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Education Minister Again Defends Night Class Cuts

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Anne Tolley
Anne Tolley

Wellington, Sept 20 NZPA - Education Minister Anne Tolley is again defending cuts to night class funding, saying the Government is still spending millions on adult and community education.

In May's budget, funding for adult community education was cut from $16 million to $3 million, with the Government saying it paid for hobby courses.

Since then there has been intense criticism of the cut, with opponents saying courses will be slashed.

Today, Mrs Tolley said "overall" the Government was still spending $124m over four years on adult and community education in schools and polytechnics.

She repeated the argument that New Zealand was in a recession and the Government was focusing on foundation skills such as literacy, numeracy and language courses.

"We're still in an economic recession, there are people out there, particularly young people, who are the most vulnerable, they are the most likely to lost their jobs and the least likely to get jobs," Mrs Tolley told TV One's Q+A.

The Government had expected reaction to the cuts but there was "nothing stopping schools" from offering courses on a user pays basis, she said.

"All I've stopped is the Government's contribution towards it."

Mrs Tolley also defended herself against claims she was a "puppet" of Finance Minister Bill English.

"The reality is that you negotiate a budget with the Minister of Finance," she said.

"I don't think anyone who's worked with me would suggest that I was a puppet."

Labour tertiary education spokeswoman Maryan Street said the minister had "effectively written off several generations of learners" with her comments.

"There is a wave of public meetings and protests happening the length of this country, where people of all ages are challenging the night class cuts as short sighted and sharing stories of how they gained useful new skills that helped them in the workforce."

Older people had "as much right as younger people" to learn new skills, Ms Street said.

"In many cases, they are undertaking retraining after being made redundant during this economic recession."

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