CPAG says substantially more funding must accompany new system to replace deciles

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says that yesterday’s announcement from the Minister of Education Hon. Chris Hipkins regarding the eventual dismantling of the decile system should be greeted with cautious optimism.  

In a press release from the Beehive, Minister Hipkins stated that by 2021 the current decile system to determine school funding will be replaced by 2021 or 2022 with an Equity Index “that better aligns equity funding to actual levels of socio-economic disadvantage in our schools”. 

CPAG disagrees that the decile system itself is to blame for poor funding distribution.

Professor Peter O’Connor, CPAG’s Education Spokesperson, says that although the current decile system can be perceived as somewhat of a clumsy and blunt tool, it provided acknowledgement that poverty impacted on school success and life chances, and that the Government had a responsibility to address issues of inequality.

“The system became muddied in popular perception as a defacto ranking system and schools in poorer areas saw parents fleeing their local school for what they perceived as a better school with a higher decile across town,” says O’Connor. “A more discrete and sharper instrument in funding schools with genuine need is welcomed.” 

“What’s critical is, any new criteria used to sharpen the decisions made must be able to be used to correctly identify and capture the nuances of the impacts of poverty and other factors determining need in schools. 

“For example, it seems that the new proposed Equity Index doesn’t recognise children in low-income working households, or the impacts of parents working multiple jobs but still failing to provide financially for themselves and their children.”

Key to determining the success of a new funding model will be whether it can ameliorate the impacts of poverty and related social dislocation, which the current model has failed to do.

One of the most important recommendations from the Tomorrow’s Schools Taskforce was to lift the funding attached to equity outcomes from the current 3% (attached to decile funding) to 6%. 

“Perhaps the most urgent action needed is not simply changes to the funding model but to substantially increase the funding amount,” says O’Connor. 

Reports show that the New Zealand Government’s funding for the education sector is proportionately less than the average across the OECD, and the proportion of household expenditure is much higher.

“Yesterday’s announcement seems on the surface to further fragment what was promised as an overhaul of schooling to make it more equitable. The overarching vision and strategy for the Ministry must not be muddled, and any changes need to have a clear strategic pathway to meet objectives promised as part of major education reform.”

CPAG looks forward to see more information as to how funding will be increased to ensure that equitable outcomes for all children can be achieved.