In a revelation that has angered advocates, the information was revealed in the Treasury's Budget 2018 briefing documents, which were released under the Official Information Act on Tuesday.
In the document, Treasury stated that while it understood “the Minister of Education may see full funding for these cost pressures as a priority”, it would not recommend funding five learning support initiatives in full, instead scaling them to $224 million across the forecast period.
The full amount sought by the Minister has been redacted.
Ultimately learning support received an investment of around $270 million in Budget 18.
The document went on to state that the initiatives had been scaled “to reflect genuine 2018/9 and out-year volume pressures where forecasts are robust”.
It had also “deferred projected volume pressures where volume forecasts or evidence on effectiveness is less certain”.
Treasury recommended that further cost pressures be considered after the review of learning support, which would provide information on service effectiveness, demand, and service mix in the sector.
Funding for the Early Intervention Service was identified by Treasury as a medium priority.
It noted that scaled funding would halve the current waitlist.
Based on information in the document, it appears the Ministry had sought a return to 2007 levels of support.
In response to questions from EducationHQ, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said funding for learning support had been inadequate for a decade.
“We disagreed with Treasury’s advice on the need for learning support and Budget 18 saw an investment of more than $270 million – the largest increase in funding in nine years,” he said.
“Budget 18 provided an extra operating funding of $21.5 million over four years for early intervention services which is expected to halve the current waiting list, as well as help meet future demand pressures.”
NZEI Te Riu Roa and IHC said they were “shocked” at Treasury’s recommendations.
“The advice from Treasury devalues the lives of disabled children by deliberately underfunding what they need for equitable access to learning and participation in school life on the same basis as their non-disabled peers,” said Trish Grant, IHC Director of Advocacy.
She said the news confirms IHC’s position that children with disabilities experience discrimination due to government systems and structures that place insufficient value on students who require additional support to learn.
At present, there is no annual population adjustment for learning support.
Both organisations said there is an urgent need to introduce a mechanism to automatically adjust learning support funding for population growth and projected need.
“The fact that there is no mechanism to increase funding for learning support services in response to increased student roll growth, let alone need, is fundamentally discriminatory and has led to a rationing of services, increased waiting lists and reduced service levels,” NZEI president Lynda Stuart said.