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Govt Puts Brains, Ahead Of Bricks

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Kevin Norquay of NZPA

Wellington, May 28 NZPA - Cash-strapped, the Government has pushed most of its new investment in education toward increasing brain power, rather than bricks and mortar capital expenditure.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said the Government was "strengthening the ladder of opportunity" by allocating $1.68 billion to improve front-line education over four years in today's budget.

The budget outlined $1.337b in new operational education spending over the next five years, more than four times the $340m in new capital spending.

Schools will get more money to cover day-to-day costs, to help to combat truancy and disruptive students, improve literacy and numeracy, and access to improved broadband services.

National will save $97m on new operational spending this June year, then spend $304m on new initiatives next year, rising to $348m the following year.

Savings of $3m in new capital initiatives were made in the June year, with $183m of new capital spending targeted for next year, and $145m the year after.

Labour government tertiary education initiatives found on the National chopping block were "capability funding" scholarships, increases to industry training funds, and some intended training programmes.

Among items "reprioritised":

* $54m, reducing the funding subsidy for hobby courses in adult community education;

* $20m, combining the Team Up and Te Mana information campaigns;

* $18m, reducing Education Ministry support function expenditure;

* $275m, keeping early childhood education adult-child ratios at current levels, rather than proceeding with a planned reduction;

* $55m, reductions in tertiary funding.

Labour could not fund these "even in the best economic times", Mrs Tolley said.

Education projects attracting Government money included:

* $80.1m more for day-to-day school operations;

* $36m to support literacy and numeracy;

* $16m to fight truancy;

* $34m to improve access of schools to high speed broadband;

* $59m to improve the education of disruptive students, and those with special needs and behavioral issues;

* $69.7m for improving access to early childhood education (ECE), by expanding 20 hours ECE to playcentres and kohanga reo, and removing the six-hour daily limit;

* $19.9m to extend the Te Kotahitanga programme, to focus on raising Maori students' achievement.

Mrs Tolley estimated up to 8200 children would benefit from the removal of the six-hour daily limit cap, and 1100 five-year-olds would attend services that qualified for 20 hours ECE.

Some parents might not want their children to start compulsory schooling until they were six, she said.

The six-hour cap would provide greater flexibility.

The boost for school access to high speed broadband would help students get "a 21st century education in a 21st century economy", Mrs Tolley and Communications and Information Technology Minister Steve Joyce said.

The Education Ministry would ensure schools got the support they needed to take full advantage of high-speed broadband.


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