School funding reform or; Why I started making plans for Hekia Parata’s downfall

I spend a lot of time venting my anger at Paula Bennett, our charming and beloved Social Development minister. What I neglect to do is tell you all about our wonderful and exciting Education minister. I will endeavour to correct this oversight.

My daughter is a little bit special. She’s got some developmental delays, affecting her learning. She’s able to learn in a normal classroom environment, with a bit of extra help in various forms. But she’s falling off the bottom of the educational standards chart for her age, and it is likely that she always will. That’s ok, though, because she’s steadily progressing on her own little trajectory. She’s happy, healthy, and doing well. The school is happy with her progress, I’m happy with it, and all should be well, right?

Well, maybe. Parata unofficially announced that if National win another term, it is very likely that the way the government funds schools may change. Instead of the current system, which gives more money to schools in poorer areas to try and balance out the inequality between rich-kid schools and poor-kid schools. I’m pretty ok with the way it’s currently done, but then, I’m not a school teacher or principal. It may be that it’s fatally flawed but I don’t know about it. Anyway, instead of the decile system that we currently use, there may be a move to performance-based funding.

The performance-based model, already shown to be a disaster in the US, does exactly the reverse of its intentions. Kids that are struggling need more resources, not less. High-achievers need extra support as well, but giving them that at the expense of their underachieving counterparts is not the way to go.

Rich kids do better in school. They have more opportunities, and they also have some basic advantages. Things like having enough to eat, having a warm dry home so they don’t get sick, having the clothes to keep the weather out. It’s not that poorer kids are less intelligent, but they simply don’t have many of the things that are almost necessary for success. Like food. And clothes. They’re kind of a big deal. It’s hard to learn when you’re cold and hungry.

Aside: I feel somewhat ashamed that I support KidsCan, a New Zealand charity. Why? Because it is shameful that there has to be a charity providing Kiwi kids with food, clothes, and shoes. We’re a first world country. What the hell is wrong with us?!

Anyway. Rich schools will do better. Poor schools will do worse. The schools that need the support most will lose it. And my little girl becomes a liability to her school.

Why’s that? Because when you test her against her peers, she does poorly, and she’s not improving in leaps and bounds. She’s just coming on slowly. It pulls the entire school’s averages down. They’ve been amazing, helping her so much, and pouring so many extra resources into her. What happens when she becomes an expensive liability? I know her school would continue to support her. What about ones that can’t afford to?

Hekia Parata has floated around on my ‘politicians that need putting on the naughty step’ radar for a while, but this strikes too close to home. She may not turn my baby into a liability instead of a person.

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