School funding and zoning

There was an interesting segment on CloseUp tonight about school boundary changes and funding. Basically the Ministry of Education has changed the boundary between two rural schools (Beckensfield and Carrington I think, could be misspelling them). This means the Beckensfield bus is no longer allowed to travel to pick up seven students who currently attend Beckensfield school. These students are now in the Carrington zone, and can either get the Carrington bus at the gate or be driven to a pick-up point to get on the Beckensfield bus. Carrington school could give Beckensfield permission to drive into their zone, but will not, for one very simple reason – funding.

Currently Carrington school have 27 pupils. If this drops to 25, they are only given funding for 1 teacher. If it is 26 or above, they get 2.5 teachers. So, understandably, they are grabbing any students they can get.

This is a complicated bureaucratic situation. Why is there such a massive change in funding between 25 and 26 pupils? It is ridiculous.

The Family Party supports funding following the child. This means each school gets a set amount of funding per pupil. If a pupil moves from Beckensfield to Carrington or vice-versa, their proportion of the funding moves with them. This is a much simpler system.

With funding following the child, there would be no massive change in funding between 25 and 26 pupils, rather funding would gradually change with pupil numbers. If the board of a 20 – 25 student school could work the finances to get 2 teachers, they could do that. Or they could hire one. They wouldn’t be stuck with fixed Ministry of Education solutions. So there would be no need for the current zoning dispute, which seems to be driven by the current funding arrangements.

I went to Glenroy primary school when I was young, a rural, one-teacher school that ranged between having 9 and 16 pupils while I was there. It was an excellent school, and served the community well. But the Ministry shut it down a few years ago because they were cost-cutting and decided it was too small. Well, technically they didn’t shut it down, they blackmailed the board into shutting it down so it wouldn’t appear on the books that they had forced it to close – they said if the board shut it they could keep all their savings from fundraising and send them to the next school the pupils went to, if the Ministry shut it they would get nothing (or some such arrangement). So the board closed the school under protest and blew most of the savings on a trip to Wellington for all the students!

This school served the community for 108 years, it was part of our heritage for generations, and with funding following the child it could still be there today. This is because the school would have received some funding however small it was, and the board could work out what to do with it and fundraise for any extra that may have been needed. There would have been no need for the Ministry to shut it down, as it would have cost them the same per pupil whether they were attending the small school or a larger school.