Mahurangi schools face funding freeze

By George Driver

Schools in the Mahurangi region are facing a funding shortfall as major changes in education funding come into force next year.

The Ministry of Education has introduced a $12.3 million fund to support students most at-risk of under-achievement, but to pay for the fund the operational funding for schools has been frozen. In previous years, operational funding increased at the rate of inflation.

Schools will get an additional $92 for each at-risk student, targeted towards students from long-term welfare-dependent households, while there will be no operational funding increase for other students.

In Mahurangi, this will effectively mean less funding for all schools in the region.

According to calculations by the Labour Party, Mahurangi College will be hardest hit, with a funding drop of $17,500, followed by Otamatea High School ($8295), Matakana School ($4264), Warkworth School ($3633) and Rodney College ($3630).

The funding changes are part of a broader review, as the Government ditches the decile system.

Overall, 816 schools will be better off under the system, while over 1300 schools will have less money to spend.

Mahurangi College Board of Trustees chair and New Zealand First education spokesperson Tracey Martin says the at-risk funding has been too narrowly targeted and will make the school’s budget tighter.

“There is no recognition of families who may not be beneficiaries but might be under-employed and struggling,” Mrs Martin says.

She says it could mean more costs will be passed on to parents.

“The school happens to be in a good financial position, but it’s not something to sneeze at. Where we might have subsidised external trips, that cost will have to fall more on parents in future.”

Rodney College principal Irene Symes says the funding review has failed to address the issues of inequity in education funding.

“In my view, this is masking a lack of funding in education and it is not addressing how socio-economic factors impact on schools,” Ms Symes says.

“The decile rating has been a bone of contention and I agree it’s a good idea to review that funding. I’ve taught in a decile one school and know how decile ratings are perceived to be equated to the quality of schooling, when that isn’t what it’s about at all. But I’ve been disappointed with the outcome.

“There isn’t enough money in education to do the job we are required to do, but this hasn’t been addressed.”

Ministry head of sector enablement and support Kim Shannon says schools receive a relatively high level of funding and the changes are designed to address the barriers faced by children most at risk of educational under-achievement.

“Relative to national wealth, public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP is high and as a percentage of total public expenditure, it remains one of the highest in the OECD,” Ms Shannon says. “The vast majority of our schools deliver our world-beating curriculum within their budgets and do it well.”

The funding for each school will be finalised by March next year.