National is promising to boost special needs education if re-elected, providing an extra 800,000 teacher aide hours at a cost of $18m a year.
Leader John Key and education spokeswoman Hekia Parata announced the party's education policy in New Plymouth this morning. They were also promoting the $359 million 'Investing in Educational Success' package announced earlier this year.
It comes after hundreds of teachers demonstrated at National MPs' offices, in protest at the scheme to pay high-performing teachers extra to spend more time in other local schools. Full page advertisements also ran in some newspapers today proposing a new plan.
Members of the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI), a union, voted last month to reject the proposals, although other unions support the plan.
Key said the NZEI and the protests were politically motivated in support of Labour and timed to cause upset before the election.
"The unions representing some of those teachers ... in my view is very much running a programme that is political rather than what's right for the kids. I think there is very strong academic research show that what National is proposing is right."
Key said NZEI's alternative plan strongly resembled what Labour was proposing. The union was originally on board and joined in a fact-finding trip to Asia.
He added: "This is the time to do the right thing by the children, not by the Labour Party and that is what the NZEI is doing, quite clearly, playing politics with the education of our children two weeks out from the election."
Parata said she still hoped to get the NZEI back around the table if National is re-elected but the protests would not scupper the party's plans.
Today's announcement would boost the $530m already spent on special needs education in the last five years, Parata said. The extra resources would benefit around 4000 children with dyslexia, ADHD, Aspergers and learning difficulties.
"These children do not always meet the threshold for intensive special needs support, but National recognises they need assistance to learn," she said.
Of the extra funding, $10 m is new money, with the rest "reprioritised" from within the education budget.