ACT calls for performance pay to combat mass teacher vacancies

The ACT Party is calling for performance pay to tackle the teacher shortage, saying it's time to "pay the best teachers what they are worth".

With the school year just about to start, there's a shortage of more than 260 teachers, and the Ministry of Education has widened its search for staff overseas.

Leader David Seymour says he's offering nearly $1 billion extra in funding for schools to combat the teaching vacancies - but there is a catch.

They're only eligible to apply if they ditch nationally-negotiated union contracts, which he says will "make it easier for principals to replace bad teachers".

"Good teachers help kids reach their full potential. Unfortunately, because of union contracts, teachers hit maximum pay after 10 years, schools can't reward successful teachers, and teaching isn't seen as a viable career for our brightest graduates," Mr Seymour said in a press release on Monday.

"The best teachers earn the same as the worst. Teachers only earn more by taking on administrative work, and spending less time actually teaching kids."

The money for his plan will come from cuts to "wasteful spending" - including the Fees Free initiative, the Provincial Growth Fund and Winter Energy Payments.

"ACT wants the best teachers to stay in the classroom. We will give principals $975 million to pay good teachers more, without cutting government services or raising taxes," Mr Seymour says.

"ACT's Good Teacher Grants will boost teachers' pay by $20,000 on average, and elevate teaching as a profession, to attract the best graduates to teach our children and keep the most capable teachers in the classroom."

Mr Seymour isn't the only Kiwi to support performance pay. Newshub national correspondent Patrick Gower has called it "a much more modern way to incentivise teachers".

"There are so many ways to pay good teachers more than bad ones - but the Government and the unions can't be bothered trying," he wrote in an opinion piece last year.

"There can be bonuses for going into difficult schools or to difficult areas or to difficult classes.

"People just don't want to go into jobs where they get paid pretty much the same their entire lives and have to fight the Government every few years to get a halfway decent rise."

However the plan also has its detractors. New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) president Lynda Stuart, who represents 50,000 teachers, says it's a recipe for disaster.

"It's certainly not positive when you are trying to pit principals and teachers against each other. That's not the way that we want to work in this country," she told Newshub in 2017.

"We all want to work together. It's certainly not the way that I would be interested in working."

And before the 2017 election both major parties were against the idea.

"I think ACT's policy is completely nuts," then-Labour Education Spokesperson Chris Hipkins told TVNZ's Q&A programme.

"What's a bad teacher? Because, actually, bad teachers shouldn't be in the system, so we should be paying all teachers better because any bad teachers shouldn't be teaching."

National's Education Spokesperson, Nikki Kaye, was also vehemently opposed to performance pay.

"I've had a lot of feedback from teachers across the country. They quite like ACT's policy in terms of paying teachers more, but we don't support performance pay," she said.


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