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Education is one of my strongest passions. It defines the sort of future our community and country will have. It is about giving every child growing up in Nelson the best possible start in life.

I am very proud of Nelson’s network of 30 schools and colleges. They are well led by capable principals and skilled teachers. I am particularly appreciative of our volunteer Boards of Trustee currently going through elections who give so much to ensure our schools are well governed. My job in Parliament is to ensure schools get a fair allocation of resources from Government to support their work.

My major concern is that school funding changes announced in last week’s Budget are going to create unfairness for Nelson schools and families. Labour is in real trouble in education because it way over-promised in Opposition and has run out of money.

This has been the root cause of the massive teacher strikes that have caused the worst ever disruption in our schools.  In Opposition they told workers like teachers that they were underpaid by 20%, but now in Government are refusing pay claims that are half of this. This is just one of 57 Labour’s education promises that have not been delivered (see www.laboursreportcard.co.nz)

This money problem has seen Labour scale back its promise to end school donations. The original policy was that all schools would receive an extra payment of $150 per pupil provided they seek no donations from parents. The policy now applies only to schools in ‘deciles’ one to seven. It means a third of the Nelson schools will miss out.

Next year Waimea College will miss out on $250,000, Waimea Intermediate $97,000, Garin College $77,000, Henley School $73,000, St Josephs (Nelson) $54,000, Brightwater $46,000, Clifton Terrace (Atawhai) $43,000, St Pauls (Richmond) $40,000, Ranzau $23,000, Appleby $19,000, Hira $13,000 and Hope $11,000.  These are big sums for parents to make up.

These schools are understandably angry. It will create a two tier school system in Nelson where a third of our schools will require significant contributions from parents.

The line between which schools get this extra and those who don’t, depends on decile ratings. These are outdated and unreliable. National’s policy was to ditch the decile ranking of schools with a model focussed on pupil’s needs. Even the Education Review Office no longer uses deciles. The system wrongly assumes schools in better off areas do not have any disadvantaged families. 

The flaw in the policy is highlighted by Waimea College (Decile 8) now getting $250,000 less in Government funding as compared to Nayland College (Decile 6), Nelson College (Decile 7) or Nelson College for Girls (Decile 7). I am personally advantaged as a parent of the last two colleges, but see it as very unfair for Waimea families.

These 12 school communities should not be discriminated against in this way. I will be doing all I can to ensure the Government does what it promised and provides fair funding to all of our schools.

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