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Record levels for education budget: Government

Saturday October 25, 2014 Written by Published in Economy

Next week's budget will feature over $14 million in actual spending on education, says the Government, which it describes as “the highest amount ever allocated” for the sector.

According to a Government-prepared media release, spending in the sector will represent approximately 13 per cent of the total appropriation.
A personnel budget of $9.6 million will amount to nearly 21 per cent of the government’s total personnel budget.  A further $4.4 million is provided in operating expenditure and payments to private schools.
Minister of Education Mona Ioane said there is always more pressure to put money into education.
“Education is an important investment in our people, there is always a need for more,” said Ioane. “For example, the New Zealand Treasury outlines in the functional categorisation for expenses in 2013-14 that education was just over 14 per cent of total expenditure.”
Under the Cook Islands Party, the Government said the Ministry of Education was quarantined from savings which were applied to many other agencies, and in the 2013-14 budget, teachers’ base salaries were increased by $1.3 million.
Despite the boasts, the numbers could have the potential to disappoint.
In the 2013-14 budget, $14.06 million was allocated towards education, excluding depreciation. Personnel costs were budgeted at $9.6 million and operating expenses at $4.4 million.
Comparing both the 2013-14 and the 2014-15 financial years, the numbers appear identical.
In an article published last August in CINews, Tereora College Principle Bali Haque described the funding of the nation’s schools “grossly inadequate”, saying education spending as a percentage of government spending and gross domestic product (GDP) has declined in the last five years.
Along similar lines, Secretary Sharyn Paio previously said the government needs to allocate adequate resources if it identifies education as a priority area for the nation’s development.
In addition to a reported sharp drop in GDP in 2013, Finance Minister Mark Brown previously said he expected “... a number of competing priorities for government funding.”
In the Government’s statement, Ioane outlined some highlights of funding to be included in the budget.
The Government will be budgeting funds to financially support students in the Pa Enua to continue their senior secondary education at an accredited College offering the final years of formal schooling.
“Families hosting students providing them with room and board as well as pastoral and other support during their time in Rarotonga were previously paid $50 per week, this will now be increased to $100 a week,” reads the Ministry’s release. 
Under this improved scheme, 95% of the funding is distributed to caregivers and students for personal items.  The remaining five per cent is utilised to meet the cost of the students’ NCEA fees and course materials. 
In addition, this scheme also meets the cost of return transport from the students’ home islands.
The Ministry says roughly 45 students benefit from the support of the allowance, which amounts to $230,000.
A further $221,000 will be provided over the next three year period to upgrade ICT equipment.  This is on top of the annual $110,000 which the Ministry normally gets for equipment purchases.