Chris Hipkins: Major cash boost for schools

Opinion 06/12/2019

By Chris Hipkins, Minister for Education, Labour MP for Rimutaka.

The one-off capital injection for most state schools next year will boost local economies and fund urgent school property improvements.

It’s the biggest cash injection into school maintenance funding in at least 25 years and the first project to be announced from the Government’s infrastructure package to future proof the economy.

I’ve visited hundreds of schools and something that usually stands out is the number of buildings that are old.

School communities are rightly proud of their schools and do as well as they can on upkeep.

But when you consider that nearly 70% of our schools have an average building age over 40 years and 40% are over 50 years old, then their challenge really hits home. Many have had to put off repair projects and make do with patched up buildings.

This package will allow schools to complete projects sooner.

It means schools can fix roofs, windows and walls to provide modern, comfortable classrooms that are great for kids to learn in.

Around 660,000 students and tens of thousands of teachers will have higher quality environments to study and work in, and that’s important.

Some schools will receive up to $400,000 to spend on needed upgrades that have been put on the back burner.

The package is based on school roll size. Each eligible school will receive $693 per student, and every school will receive at least $50,000 regardless of its roll.

The Government is careful with spending taxpayers’ money but we’re taking advantage of historically low interest rates to improve school buildings and grounds and create jobs.

It’s too good an opportunity to miss.

Every region will get an immediate economic boost. All infrastructure spending is important but big capital projects can take time to plan and for the economic gain to flow through.

With many of these school projects ready to go, local tradies and hardware stores will see the benefits straight away.

Of the nearly $400 million nationwide injection, here are some of the highlights:

  • The Auckland region will see an injection of up to $121,003,771.
  • Canterbury up to $44,468,818
  • Wellington up to $39,607,559
  • Northland up to $18,316,896
  • Otago $17,877,673 and
  • Waikato, up to $43,070,553.

The announcement has received a great response. It’s been called an early Christmas present for school communities.

To the Government it just makes sense. Both economic sense and as a well-deserved shot in the arm for students and teachers across the country.

Key facts and figures:

School property projects will include:

  • Classroom upgrades, including making classrooms more flexible and modern.
  • Replacing roofing and guttering.
  • Upgrading storm water drainage systems.
  • Installing energy efficient heating and lighting.
  • Resurfacing outdoor courts and paved areas.

Key elements of the policy:

  • The total value of the package is $396 million.
  • Special schools will receive $200,000 each, regardless of roll size.
  • Money will need to be spent within the next 24 months.
  • Around 2050 state schools opened before 2015 are eligible.
  • Integrated schools, schools built through a Public Private Partnership, or schools in leased accommodation are not eligible.

Chris Hipkins is the Minister for Education and Labour MP for Rimutaka.