This week the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, released a report on the details of the government’s $359 million policy to create a new career structure for teachers (Investing in Educational Success) following consultation with the education sector.
The Beehive media release makes it sound as if everybody is happy as a result of the consultation, and most are, including the secondary teachers’ union, the PPTA.
But the primary teacher’s union is far from happy. The New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) say they have a better plan for how they would spend the funds.
I think the NZEI would just like the $359 million paid directly to them, to spend as they see fit.
This is all symptomatic of a broader issue in New Zealand education: the NZEI wants to have their cake and eat it too. They want to ensure that the allocation of education funding is controlled centrally, and they want to have control over education policy. Yet, they are not the ones accountable for education funding, so they shouldn’t be expected to make those hard decisions.
This is pretty dead right. The NZEI doesn’t think parents, taxpayers or the Government have a significant role in education policy. They seem to think our job is to just pay money to them.
NZEI spokesman Ian Leckie says that the policy “is a one-size-fits-all plan and totally ignores the particular circumstances of each school.”
But if you want to get away from the bureaucracy of centralised policy making, and give teachers the power to make their own policies and to allocate funding in the way that’s best for the children in their schools, then by definition, you cannot also have a centralised model.
You would have to give schools full funding and allow them to negotiate their individual employment agreements at the local school level, and they would need to be fully accountable for that funding.
That’s what I would do. Fully fund each school for salaries, properties and operation and let them decide locally how to divide it up.
The problem with NZEI wanting decision-making power in education policy is that it’s not the group accountable to the person footing the bill, AKA the taxpayer.
Policy making is an exercise in trade-offs between having your cake and eating it too, and the accountable party has to make those difficult decisions. The buck stops with government.
Teachers have a wonderful opportunity to work constructively with government on the execution of this policy. Let’s hope the NZEI realise this instead of going into automatic resistance mode, because the $359m for teachers is icing on the cake.
The only union in NZ fighting bitterly against a Government wanting to give payrises of between $10,000 and $50,000 to some of its own members!