Education Minister Hekia Parata wants schools to start hiring younger, more inexperienced teachers - not because they'd be cheaper, but to ensure young people see teaching as a viable career.
But she's adamant her global funding proposal won't see schools drop their standards when choosing who to hire.
Teachers don't want the scheme, calling it a return to the bulk funding scheme of the 1990s. Their unions - the NZEI and PPTA - have banded together to hold more than 50 stop-work meetings through September involving more than 60,000 members.
Ms Parata says she's "surprised and disappointed" at the unions' reaction, because "no decisions have been made" and there have been ongoing discussions involving the NZEI, PPTA and education sector leaders.
"I think the inconvenience to parents is unnecessary," she told Paul Henry on Thursday.
"Not only have these proposals been in discussion for three months, but over 80 meetings have already been held with principals and teachers across the country outside of school time."
Under global funding, principals will get to decide how to divvy up their school's annual allocation on teachers' salaries, operational costs and other expenses.
It differs from the old bulk funding model in that the schools won't pay teachers directly.
Instead, they'll choose how much of their allocation will be cash, and how much will be 'staffing credits'. Unused credit each year will be paid back to the school in cash, by the Ministry of Education.
The unions say that's bulk funding under another name, and will lead to cost-cutting and larger class sizes.
Ms Parata says it's intended to give principals "flexibility" on how they run their school.
"If your board of parents trust you, then making good choices about how you use the funding is something you should have confidence in."
She says the only reason teachers are largely opposed to global funding is because they think it's bulk funding.
"There is no incentive to hire cheaper teachers, as was the criticism.
"But by the way, only 15 percent of our graduates are getting permanent positions in schools, so I want them to start hiring some of these newer, inexperienced teachers."
The changes, if they happen, won't take effect until 2020.