Supporting a diversity of education options
Education Minister Hekia Parata says she was ‘not surprised’ by the Group’s recommendation that the proposed global budget not proceed to the next stage of policy development.
“The Group’s report, and together with feedback from around 90 regional meetings with teachers and principals, will help inform my report to Cabinet on the options to take forward. The insight from staff right on the frontline of education is invaluable”, says Ms Parata.
“I want to make sure that we take the time to get these vitally important decisions right. That is why our timeline for implementation at the earliest would be 2019.”

Well there is a surprise - NOT.  No one wants Global Funding that was on the group.

It was announced during Question Time in Parliament today.  Here is the video, with an initial patsy question from David Seymour, ACT's only MP and the Under Secretary for Education, so watch if you have a strong government.  Bright note was The Speaker telling David Seymour his questions slagging off our Paid Union Meetings were out of line.

You can read what the wider media has reported on the release of the Funding Review recommendations here:
Even though Global Funding was not in the recommendations to the Minister, this section from the above Newshub coverage should cause the education sector to continue to be wary:

And the Funding Advisory Group agrees say in its report that it'd be too costly and risky. 
"Schooling sector representatives of the Advisory Group do not support the introduction of global funding for state and state-integrated schools and consider any potential benefits are outweighed by the costs and risks of implementation."
However some of the group did note that with tweaks the plan could work and alternatives couldn't be ruled out in future.  
"If the risks around loss of clarity around staffing entitlement could be addressed in the global budget, there may be merit in exploring an alternative." 

This portion of the above Stuff article should also have the education sector on continued alert:

Parata acknowledged strong opposition to the measure but was not prepared to take global budgets off the table ahead of a discussion by Cabinet. 
"We all know that children are different, therefore there will be different challenges in different schools, so the underlying theme is how do we give schools choices and flexibility.
"The global budget is purely a mechanism for paying. It isn't about how we put together how much a school should get."
Asked if it was too soon to say global budgets were "dead and buried", Parata responded: "Yes it would, because that isn't consistent with Cabinet process."

I do not believe for a second that Global Funding is dead and buried in Hekia Parata's mind as indicated in the NZ Herald.  That writer must be very naïve to take what Hekia says to be gospel.

For Hekia Parata to push forward with Global Funding any further would be a folly.  It is not just teachers wanting to have a "row" with the government as John Key implied on his morning breakfast TV rounds on Monday, it is a whole sector backed by parents who are not happy at the potential outcomes of Global Funding being implemented. 
I love Rod Emmerson cartoons.  They cut to the core of the issue.  This one is from 2012.

If Hekia Parata has not learned from her failed battle with class sizes in 2012, she really has failed the standard as a Minister of Education.

My biggest fear is that the drama over Global Funding is a smokescreen to bring in performance pay and make PaCT and Communities of Learning compulsory... but that's another post another day...

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