Paul Goulter

Paul Goulter, National Secretary, NZEI Te Riu Roa

Tension

In a recent speech to an Education Council seminar, the Minister of Education Hekia Parata stated: “A key indicator of success (of the new council) will be if in two years, teachers are giving their fortnightly fees to the council instead of the union.”

Obviously, that is an inappropriate comment. We enquired further of her office and were told the minister differentiated between an industrial role for education unions and a professional role for professional associations “…to develop the standards, qualifications, professional learning and development (of) the corpus of knowledge that distinguishes one profession from another”.

The problem with that thinking is captured in the time-honoured phrase – “Teachers’ working conditions are the children’s learning opportunities”. The distinction made by the minister is artificial. The industrial work of NZEI Te Riu Roa and the professional work of NZEI Te Riu Roa are two sides of the same coin. Look at the interplay in our career development work.

The minister’s email message says she can reconcile these differences and take a collaborative approach with the education unions. However, it illustrates a longstanding tension between the education unions and the minister because it goes to her view of the legitimacy of education unions to be the professional voice of teachers.

In the eyes of the teaching profession, it is the legitimacy of the council that is in question. Currently, the profession is denied a say in the election of the governance of the council.

Paul Goulter, National Secretary, NZEI Te Riu Roa


Louise Green

Louise Green, National President, Te Manukura

United

The government has been saying for some time that decile funding is a “blunt instrument”. With the review of education funding for age 0-18 now underway, some very “sharp” alternatives are being trotted out for consideration.

The experiment has already begun in this year’s Budget: instead of an increase to schools’ operational grants, the government is putting $43.2m over four years into schools educating about 150,000 children who have spent a significant part of their lives in benefit-dependent households.

This is despite the fact that many children who need extra help are not from these homes. It’s no solution to give a small group extra educational support at the expense of many others.

I am a member of the Review of Funding Systems Advisory Group which will make recommendations to the minister. It’s quite an understatement to say that we have a big job ahead of us, particularly as we have been told there will be no extra funding forthcoming.

Somehow we have to find a way to reslice the existing pie in a better way, even though we know that more funding is needed if children’s learning needs are to be met successfully.

Another proposal that Minister Parata has floated is “global budgets”, which would lump schools’ operational funding and staff salaries together (see p18).

Despite her assertions to the contrary, this sounds very much like another attempt at bulk funding, which educators soundly rejected 20 years ago.

Make no mistake – the outcome of this funding review will have significant repercussions across the education sector, particularly when combined with upcoming changes to the Education Act.

We must be vigilant and united to protect and improve quality public education.

Louise Green, National President, Te Manukura