How much funding is too much to go on management salaries instead of children and teachers?

child subsidy funding going on management costs leaves less for centres and teacher wages6 October 2019

Is it acceptable for an ECE company to cry for more public funds to enable it to pay teachers adequate salaries when its CEO receives $550,000?  

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden earns $471,049 for running our entire country – still that might not be a fair comparison because no one becomes a prime minister to make money.

Another comparison then is Ministry of Education chief executive Ms Iona Holsted who earns $590,000. She is responsible for a huge staff within the ministry, managing ECE, primary, secondary and further education monitoring 3 crown agencies and providing advice to the Minister of Education.

The Evolve Education 2019 annual report shows its CEO was paid a base salary of $450,000 and a recognition payment of $100,000.  It has 13 senior managers, including one on just over $390,000 and three on between $220,000 and $360,000. A total of $472,000 was also paid out in director’s fees. 

Evolve Education has 128 centres and 2,244 staff. Evolve's directors and senior executives rightly expect fair remuneration for their professional skills, but the amount of expenditure on upper-management remuneration alone means a lot less taxpayer funding is available to be spent at centre level.

Their most important employees, professionally qualified teachers, without whom the business would sink/ collapse, are paid less than their peers in kindergartens and primary and secondary schools. 

Their teachers deserve no less and it looks like Evolve now agrees.

Evolve is one of a small number of commercial ECE providers that have come together to lobby the government and the Ministry of Education for more funding for teacher wages.

This new group (which includes Evolve, Kindercare, Provincial Education and New Shoots) calls itself ‘Advocates for Early Learning Excellence’.

Only Evolve Education as a publicly listed company is required to publish an annual audited report. The financial arrangements of the other group members are private, we know nothing of their distributions to owners, directors' fees or executive remuneration. 

Transparency and accountability will be important for members of this group (and for other ECE services hoping for more government funding) going forward if they are to be believed that no changes to their business models would enable them to pay their teaching staff better without the injection of more public funds.

Moreover, in claiming to provide a model of excellence the service providers in this new group are inviting scrutiny of their performance in regard to such things as:

  • whether each of their services are currently paying all of their qualified and certificated teachers well above the Ministry of Education's attestation salary rates (the ministry's rates are currently below what a beginner kindergarten and primary teacher is paid)?
  • is staff turnover in each of their services low? And do they have a better record than community-based services and smaller owner-operated services in valuing and retaining staff?
  • are there unqualified staff in these services who are expected to carry out the duties of teachers but on lower pay?
  • are teachers in any of their services expected to do work at home and given minimum or no non-contact time?
  • what are the child and adult injury rates in their services?
  • are their records clean in regard to downgrades to provisional licences? (e.g. two New Shoots centres, one for 75 children and another for 124 children breached regulations for children's health and safety and management and administration in 2018, and 1 centre also had premises and facilities breaches) 

The answers to these questions shine a light on the quality of ECE service provided. 

Both the government and taxpayers should require disclosure of distributions to owners, directors' and employees' remuneration and benefits, as well as the answers to the above questions, in exchange for providing a funding increase to achieve pay parity for all qualified and certificated ECE teachers.

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