Chris Hipkins says parents want spending on more than just teachers

News 08/05/2019

Parents want to see their kids' teachers paid well, but they also have other things on their mind for Government funding, Education Minister Chris Hipkins says.

The Government recently republished the pay offer given to teachers as negotiations with both primary and secondary teachers' unions hit a stalemate.

The unions are threatening a "mega-strike", with primary and secondary school teachers planning to walk off the job on the same day.

It was announced last week a further $95 million would be spent on teacher recruitment, and the current offer in front of teachers totals $1.2 billion.

Hipkins told The AM Show he's aware parents would want to see teachers paid well, but it would require other sectors to lose out.

"The feedback that we're getting from parents is that they do want to see teachers being paid more, but they also want to see us fixing mental health... they want to see more money going into health generally, they want to see us fixing the housing crisis that we've got around the country, they want to see kids lifted out of poverty."

Hipkins said the Government only has a certain amount of money to spend, and that's coming from parents.

The Government doesn't have an unlimited supply of money

"Ultimately the money that we have to spend comes from parents, it comes from taxpayers and we have to get the balance right."

 He said he believes striking would not be reasonable, but he admits the unions are well within their rights to do so.

I think that there aren't many other people across the country going on strike over a $10,000 pay rise offer.

"But ultimately that decision is up to the union, of course I'll defend their right to strike... but I don't think it's a justified strike."

A poll released on Monday revealed 83 percent of the public believes teachers should be paid better.

The poll, commissioned by the primary teachers union NZEI and secondary teachers union PPTA, found:

  • 89 percent of Kiwis think more money should be spent on education
  • Almost 90 percent believe there aren't enough teachers in both primary and secondary schools
  • 75 percent want class sizes reduced
  • 80 percent think teachers are getting bogged down in admin.

PPTA junior vice president Melanie Webber said the Government isn't doing enough to retain teachers.

"They're doing nothing about the circumstances that are there, the reasons why we are in this crisis situation.

Parents know that because they can see what's going on in schools.

Meanwhile NZEI president Liam Rutherford said the poll should send a strong message to the Government.

"This is coming thick and fast from the teachers and principals... that are dealing with it first-hand. What we've consistently shown through the campaign is that parents and the wider public are also seeing the effects. Now is the time to do something."

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Katie Fitzgerald