Another cringe-worthy moment for New Zealanders this week. The Cook Islands Prime Minister’s nephew was arrested for not paying back his student loan when he visited New Zealand to attend a work based conference – on education. A loan that had ballooned, thanks to extortionate interest charges, from a mere $20,000 to over $100,000. Continue reading
The relationship between poverty and low educational achievement is complex. Education is a basic human right, and everyone should have access to good schools and tertiary training. But it is an oversimplification to say that the way out of poverty is education. People are poor because they don’t have enough money. The quickest and easiest way out of poverty is to make sure people have enough money to live on. Continue reading
Alliance Party co-leader Kay Murray is disappointed that, in the debate over changes to the student loans scheme foreshadowed in the 2012 budget, no one has questioned the need for student loans. Continue reading
Child poverty is a political issue but children can’t employ political lobbyists and children don’t get to vote, says Alliance Party co-leader Kay Murray. Continue reading
The Alliance Party says the National Government must not make proposed cuts to equity funding for disabled tertiary students.
Alliance Party Disabilities spokesperson Chris Ford says the cuts could badly affect the disability information and support services currently available in many of our tertiary institutions.
Mr Ford, who is also a mature student who lives with disability, believes that any funding cut will harm disabled students access to tertiary education.
He says without this funding, there would not be the staffing or resources to support disabled students in what can be a challenging learning environment.
“If equity funding is cut, then support staff numbers in disability support offices, such as that at Otago University, could have to be reduced. Also the ability to purchase and maintain specialist equipment, for example, large screen readers for blind and vision impaired students, could be severely impacted.”
Mr Ford says other ramifications could include a reduction in the number of hours worked by New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) interpreters who support Deaf students in tertiary education.
The Alliance Party believes that all of this could cost the country and disabled people dearly as the participation rate of disabled people in tertiary education is already lower than that of other disadvantaged groups such as Maori and Pacific Islanders.
The Alliance says that tertiary education should be available to all New Zealanders including disabled people.
“If the funding cuts go ahead, then the already low participation rate could decline even further. We would also like to point out that the National Government is in the process of tightening ACC and benefit eligibility as well and these moves will impact severely on disabled people.”
Mr Ford says this policy, amongst others, will undercut the ability of government to shift disabled people off welfare and into work.
“If disability support is not available at the tertiary level, then how are disabled people going to be able to train or retrain successfully? This is another example of National’s self-defeating approach.”
The Alliance will fight to stop or reverse any funding cuts and noted its commitment to free tertiary education with no fees, no loans and liveable benefit and student allowance levels funded through progressive taxation.
The Alliance Party says a plan to have schools built and owned by private companies is shortsighted and full of potential problems.
Official documents have revealed the National Government will announce the construction of a privately-built state school in this year’s Budget.
Alliance Party co-leader Kay Murray says the benefit from the Government leasing privately owned schools will not be to school children or parents, but to a new class of landlords.
She says the plan will further disrupt an education system which is already in uproar over so-called national standards, which are facing a revolt from teachers and concerned parents, and the widely-condemned “junk food” scheme which saw National throwing out nutritional guidelines for school canteens.
“Private public partnerships are a bright idea for the wealthy few to increase their wealth at the expense of the community. There is no merit in this idea.”
“It makes no financial sense at all to have large multinational corporations owning schools, who will borrow to build knowing that there is no risk because they have a guaranteed tenant.”
Ms Murray says there will be little to prevent private owners from increasing “school rents” by whatever they feel like in the future.
“It is simply a scheme to transfer money from hard pressed New Zealand families to private and possibly multinational landlords.”
Then there is the question of whether the private owners will maintain schools to the standard required, particularly if profits are threatened.
“What happens if private investors use schools to speculate on property values, or if they go bankrupt? What happens to school children while the Government, Boards of Trustees and the new owners of our schools wrangle in the Courts over contracts gone bad and schools that have substandard facilities or maintenance?”
Ms Murray says we should learn from past when it comes to privatising our essential infrastructure.
“Private ownership of school infrastructure will be another expensive mistake, in the same vein as TranzRail. Eventually the taxpayers will have to buy out the private companies and spend large amounts of money to bring facilities up to scratch again.”
The Alliance says schools must be built whenever and wherever they are needed through public funds.
“It is money well spent if it ensures every child continues to have access to a quality publicly owned and operated school.”
The Alliance Party says if the Prime Minister wants to “improve” the student loan scheme as claimed, he should just abolish it.
Alliance Party co-leader Kay Murray says it is worth remembering Mr Key and most of his colleagues would probably have received their education for free.
Student loans were introduced in 1992 by the National Government, following the introduction of fees and user pays education by the Fourth Labour Government in 1990.
The student debt is now approaching $11 billion dollars.
Ms Murray says the Alliance agrees with the New Zealand Union of Student’s Associations goal of a “universal, free, publicly funded and high quality tertiary education system at every level.”
“Tertiary education should be completely free and all students should receive a student allowance at the level of the unemployment benefit.”
“In fairness to those who have already incurred student loans, all existing student debt should be wiped.”
Ms Murray says student loans are an iniquity that have seen our young people saddled with debt the likes of which their parents would not have incurred even in buying their first house.
She questioned the commitment of the Labour Party to affordable education.
“The fact is Labour are also committed to user pays education and student loans, and student debt rose massively during their time in Government.”
The Alliance supports a free public education system through to the tertiary level, funded by progressive taxation.
“Education is vital for the future of New Zealand and we should be encouraging all young and mature students by removing any barriers to their education.”