State-Integrated schools take government to court over funding

State-Integrated schools are taking the government to court because it is refusing to give them millions of dollars of extra property funding.

State-Integrated schools were left out when the government announced at the end of last year it was giving state schools $400 million to spend on their buildings as part of a wider package of infrastructure spending.

The Association of Proprietors of Integrated Schools says the government should have included them in the handout because State-Integrated schools are entitled to the money as much as any other state school.

The State-Integrated schools are funded on the same basis as state schools but are entitled to charge attendance dues which can be used to cover the cost of loans used in building construction e.g. classrooms, maintenance and insurance which are not provided by the state.

Association spokesperson Paul Ferris says it had been negotiating with the government for a share of the money for most of the year.

“This is not a matter of discretion, this is a legal entitlement that we have under the agreements we have with the government on integration,” he says.

“In the Catholic space, we give the government the use of $2.6 billion dollars worth of property to use rent-free every year and the government agree to maintain it to a similar standard to a similar state school and if they spend it on a state school, they should be spending it on a state-integrated school.”

In September the government told him it could not afford to extend the payment to state-integrated schools.

This week the Association filed papers in the High Court in Wellington seeking a judicial review of the government’s decision.

Ferris says state-integrated schools were part of the state network and the government was obliged to maintain the schools’ property to the same standard as other state schools.

The building payments state schools will be getting are worth between $50,000 and $400,000 per school.

Ferris says extending the money to state-integrated schools would cost about $50 million.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins (pictured) won’t comment on matters before the court or the government’s legal strategy.

“State-integrated school representatives, however, have contacted the government and I look forward to discussing this topic, and others, with them early in the New Year. I remain hopeful we can find a satisfactory solution,” he says.

“I remain supportive, in principle, of finding a solution in this area, however, our challenge is being able to fund a solution given the impact of Covid-19 on our country.

“The government has decided to set aside the remainder of the Covid Response and Recovery Fund in the event, for example, that New Zealand experiences a further wave of Covid-19. Therefore, any initiative to accelerate upgrades of the state-integrated school portfolio will now need to be considered as part of decision-making for Budget 2021.”


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