“Global Funding” = “Bulk Funding”

(How to try and smash a union – performance pay by stealth)

Reasons to fight against it – things you need to know

 

leah haines@writeonleah  Sep 6

kids are not consumers, schools are not businesses and education is not a market place.

 

I can’t remember a time when the PPTA (secondary teachers union) and the NZEI (primary and early childhood education unions) have physically met together over an issue, with the support of the Principals Association. Not everyone has the same long view and context to frame the new funding suggestions from the MOE. Depending on your length of service – you may not have personally experienced any of the confrontational periods of debate and protest between the PPTA and the MOE.

As an educator I feel aggrieved at how our Minister/Government and its associated “media elite” are presenting and spinning information to the public, encouraging them to engage in a backlash on teachers. The language undermining our profession is everywhere: “how inconvenient for parents”, “teachers are walking off the job”, ”teachers are striking over pay”, “selfish teachers”, “the kids are suffering”, and “teachers don’t trust their principal and BOTs”.

We are having paid union meetings (as per our employment contract) to discuss the biggest issue to arise in educational funding for decades – “global funding”. Let’s call it what it really is – BULK FUNDING. Ms Parata can continue her mantra that “global funding is not bulk funding” but we know it is. It is also a barely disguised trojan horse with performance pay hidden within.

The PPTA have opposed bulk funding since 1989 which coincides with my first years as a teacher in the classroom – it is documented on their website and the whole document is worth reading:

http://www.ppta.org.nz/membershipforms/doc_view/1587-bulk-funding-a-retrospective

What this means is no separation between the staffing and operational funding – it is all in one – a BULK fund. Teacher salaries would no longer fenced off and protected – they will become just another expense for schools to juggle. I have heard colleagues state that “this won’t change what we do day to day” – but it will. Other colleagues are under the illusion that it is not a funding cut – but it is. While operational costs will continue to balloon the size of the bulk fund would still be set by the Government. “Targeted funding” is but the most recent example of robbing Peter to pay Paul – schools will now not get inflation adjusted funding, so funding has effectively been capped.

Schools would be given full decision making power for the bulk fund. But when were principals and BOT members trained to do this kind of specialist accounting and “human resource” management? Managing a multi-million $$$ budget requires skills usually seen in running a corporation/business, not a school. Could school’s afford to employ people with MBA’s etc.? The principal is a pedagogical leader first and foremost – not the CEO of a business. The BOT doesn’t have this role either – it governs the school and leaves the day-to-day administration to others. In any case the BOT are elected parents with widely diverse backgrounds and skill sets – they are not equal in all schools.

While I trust my own principal and BOT absolutely, I accept there is great diversity in NZ schools – they are not equal, and not all are safe and sound. This delegated decision-making and increased management responsibility will be dumped on principals and BOTs – are they not already busy enough? With such an increase in responsibility – who will volunteer to be on their local BOTs? In fact funding this management/administration will also be part of the juggle. Without checks and balances there  is great opportunity here for abuse of power – pushing agendas which may go unchallenged.

The government is trying to divest its employment responsibilities to schools. Rather than the MOE negotiating collective contracts with our union, they wish to make our individual school’s responsible for setting pay (support staff and teachers), class sizes (no longer protected), and conditions. The PPTA is one of the stronger unions on the country – this is another blatant attempt to try and break it, and place all school employees on individual employment contracts. Ironically it is perhaps because the NZ Government is such an adversarial employer that this union is so strong.

Global funding means schools will choose how to spend the money which some people see as a positive. But this also means they can employ less teachers (bigger classes) – they can choose to run with less teacher aides, they can cull the arts coordinator, they can spend less on cleaning, they can dispatch their science lab technician, they can put money into an astro-turf hockey field and get rid of a teacher, they can go for the younger less experienced teacher over the older very experienced teacher. They could put most teachers on single-year employment contracts, creating further uncertainty. Rather than a collective agreement – we would each need to compete for our individual place and space within our school.

Teachers are professionals and need to be respected as such by both our employers and the public. Politicians are experts in politics not pedagogy. The professional expectation of teachers has never been higher. We need to be respected as skilled and qualified professionals at the coalface teaching NZ kids the NZ curriculum every day. Yet the minister is already saying that untrained teachers will be acceptable – how has this even happened? I guess they will be cheaper to employ – but do you want them teaching your children? There is also the proven failure of Charter schools both here and overseas further undermining our profession and the NZ education system.

The other voices we need to listen to are our support staff – our cleaners, tea makers, tuck shop staff, caretakers, teacher aides, photocopy person, accounts staff, tech support, lab technicians, coordinators etc. These members of our school community are also affected – we are all in the same boat.

Schools are not a business! The neo-liberalist economic model that has been dominant since the days of Thatcher, Reagan, and Rogernomics, where every organisation is a competitive enterprise, is failing. This has become particularly apparent to the rest of the world since the 2007 global crisis – there are currently some countries in serious crisis. This neo-liberalist agenda has created a world where there is measurably more inequality than the one in which some of us were educated. It is apparent that our government values the spreadsheet above the social good, even though education is a historically proven way of creating a more egalitarian society.

Why is our minister so obsessed with bringing “global funding” to your school in the face of opposition from the stakeholders and clear advice to the contrary? How exactly will it benefit learners? The truth is there is no evidence – it is an unproven experiment that gambles with NZ’s future.

BETTER FUNDING NOT BULK FUNDING!

I have had my feet/heart/soul in the classroom for 28 years with some time out to have two children. I have taught in single sex schools, co-ed schools, decile 10 and low decile schools, schools with 12 students in total (Mitiaro, Southern Cook Islands), schools far from where I live and most recently in a school minutes from my home where I have taught my own children (and their friends). I have been an itinerant music teacher, preschool music teacher, primary music specialist, tertiary guest lecturer, secondary school classroom teacher, Dean of a year level, Head of a Learning Area and currently HOD Music. In short I have both a broad and deep educational experience and have remained committed to the CLASSROOM which is where I feel most effective and excited.

 

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