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Source: New Zealand Education Institute (NZEI)

Concern funding for teacher pay going towards maintenance and corporate profit

30 June 2020

NZEI Te Riu Roa is concerned public funding earmarked for much needed pay increases for early childhood teachers may instead be going towards maintenance and private corporations’ bottom lines.

The $151.1 million funding boost announced in Budget 2020 kicks in from 1 July via a 2.3% increase to education and care service rates. Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ press release said the funding is specifically “for early learning services to improve the pay of up to 17,000 qualified teachers.”

However, just a day before the funding kicks in, many teachers still haven’t heard whether their employers will be passing it on.

“It’s worrying that on the eve of this funding increase, most early childhood teachers we’ve heard from still haven’t heard whether they will be getting a pay increase“, says NZEI Te Riu Roa National Secretary Paul Goulter.

“Some have told us their employers are considering spending this earmarked funding on other expenses instead, such as maintenance,” he says.

“This is public money intended to improve the pay of New Zealand’s lowest-paid teachers – it shouldn’t be lining the pockets of private companies, or going towards maintenance.”

NZEI Te Riu Roa welcomed the 11 May pre-Budget announcement as a positive first step towards parity for underpaid early childhood teachers; in some cases, they are paid 49% less than other teachers with the same qualifications and experience.

The increase in funding comes with the requirement for all qualified teachers to be paid a new minimum salary of $49,862, however the Ministry does not have the ability to require the funding to be spent on increasing salaries of teachers earning more than this.

“That leaves millions of dollars of public money that may not make it into teachers’ salaries,” says Mr Goulter.

A Ministry of Education early learning bulletin says “where services already pay some or all of their teachers above $49,862, the Government’s intentions, spelled out in the Budget documents, is that the funding is used more broadly to improve pay for qualified and certificated teachers.”

“We’re encouraging centres and services to do the right thing and pass this funding on to their hardworking teachers. These teachers earn on average 24% less than teachers with the same qualifications in kindergarten and primary, they desperately need this increase,” says Mr Goulter.