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Budget 2018: Multi-million boost for special education

Article – RNZ

Children with disabilities and complex needs will get the biggest boost from education funding in the government’s Budget.Budget 2018: Multi-million boost for special education
John Gerritsen, Education Correspondent

Children with disabilities and complex needs will get the biggest boost from education funding in the government’s Budget.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Special education would receive an extra $273 million over the next four years, the government announced.

About half – $136m – would pay for 1000 more children to access the ongoing resourcing scheme, which supports children with the highest needs.

Schools and early childhood centres will also get an extra $1.6 billion over four years, but most of it is to cope with population growth rather than pay for new initiatives.

Tertiary spending has received a $360m bump over the next year, but most of that would cover the cost of paying the first year of students’ fees as part of the previously-announced Fees-Free scheme.

The Budget provided no increase to tertiary institutions’ subsidy rates.

Schools

Special education was the biggest single beneficiary from the education Budget.

As well as $136m for the ongoing resourcing scheme, teacher aide funding increased by $59m.

Another $30m has been allocated to provide more support to deaf and low-vision students.

The Budget provided $395m for capital spending on new schools and classrooms, including $62m for the ongoing rebuild of Christchurch schools, and a further $63m in operating spending associated with the building programme.

Population growth accounts for the rest of the additional spending: $370m to cover the cost of 1500 extra teachers by 2021, and $129m for school operations grants, to cover costs such as support staff and power.

School operations grants increased 1.6 percent ,at a cost of $75 million over four years.

Early childhood

The Budget provided most early childhood services with their first across-the-board increase in government subsidies for at least three years.

Home-based services faced a fourth year with no increase but the Budget sets aside $2.3m for possible increases after that sector has been reviewed.

The 1.6 percent subsidy rise will cost the government $105m over the next four years.

It comes after nine years in which the previous government cut some subsidy rates altogether and provided no annual inflation increases – or limited them to particular components of the subsidies.

A further $480m was allocated to meet growing enrolments.

Tertiary education

Polytechnics and universities face belt-tightening after the Budget delivered no increase to their government subsidies.

The absence of any increase linked to inflation bore out National Party predictions that the government’s spending on students through its Fees-Free scheme would prevent it spending more on tertiary institutions.

Polytechnics, in particular, were hoping for a subsidy increase, because apart from a one percent increase last year, the previous government provided no across-the-board increases to their subsidy rates for seven years.

Meanwhile, the Budget showed the first year of the zero-fees policy for the first year of study cost the government $260m.

The government expected to spend $355 million on the policy in the next financial year, the Budget showed.

See RNZ’s full Budget 2018 coverage here.

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