Child Poverty Action Group says that if there’s no more Government funding to allocate to schooling, then it is only fair that a greater proportion of current operational funding should be shifted from higher decile schools to lower decile schools with greater needs. Of course, if this were actually to happen teachers and parents of children in higher decile schools would quite rightly scream that they do not have nearly enough Government funding as it is.
Despite the Government’s claims that “schools have never been more well-funded,” figures produced this week by Chris Hipkins, Labour MP for Rimutaka, suggest that the funding may be both inadequate and poorly distributed.
Blame is being placed on school trustees and managers for their spending habits, but it is clear that many schools, particularly those serving low decile communities, cannot find enough money to meet all the National Education Goals mandated by Government. Indeed, they incur significant debt trying to do so. According to Labour’s figures, almost 1000 schools were operating in deficit in 2014. Of all the schools who reported debt, low decile schools made up the largest proportion.
Professor John O’Neill, Child Poverty Action Group Education spokesperson, in Our Children, our choice 2014 detailed the total incomes and expenditures of schools in New Zealand. This also showed that lower decile schools as a whole operate with a financial deficit. Given that lower decile schools receive proportionately more operational funding from the Government, there must be something wrong with the overall amount of funding or the distribution of funding, or both.
Higher decile schools have greater opportunities to raise additional funds through voluntary donations and grant applications. Most children from higher decile schools also get a better start in life even before they get to school. If children in lower decile schools are still doing worse overall by the time they leave school then current levels of Government funding are plainly not enough to level the playing field.
Child Poverty Action Group says that the principles of the current decile funding system should be retained, but must be more closely targeted based on need and equality of outcome.