When it comes to education, nothing is excessive

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi

Last month, I had an opportunity to meet and interact with students of the Papatoetoe High School in South Auckland.

With less than three months to go for the General Election, it was a welcome opportunity to share with our children the importance of our democratic process, the need for all New Zealanders to vote and how ensuring that we vote leads to positive outcomes for our society.

I told the students that New Zealand has one of the most generous student support systems in the world, spending over $1.14 billion in 2015-2016 and over $4 billion in total on tertiary education.

Supporting Students

Our National-led Government is committed to supporting students with a contribution toward the costs associated with tertiary study, and we are the first government to ensure that the financial support available to students is adjusted every year for inflation.

Since 2010, student loan and allowances policy changes have targeted student support spending for the most impact.

This has increased the Government’s ability to invest elsewhere in tertiary education, and target support to where it can be most effective. Student Allowances provide grants for students from low-income families and those most in financial need, while student loans enable students to meet their share of the costs of study through interest-free loans.

Substantial investment

Budget 2017 invests $132 million for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment over four years. This includes $69.3 million for increased tuition subsidy rates at qualification level three and above, supporting providers to continue to deliver quality skills for industry.

There is $52.5 million for the Performance-Based Research Fund to promote high quality research in tertiary education. There’s $6.8 million to support sustainable growth in the international education sector to strengthen the net benefit to New Zealand and its value to our regions. $3.5 million of reprioritised funding will meet increased demand for workplace-based literacy and numeracy programmes in 2018, giving more people the skills and confidence to engage in the workplace and community.

Budget 2017 Family Incomes package aims to reduce the pressure that rising costs are placing on low-income families. Some of the initiatives will directly benefit students.

Accommodation benefits

The initiative with the most direct impact for students is an increase to the Accommodation Benefit, a supplement to Student Allowance payments recognising the accommodation costs of students who do not live at home.

From April 1, 2018, about 41,000 students will receive more assistance for accommodation costs as a result of an increase in the Accommodation benefit rate. Around 26,000 students living in areas with high accommodation costs, principally Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch will have $20 a week increase. For around 15,000 students who live in areas with relatively lower accommodation costs, such as Hamilton and Palmerston North, the increase to the maximum rate will be lower.

This Government is committed to supporting our education system from school through to varsity level to deliver the best education possible – ensuring every young New Zealander has the opportunity to succeed.

Modernising the system

Budget 2017 will see the largest injection of new funding into our education system since this Government was elected in 2008. This funding will focus on modernising and expanding our education system, as well as supporting our most at-risk students.

With Vote Education receiving its largest ever budget – $11.6 billion – our children are starting school better prepared to learn and leaving school better qualified.

There is $458.9 million of additional operating funding over the next four years, largely to help primary and secondary schools accommodate roll growth.

$456.5 million is being invested in school property including six new schools, the expansion of two schools, 11 special education satellite units, and 305 new classrooms nationwide. $386 million of additional operating funding for early childhood education providers will provide 31,000 further early learning places over four years.

$63.3 million of additional operating funding over four years will support students with additional learning needs, including expanding specialist behavioural services.

$60.5 million boost over four years for schools’ operational grant funding.

$34.7 million of new funding will provide specialist behaviour services for an extra 1000 children.

$9.4 million over four years will support students with English as another language through the ESOL programme.

$7.6 million is being invested in Māori language curriculum resources and there is $6 million to support young children with difficulties talking and listening.

We understand value that our community places on education for their children. We will continue to listen and invest in our children who are New Zealand’s future.

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi is Member of Parliament on National List from Manukau East. He is the Chairman of the Parliamentary Law & Order Select Committee and Parliamentary Private Secretary to Police Minister.

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