Teachers strike, more to come

After large teacher strikes yesterday the Minister of Education said there was no more money available for teacher pays for now. Teachers have indicated strikes will continue.

RNZ: Teachers vow to strike again if govt doesn’t up its offer

They marched, they sang, and they shut down most of the country’s 2400 state and integrated schools, but it remains to be seen if today’s historic joint strike by primary, secondary and area school teachers has moved the government.

The joint action by nearly 50,000 members of the Educational Institute and the Post Primary Teachers Association was an attempt to persuade the government to expand the$1.2 billion envelope it has imposed on its offers to teachers.

But speaking to striking teachers in Wellington, the Education Minister, Chris Hipkins, stuck to the line he has consistently given – that the government is doing a lot to improve schools but it can’t do everything at once.

That did not go down well with the thousands of teachers gathered in front of the Beehive and Mr Hipkins retreated from the podium on Parliament’s forecourt to boos and chants of “not enough”.

Unless the budget comes up with something unexpected today it looks like teacher strikes will continue.

Early childhood education likely to get more expensive

The Government has announced a ‘bold ten year plan’ for early childhood (pre-school) education,  an area in education that has increased a lot over the last decade or two. I

Changes include moving towards 100% fully qualified teachers and improving adult child ratios, which will make what effectively is childcare for working parents more expensive.

RNZ: Govt announces $3.5 billion early childhood plan

The government’s draft 10-year strategic plan for early childhood education also suggested regulation of early childhood teachers’ pay and greater restrictions on where new services would be allowed to open.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said quality was the focus of the plan, which would be open for consultation until 15 March 2019.

Mr Hipkins said a top priority was the reintroduction of a higher government subsidy for early childhood services where all teachers were qualified.

He said another priority was to raise the minimum ratio of teachers required to look after the youngest children.

“At the moment the ratios for under-twos are one-to-five, but also in the two-year-old age bracket it’s a one-to-10 ratio at the moment. The plan aims to get us to a one-to-five ratio for the two-year-olds and then moving down to a one-to-four for the under two-year-olds,” Mr Hipkins said.

The draft plan suggests raising the minimum percentage of qualified teachers in teacher-led early childhood centres from 50 to 80 percent by 2022, and to 100 percent in the longer-term.

There are some concerns:

The Early Childhood Council said it agreed with the goal of raising quality, but warned that it would be difficult to find sufficient teachers to fill improved teacher-child ratios for the youngest children.

“We wonder where the increased teaching staff will come from given there is currently a significant shortage of teachers,” the council’s chief executive Peter Reynolds said.

Beehive: New plan for high quality early learning

A bold ten year plan looks to restore the Government’s commitment to quality in early learning, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced today.

“Moving towards 100 percent qualified teachers in early childhood education centres and improving adult:child ratios are among some of the key proposals for change put forward by the sector and experts in the new draft ten year strategic plan for early learning,”  Chris Hipkins said.

The draft plan, He taonga te tamaiti, sets the direction for early learning for the next 10 years and is open for consultation until 15 March 2019.

“This ten year vision for early learning puts the focus back on quality, picking up on the huge progress made by the last Labour Government.

“All the evidence shows that early learning gives children a head start in life, improves their wellbeing and contributes to a happy safe childhood. But only if it’s high quality.

“Participation in early learning has grown in recent years, but this doesn’t mean that all children have access to high quality learning opportunities.

“This is why I appointed a Ministerial Advisory Group and a Reference Group to work with the sector and the Ministry of Education on a new Strategic Plan for Early Learning. I asked them to focus on three themes:  quality, equity, and choice.

“Their draft plan released today sets out a path to develop and strengthen the early learning sector over the next 10 years, to meet the needs of all children and their families and whānau,” Chris Hipkins said.

Key proposals for change include:

  • moving towards a 100% qualified teacher workforce in early childhood education centres
  • improving the adult:child ratios for babies and toddlers
  • increasing the consistency and levels of teacher salaries and conditions across the sector
  • a more planned approach to establishing new services, greater support and increased monitoring.

“The draft plan will see some significant changes in the sector, including the increase in demand for qualified teachers.

“This is a long term commitment which requires a staged approach to allow time for the sector to respond to the changes and additional workforce demands.

“I am keen to hear from families and whānau, kaiako, service providers, educators and the wider community about the specific changes suggested, as well as the proposed timeline for implementation,” Chris Hipkins said.

Consultation will include an online survey as well as a series of hui around the country.

Here is the draft Strategic Plan for Early Learning and here is the Cabinet paper.

RNZ’s Insight programme reported serious complaints about the quality of some early childhood services last year.

 

Teacher strikes again this week

Primary school teachers are still unhappy with pay negotiations and plan more strikes this week, starting in Auckland today and rolling out across the country through the week. This will inconvenience many people.

Last Thursday: Revised pay offer for secondary teachers labelled as ‘laughable’

About 1500 teachers turned up for a meeting yesterday to discuss the new offer from the government over pay and conditions, which would increase most teachers’ pay by 9 percent over three years.

The Post Primary Teachers’ Association has suggested teachers reject the offer, which it said was largely unchanged from another offer in September that teachers also rejected.

Teachers are seeking better pay, better staffing, cuts to unnecessary administrative red tape, and upped allowances to create better conditions in the classroom.

I wouldn’t mind 9% of increases over three years, but teachers think they need more of a catch up for that – for the sake of the kids of course.

Friday:  Primary teacher strikes to go ahead as last-ditch offer fails

A last-ditch offer from the Education Ministry has failed to avert next week’s strikes by primary teachers and principals.

New Zealand Education Institute (NZEI) president Lynda Stuart said the Ministry made the offer yesterday afternoon after a week of bargaining facilitated by the Employment Relations Authority.

She said it removed the $63,929 upper limit on pay rates for teachers with diplomas and moved it to $82,992 by 2020, the same top rate as teachers with degrees.

The top rate for those with graduate diplomas and masters degrees would rise to $85,481 by 2020.

Ms Stuart said its members would discuss the offer and vote later this month on whether to accept or reject it.

But are going on strike this week.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said he was disappointed the teacher union decided to push ahead with strike action.

Mr Hipkins said teachers were not even given the opportunity to vote on the latest offer before the union dismissed it.

“The latest offer that the government has made is it. There’s not going to be any more money, so they can choose to accept the offer, they can ask for the offer to be reconfigured, but striking in the hope that more money will eventuate is going to lead to disappointment.”

RNZ:  Primary school teachers on strike again today

More than 100,000 primary school students in Auckland will be home from school today as teachers and principals walk off the job for the second time this year.

Today’s strike is the first of five expected across the country this week.

The strike is in Dunedin on Thursday, which will impact on me.

The Educational Institute said its members would discuss the ministry’s latest offer and vote later this month on whether to accept or reject it.

The Employment Relations Authority has slammed the teachers union’s pay demands as “totally unrealistic” and is urging teachers to take the Government’s offer.

Teachers get some parent sympathy when pushing for better wages and conditions, but run the risk of losing that support if they strike too much. Strikes impact on many people. The kids like getting an extra day off school, but it inconveniences parents, grandparents and other caregivers.

 

Government late addressing teacher shortages

The Government is suddenly trying to address severe teacher shortages.

NZ Herald:  Overseas teacher recruitment drive doubles

The Government has more than doubled its target for recruiting overseas teachers to fill a shortfall of 850 teachers next year.

Only three weeks after the Ministry of Education announced a target of recruiting 400 overseas teachers by the start of next year, Education Minister Chris Hipkins has raised the target for 2019 to 900.

He has allocated an extra $10.5 million, on top of $29.5m earmarked last December, for a package of measures including:

• More overseas relocation grants of up to $5000 for immigrants and $7000 for returning Kiwis, plus $3000 to cover the school’s recruitment costs.

A new grant to encourage schools to employ newly graduated NZ teachers. At present only 80 per cent of new graduates get teaching jobs despite the teacher shortage.

• Expanding the current short-term policy of free refresher courses for teachers returning to teach after an absence so it can also be used by overseas teachers to meet certification requirements with the Teaching Council. Teachers required to repeat or re-sit aspects of the programme will also have their fees waived.

• Changes to the criteria to enable more schools to appoint unregistered teachers as teachers with “limited authority to teach” in a specified subject or area.

• Additional funding for agencies to process more overseas teacher applications.

Hipkins said new analysis by the Ministry of Education showed that 650 extra primary teachers and 200 extra secondary teachers would be needed in 2019 to meet a rising level of demand, driven mainly by a forecast growth in the number of students in schools.

NZ Herald: Schools doubt new goal of recruiting 900 overseas teachers

Schools say a new package to recruit more teachers is too late for the next school year and won’t be able to attract the target of 900 overseas teachers.

Ministry of Education deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid said the new grants “will be targeted where there are shortages of teachers in some subjects and locations”.

However Auckland Secondary School Principals Association chairman Richard Dykes said eligibility criteria for the new grant would not be available until November, which would be too late to have much impact on recruitment for the new school year.

“It’s great to see the Government doing something, but it’s really frustrating that it’s taken until this late in the year to do it, because the impact is going to be very limited,” he said.

“It would have been extremely useful in July when I was busy trying to get skilled teachers to come into Auckland.

“To say I’m not going to find out about this until November is just not good enough, for goodness sake! It’s too late.”

It does seem ridiculously late in the year to try and get more teachers from overseas.

Chris Hipkins on Q+A last night:

 

Government challenged by teacher strikes

Jacinda Ardern criticised teachers for striking ‘too soon’, rearranged her diary in order to speak to a crowd of protesting teachers at Parliament, but one response from teachers was to follow up with a two day strike to keep the pressure on the Government.

Minister of Education Chris Hipkins, long a champion of teachers’ unions, seems out of his comfort zone under ‘friendly’ fire. Gezza commented:

From the comments he made in a sound bite on 1ewes last night, Hipkins sounded very disappointed and annoyed with the teachers at their protest outside Parliament that day, as though they were an ungrateful lot, and wondered if his testy attitude in this exchange showed that, while Ardern can hack it, he was feeling the pressure !

Stuff: Jacinda Ardern changes her mind, and meets teachers at Parliament

Jacinda Ardern watched the thousands of teachers “streaming” to Parliament to protest pay and conditions and decided she had to address them.

The prime minister had said this morning she was unavailable to meet the thousands of striking primary and intermediate teachers, but would be sending senior ministers.

But Ardern appeared, unscheduled, alongside Education Minister Chris Hipkins at the march and asked them for more time to solve their concerns

The education minister addressed the large crowd, acknowledging the tough decision many had made to be there.

“They are raising some raising some serious and legitimate concerns beyond pay to things like workload and the conditions they face in their schools.

“While he said the Government was listening “very carefully” to educators and their plight, however fronting additional money remained off the table.”

“I would prefer if we spent some time around the negotiating table working through all of the issues that teachers have raised before they start talking about more strike action.”

I’m sure Hipkins would prefer talking in private to teacher unions – this is just the opening round from primary school teachers, with secondary teachers likely to be lining up too for substantial pay rises.

Primary teachers are asking for a 16% increase.

Ardern tried to get onside ny playing the ‘care about children’ card:

Ardern said her motivation in politics was the welfare of children, the same thing that motivated most teachers.

“I don’t see them and us, I just see us.”

There is very much a them and us over wage negotiations.

Tracy Watkins: Will she, won’t she? PM Jacinda Ardern’s political gamble with teachers

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s decision to front the teacher unions as they marched on Parliament was supposedly a last minute change of heart.

She had earlier told Stuff she would not be available. But apparently Ardern was moved by the sight of thousands of people streaming through Parliament’s gate.

As a political gesture to placate some of those teachers, parents, and supporters who descended on Parliament to voice their anger, it probably worked.

But Ardern’s appeal to them as fellow members of a common cause may have jarred with some as a case of the Government talking out of both sides of its mouth.

Reading the placards, Ardern reminded the marchers she sympathised with their intent  – even while the Government has been talking tough on the teachers demands.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has all but labelled the teacher play claims as unreasonable and Ardern stoked the fires on Wednesday when she implied in an interview with Stuff that teachers had been too precipitous in launching strike action after just one round of negotiations.

But Ardern’s attempt to sweet talk the teachers doesn’t seem to have worked.

NZH: Teachers look for new pay offer to avert further strike

Primary teachers are looking for a new offer from the Government to stave off a potential two-day strike after a successful first strike today.

NZ Educational Institute lead negotiator Liam Rutherford said the union was willing to negotiate when it meets Ministry of Education officials again on Thursday and Friday next week, but it expected the ministry to give some ground.

“It’s the job of the ministry to bring an offer that they think is going to be addressing our issues to the table,” he said.

“We are going to be hoping that the effect of having 30,000 teachers and parents in support out on the street will have led to some movement.”

He said the union’s strategy had been led by the members, who wanted to strike because they were frustrated by the ministry’s “insulting” first offer.

“It was the teachers of this country that asked to turn a proposed half-day strike into a full-day strike,” he said.

Now they are talking of a follow-up two day strike.

It’s usually quite easy for Ardern and Hipkins to brush off attacks from their political Opposition, but this friendly fire from teachers could be somewhat more challenging for them.

Ardern’s championing of children in particular make things difficult, with teachers claiming that their pay claims are necessary for the good of the children.

Speaking at the protest yesterday may have had a temporary calming effect, but teachers seem to be on a mission regardless.


As an aside, a teacher playing the baby card – or more accurately. Using family of a politician in a campaign, was probably inevitable given the attention that has been given to Ardern’s baby…

…but this is a troubling sign.

Education: Nation interview with Chris Hipkins

Chris Hipkins has had a challenging start to his job of Minister of Education (he is also busy with other things, being Minister of State Services, Minister Responsible for Ministerial Services and Leader of the House).

He has had a lot of pressure from the National opposition over his determination to see the end of partnership (charter) schools.

And he has had to deal with teachers striking, taking advantage of a Government that should be more impressionable to their needs.

He is being interviewed on Newshub Nation this morning (9:30 am, also 10:00 am Sunday).

Won’t commit to smaller class sizes, says more support for students with special needs is the current focus

Police prepare for ‘torrid’ pay claims

Following the lead of nurses, teachers and other groups of government workers the Police Association is preparing for wage claims. They will have a good argument to at least maintain parity with teachers and nurrses.

NZH: Pay, recruitment and retention in the mix for Police Association in negotiations

Police are beginning to press their claims for better pay and conditions, with negotiations between their union and their bosses beginning this week.

Among the issues concerning frontline officers are recruitment, retention and pay.

The Police Association has warned its members in its monthly magazine Police News that there could be some “torrid negotiations” ahead which it says it is well-prepared for.

The negotiations come at a time marked by industrial action in the public sector. Nurses have already been on strike, primary school teachers will strike next month, ACC senior doctors walked off the job this week, and MBIE and IRD staff have been on strike.

Government wage bills look like being under significant pressure as different worker groups look to take as much advantage of a Labour led government.

Urging Government to borrow more to pay nurses and teachers more

Both nursing and teacher groups are on a roll. They have already been offered pay raises significantly more than average pay raises – they say it is necessary to catch up ‘after nine years of neglect’ and to attain pay parity.

They say for the good of children and their sectors the Government must borrow more to pay them.

What they don’t say is what a likely flow on effect would be if they get pay increases well over 10%.

Newshub Nation had a decent panel discussion on this today (their panel discussions are often brief and rushed).

Labour pressured by friendly fire strike threats

It seems a bit ironic that wage claims and threats of strikes have ramped up substantially now Labour lead the Government. In opposition Labour seems closely associated with unions, the PSA and worker groups like the teachers and nurses, so why are they getting more militant now Labour hold then purse strings?

Payback for their electoral support – large scale payback, because it works.

Hamish Rutherford: Labour’s sympathetic ear means it is destined to feel far more pressure from unions

The timing of strike threats from a growing number of corners of the public sector, must be galling for the new Government.

After years of small increases under National, Labour arrives in the Beehive, makes an offer – then doubles it – and the nurses announce plans to walk off the job for the first time in a generation.

So why now? Why didn’t the nurses strike at any point during the last nine years?

“All of the concerns that you are hearing here, were raised with the previous government,” New Zealand Nurses Organisation chief executive Memo Musa said as the group formally rejected the Government’s $500 million offer. It was “not about sympathy” he added.

“The issue now, is pretty much an issue of timing.”

In part it will be economic timing – National tool over in 2008 as the Global Financial Crisis struck and care was needed in spending during years of deficits. Inflation has also been very low for a decade now, and wage increases have been meagre for most workers.

So Labour taking over at the same that surpluses have come back – more money available and a friendly Government is an opportune time to push for a big lift in wages. And they are pushing hard.

Timing is everything, and the nurses are not alone in realising this.

Teachers – who admittedly have used industrial action regularly – are calling for “action”, with votes on strikes in August.

Thousands of core public servants are also being balloted on strikes. Although the proposed action by more than 4000 members of the Public Service Association – two two-hour strikes in July – will hardly bring the nation to a halt, the way it is being billed is telling.

The PSA has opted for “co-ordinated” action across Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), with national secretary Glenn Barclay saying it was “a big deal because we haven’t had industrial action in the public service for a long time”.

Labour will come under more pressure from the unions for a good reason.

It is not just that expectations are higher, it is that the Government has a sympathetic ear. Unions are likely to protest more under the current administration because it will work.

Labour have already raised minimum wages, and promise more increases. They may get pushed by threats of strikes to give generous increases to nurses, teachers and other public servants.

This will be good for the economy, short term.

But it will put a lot of pressure on companies to pay more too, or public-private wage disparities will increase.

If private sector wages are forced to follow Government wage generosity this will likely lead to price inflation as well.And there will be pressure to increase benefits.

Will we end up any better off?

Trump proposes more guns to combat too many guns

President Donald trump has a proposal to combat shootings in schools – let teachers carry concealed handguns. In a country with far too many firearms and far too many killings, he has proposed more firearms.

He said this in front of people who went to the White House to implore him to do something to prevent more shootings.

In the shooting in Las Vegas last October where 58 people were killed and 851 injured, concealed handguns were no use.

Chicago Tribune: Trump’s solution for school shootings: arm teachers, post veterans with guns

Seated between teenage survivors of the Florida school shooting, President Donald Trump said during an Oval Office listening session Wednesday that arming teachers and posting gun-toting veterans in schools could deter or stop school shooters.

His comments came during an emotional meeting that included Vice President Mike Pence, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and school-shooting survivors and families who had lost children to gun violence, including a father who buried his daughter just last week. They poured out grief and anger over the lack of efforts to stem school shootings.

Trump talked about strengthening background checks and increasing mental health resources. But his most pointed and specific remarks came when he spoke about adding security to schools by arming teachers and posting gun-equipped veterans.

Trump posited that if Aaron Feis, a popular football coach, has been armed, he could have stopped the gunman who killed Feis and 16 others last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“If the coach had a firearm in his locker when he ran at this guy – that coach was very brave, saved a lot of lives, I suspect – but if he had a firearm he would not have had to run. He would have shot and that would be the end of it,” Trump said.

He then proposed to arm 20 percent of schoolteachers and to hire veterans as armed school guards.

“A teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They’d go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer be a gun-free zone,” Trump said. He suggested that an armed teacher on campus could reach a school shooter faster than responding police officers. “You’d have a lot of people that would be armed, that’d be ready.”

His proposal to make 20 percent of public schoolteachers ready to fire back at a school shooter would mean training and arming about 640,000 people nationwide.

I’m not sure how much ongoing training the 640,000 armed teachers would require. There’s also likely to be a reluctance by many teachers and schools to become armed fortresses.

The idea got a warm reception among some parents, but was met with swift backlash from teachers’ groups nationwide.

“Bringing more guns into our schools does nothing to protect our students and educators from gun violence. Our students need more books, art and music programs, nurses and school counselors; they do not need more guns in their classrooms,” said Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, the largest teachers union. The group represents 3 million educators in K-12 schools and on college campuses. “We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of those who want to use them to massacre innocent children and educators. Arming teachers does nothing to prevent that.”

“This is bar none, the worst theory of action I’ve ever heard,” said Shanna Peeples, a former educator who worked in Texas when she won the 2015 National Teacher of the Year award. She shared her thoughts on Twitter. “Texas law allows schools to arm their teachers. That’s not a good thing. None of us are trained to respond to threats in the way law enforcement is.”

Strictly limiting the number of high capacity assault weapons that can be bought and owned would be a more sensible approach.