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Unions and ministry in school funding row

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 9/08/2016 Peter Wilson and Dave Williams

Education Minister Hekia Parata. © Getty Images Education Minister Hekia Parata. The Ministry of Education is accusing teacher unions of "factually incorrect statements" as the row over a proposed new school funding system heats up.

The PPTA and the NZEI on Monday called a press conference to announce their 60,000 members would hold paid union meetings next month to discuss a response to the system, called global funding.

It's designed to split funding between salaries and the cost of running a school, with principals having more flexibility than they do now about how it's spent.

The unions say it's a back door attempt to bring in bulk funding, larger classes and fewer teachers, which failed in the 1990s.

Education secretary Katrina Casey says she's disappointed with the "mischaracterisation" that's going on.

"A return to bulk funding, as understood in the 1990s, is not being explored," she said.

"There is in no way a hidden agenda to reduce teacher conditions ... a number of the statements made by the PPTA and the NZEI are factually incorrect."

Ms Casey is urging parents, teachers and principals to go to her ministry's website and see for themselves what the proposals are about.

"What we have been exploring with the global budget is a way of enabling schools to have more flexibility to use the resources they receive, to support the progression and achievement of all children," she said.

Education Minister Hekia Parata says she's "somewhat surprised" the unions have come out in opposition to the system while discussions with their representatives are ongoing.

Both unions have members on a sector advisory board that's been discussing the proposals with the ministry since May.

"This isn't bulk funding, this is about flexible discretion for principals to decide what they need," she told reporters.

Labour and the Greens are backing the unions, while ACT leader David Seymour questions the unions' motives.

"Taxpayers fund education for the benefit of children rather than teachers," he said.

"They (the unions) aren't there for the benefit of the kids, they're there for the benefit of teachers."

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