The following is the amount spent by Labour, on Vote Education in the 2008 Budget;
Total 2008 Vote Education: $10,775,482,000 (in 2008 dollars)
Total students in 2009: 751,330*
spend per student: $14,341.88
The following is the amount spent by National, on Vote Education in the 2016 Budget;
Total 2016 Vote Education: $11,044,598,000 (in 2016 dollars)
Total students in 2016: 776,948**
spend per student in 2016 dollars: $14,215.36
Total 2016 Vote Education: $9,608,800,000 (re-calculated in 2008 dollars)
spend per student in 2008 dollars: $12,367.37
Calculated in real terms (2008 dollars), National’s spending on Vote Education was $1,166,682,000 less last year than Labour budgetted in 2008.
In dollar terms, in 2016, National spent less per student ($14,215.36) than Labour did in 2008 ($14,341.88). Converting National’s $14,215.36 from 2016 dollars to 2008 dollars, and the sum spent per student is even less: 12,367.37.
In real terms, National has cut the total*** education budget by $1,974.51 per student.
* Not including 9,529 international fee-paying students
** Not including 11,012 international fee-paying students
*** Total spent on Vote Education, not just schools and tertiary education.
Tax-cuts and Service-cuts
Writing in the Daily Blog recently, political commentator Chris Trotter had this to say on the matter of taxation and social services;
“Speaking on behalf of the NewLabour Party, I felt obliged to spell out the realities of tertiary education funding. I told them that they could have free education or low taxes – but they could not have both. If the wealthy refused to pay higher taxes, then students would have to pay higher fees. If the middle class (i.e. their family) was serious about keeping young people (i.e. themselves) out of debt, then they would have to vote for a party that was willing to restore a genuinely progressive taxation system.”
Since 1986, there have been no less than seven tax-cuts;
1 October 1986 – Labour
1 October 1988 – Labour
1 July 1996 – National
1 July 1998 – National
1 October 2008 – Labour
1 April 2009 – National
1 October 2010 – National
The 2010 tax-cuts alone were estimated to cost the State $2 billion in lost revenue.
Taxes were raised in 2000 by the incoming Labour government, to inject much needed funding for a cash-strapped health sector. The previous National government, led by Bolger and later Shipley, had gutted the public health service. Hospital waiting lists grew. People waited for months, if not years, for life-saving operations. Some died – still waiting.
During that time, National cut taxes twice (see above). Funding for public healthcare suffered and predictably, private health insurance capitalised on peoples’ fears;
A decade late, National’s ongoing cuts, or under-funding, of state services such as the Health budget have resulted in wholly predictable – and preventable – negative outcomes;
A critic of National’s under-funding of the health system, Phil Bagshaw, pointed out the covert agenda behind the cuts;
New Zealand’s health budget has been declining for almost a decade and could signal health reforms akin to the sweeping changes of the 1990s, new research claims.
The accumulated “very conservative” shortfall over the five years to 2014-15 was estimated at $800 million, but could be double that, Canterbury Charity Hospital founder and editorial co-author Phil Bagshaw said.
Bagshaw believed the Government was moving away from publicly-funded healthcare, and beginning to favour a model that meant everyone had to pay for their own.
“It’s very dangerous. If this continues we will slide into an American-style healthcare system.”
Funding cuts to the Health sector have been matched with increases to charges;
The critical correlation between tax cuts and consequential reduction of state services was nowhere better highlighted then by US satirist and commentator, Seth Meyer. He was unyielding with his scathing, mocking, examination of the travesty of the Kansas Example of “minimalist government”;
Here in New Zealand, National’s funding cuts have not been restricted to the Health sector and NGOs. Government agencies from the Police , Radio NZ, to the Department of Conservation have had their funding slashed (or frozen – a cut after inflation is factored in).
The exception has been the Prime Minister’s department which, since 2008, has enjoyed a massive increase of $24,476,000 since 2008 and a near-doubling of John Key’s department and Cabinet expenditure since Michael Cullen’s last budget, seven years previously.
Tax cuts, slashed services, and increasing user-pays
By contrast, parents are finding more and more that the notion of a free state education is quietly and gradually slipping away. User-pays has crept into the schools and universities – with harsh penalties for those who fail to pay.
“There probably will be more, we don’t know of course how many are in Australia but that’s a very good start, and I think it’s probably a reasonable proportion of those who are in Australia.”
Joyce, of course, has nothing to fear from being arrested for defaulting on a student loan. His tertiary education was near-free, paid for by the tax-payer.
National had no choice, of course. The entire premise of user-pays was predicated on citizens paying services that until the late ’80s/early ’90s, had been either free or near-free. With student debt now at an astronomical $14.84 billion, National cannot afford to let ‘debtors’ get off scott-free. That would send the entire unjust system crashing to the ground. According to Inland Revenue;
… nearly 80,000 of the 111,000 New Zealanders living overseas were behind on their student loan repayments.
IRD collections manager Stuart Duff said about 22 percent of borrowers living overseas were in Australia.
He said the $840m owed to New Zealand was a substantial amount of debt.
Figures show that student debt has been increasing every year since it’s inception in 1992. At this rate, student debt will achieve Greece-like proportions;
Unsurprisingly, loan ‘defaulters’ have surpassed $1 billion, including $16 million written off through bankruptcy. Some never pay off their “debt” with $19 million lost after death of the borrower.
But it is not only tertiary education that has attracted a user-pay factor. School funding has also been frozen, with operational grants the most recent to suffer National’s budgetary cuts;
Schools are so starved of funds that they are having to rely on outside sources of income to make up shortfalls;
Reliance on foreign students to make up shortfalls in government spending is essentially turning our schools into commercial ventures; touting for “business” and ensuring “clients” achieve good results so as to ensure repeat custom.
When did we vote for a policy which effectively commercialised our education system?
Schools are also funded more and more by parents – to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Fund-raising and ever-increasing school fees are required, lest our schools become financially too cash-strapped to function.
It is estimated that a child born this year will cost his/her parents $38,362 for thirteen years of a “free” state education. In 2007, that cost was 33,274. Our supposedly “free” state education is being gradually whittled away, and replaced with surreptitious user-pays. According to Radio NZ;
Some school principals say many schools are considering a hike in parent donations next year and cutting teacher aide hours, as they respond to a freeze on core school funding.
More than 300 school principals responded to a survey by teacher unions.
About 40 percent of school principals said they were considering cutting back on the hours of teacher aides and other support staff next year.
Thirteen percent said they were looking to increase parent donations.
The president of the teacher union NZEI, Louise Green, said the survey showed it was students who miss out when school funding was frozen.
The neo-liberal princiciple of user-pays is being covertly implemented throughout the public sector and nowhere is this more apparent than in education. Parents and guardians are expected to pay more for education and this is “off-set” by cuts to taxes. This is core to the concept of user-pays.
User-pays is hard to pay
The problem is that this is not an overt policy by National. The public have not been given a clear choice in the matter and instead increasing user-pays has crept in, barely noticed by the voting public. Even when challenged, a National Minister will use mis-information to attempt to use Trump-like “alternative facts” to hide what is happening;
But Education Minister Hekia Parata said parents contributed just $1.80 for every $100 spent by the taxpayer on education.
The Government was set to invest $10.8 billion in early childhood, primary and secondary education, more than the combined budget for police, defence, roads and foreign affairs.
New Zealanders have been lulled into a false sense of security that, even after seven tax cuts, we still have “free” education. But as Chris Trotter pointed out with cool logic;
I told them that they could have free education or low taxes – but they could not have both.
The question is, what kind of society do New Zealanders want: a free education system or tax cuts and more user-pays?
Because we can’t have both.
At the moment, politicians are making this choice for us.
From a Dominion Post article on 24 January;
Student loans are getting bigger and graduates are taking longer to pay back the money they owe.
Figures from last year’s Student Loan Scheme Annual Report show the median loan balance in this country grew from $10,833 in 2008 to $14,904 in 2016.
The median repayment time for someone with a bachelor’s degree also lifted from just over six years, to eight and a half.
Since a peak in 2005, the numbers of people taking up tertiary education have declined.
Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said there was a variety of factors that lead to higher student loans and longer repayment times. Tuition fees continued to rise, as did living costs.
“The long term impact for people is quite significant, basically they have a large debt for longer,” Hipkins said.
“If they’re weighed down with student loan debt it will be difficult to get on the property ladder, it’s already a burden, and this is making it even harder for the next generation.”
Universities New Zealand executive director Chris Whelan said that when it came to universities fees increasing, one need only look at published annual accounts of the country’s eight universities to see they were not “raking in” a lot of money.
Currently two-thirds of the cost of tuition was covered by subsidies, and one-third was covered by the student.
LOANS ON THE RISE
Median loan balances
2010 – $11,399
2012 – $12,849
2014 – $13,882
2016 – $14,904
Median repayment times for a bachelors/graduate certificates or diplomas
2010 – 6.9 years
2012 – 7.8 years
2014 – 8.5 years
Reserve Bank NZ: Inflation calculator
Treasury: Vote Education 2008
Treasury: Vote Education 2016
The Daily Blog: Don’t Riot For A Better Society: Vote For One!
The Press: Four forced off waiting list die
Otago Daily Times: Heartwatch Insurance Cover
Fairfax media: Prescription price rise hits vulnerable
Fairfax media: Police shut 30 stations in effort to combat budget cuts
Youtube: Kansas Tax Cuts – A Closer Look
Fairfax media: Student loan defaulters to face border arrest
Radio NZ: Govt tightens education purse strings
NZ Herald: Parents fundraise $357m for ‘free’ schooling
Radio NZ: Schools consider parent donation hike
Motherjones: Trickle-Down Economics Has Ruined the Kansas Economy
The New Yorker: Covert Operations
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 January 2017.
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