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EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
1 November 2005
NORMS AND STANDARDS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL FUNDING: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
The School Funding Norms PowerPoint presentation
The School Funding Norms [see Appendix]
Department’s Annual Report 2004/05
The Department of Education presented the School Funding Norms highlighting the key elements and the latest developments. The presentation included the funding of public education, the policy trajectory and cost implications of school fees and exemptions and finally, the key implementation challenges.
The Chairperson welcomed Swedish Members of Parliament that were present as observers.
The Director General of the Department of Education, Mr Hindle, gave brief background on our history before handing over to the acting Deputy Director General, Mr F Patel. He mentioned that white students had been subsidized five times more than African students in the past.
The norms and standards for public school funding had been first released in 1998 and implemented from 2000 onwards. In 2003 there had been a major review of costs. Mr Patel mentioned that the school funding norms had been requirements of the Act and that it had had to be amended. The Department was awaiting the adoption of the Education Laws Amendment Bill and the concurrence of the Minister of Finance.
He gave an outline of spending and stated that two key implementation areas had been focused on. Personnel had been the only non-progressive spending element but the situation had been improving. The school allocation had been the most progressive funding element but when viewed nationally it was less progressive. This non-progressiveness was part of what the Department had been negotiating with teachers and their unions. This situation was not acceptable since it created inequality among the provinces.
North West province had been the closest to the 7:1 spread specified by existing norms but the level of funding had been low. The poor were also not being given information about exemptions. Mr Patel stated that 100% of those in low-income households who had applied for exemptions had been granted them. He talked about the policy trajectory highlighting the original 1998 National Norms and Standards for School Funding, the 2003 ‘Plan of Action’ following in-depth analysis, the 2004 new draft norms and standards and inter-provincial poverty distribution to determine pro-poor funding per province.
He stated that there should be national criteria for determining the poorest schools and that there should be more focus on departmental monitoring of exemptions. He also mentioned the cost implications and stated that to achieve the ‘one quintile adequate’ scenario in school year 2006, they projected a net shortfall in 2006/07 of R870million.
The DG stated that individuals and community groups had voiced their major concerns and criticisms before the Human Rights Commission two ago. The Chairperson stated that schools had to be informed and that the current law had to be applied. He mentioned that the Minister had indicated that 2006 would be a trial year for looking at allocations.
The DG stated that an expectation should not be created that fees would not be payable.
Mr G Boinamo (DA) asked what the Department had put in place to create awareness.
Ms M Mentor (ANC) stated that the documents did not elaborate enough and that there was no section on impact. She asked whether there had been an impact analysis because that is what they were after. She mentioned that the scenario had not changed since 1998 and that public schools existed where fees were still high. She listed Westerford High School as an example.
Ms Mentor (ANC) asked if there had been interrelation of policy and why the difference in quintile one had been just 0.6%.
Mr Ntuli (ANC) asked why there were still substantial allocations to the wealthiest schools. He mentioned that if this were not addressed then constant population shift would occur. Some other schools had been busy amassing capital with bank accounts running into millions. He asked how we would get out of the poverty cycle and what steps had been taken to realize this. There seemed to be a well planned movement of poor learners to white schools. How would the department subsidize this?
Mr Patel responded that besides their best efforts there was still a lack of awareness and one million pamphlets had been distributed. This was however not having an impact even though the Department had established a call centre. He stated that the role of the public was very important.
Mr Hindle asked how the issue of parents in poor schools should be looked at and how they were to be protected against victimization. He stated that because of high personnel costs in richer schools, their allocation had been higher. The 0.6% that Ms Mentor had referred to read that 60% more had been spent.
Mr Patel stated that the leveling the playing fields question had two issues. What could the Department do and how could it articulate block grants? It was the responsibility of the principal and governing body to ensure that parents knew their rights.
Ms Mentor stated that School Governing Bodies and parents did not do the poverty profile and the social responsibility lay with the Department.
Mr A Gaum (ANC) asked if children received fewer funds and if this were a transitional measure, how long would it last.
The Chairperson stated that it should not be assumed that the Committee knew what the abbreviations in the document meant. He queried the issue of money being given to the schools.
Mr Hindle responded that section 21 schools had gotten "real" money. Section 20 schools had gotten some money but the rest was with the Department. The Chairperson should also play a role since it was everyone’s responsibility to make sure that parents understood. This was a public participation process.
The Minister of Finance had given the money for incentives to teachers who got hardship posts. Mr Hindle stated that no school had their allocation taken away.
Ms Mentor (ANC) asked if it was schools or school fees that contributed to the quality of schools. Or was it both? She also asked about learners doing chores at schools instead of concentrating on their studies.
Mr Ntuli (ANC) asked if the Department was satisfied with the adequacy of training and monitoring of the section 21 schools. There had also been stories about corruption between schools and certain bookshops.
Mr Hindle responded that the only criteria had been whether the schools would be able to manage the funds themselves. The movement from a section 20 to 21 school should only happen if the ability to manage funds had been demonstrated. He did not believe the monitoring had been tight enough. There had to be a balance between local procurement and procuring goods and services from afar. R5 billion had been injected into schools. He stated that the school allocation made the difference in quality. This problem had to do with history rather than current legislation.
Mr Boinamo (DA) said that the Department had to give learners pamphlets. He asked whether there had been any agreement reached and with whom.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee still had to approve the annual report.
The meeting was adjourned.
THE SCHOOL FUNDING NORMS
31 October 2005