A government proposal to change the way schools are funded is bulk funding in disguise, according to opposition parties.
Under the proposal, according to an information sheet published by the Ministry of Education, schools could decide how much of their funding to use for what were called staffing credits, and how much to use as a cash component paid in instalments to cover operational costs.
The suggestion differed from past bulk-funding proposals because the ministry would continue to pay teachers' salaries, it said - the schools would receive notional "credits" for their teachers, not the actual funding for their pay.
It has sparked accusations from teachers' unions and the Principals' Federation that it is a cynical return to the controversial bulk funding of the 1990s and could see schools short-change staffing to use the money elsewhere.
Green Party's education spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty is convinced it would be a return to bulk funding.
She said she was worried about what would happen to the poorest schools if the global budget proposal went ahead.
"The Greens think this is bulk funding in disguise, and it creates really difficult choices for schools and for the children in them.
"The poorer the school the tougher the choices they'll have to face about what to fund, or not to fund, and we're really concerned that low decile schools will have impossible dilemmas about the use of scare funds and also they'll have less ability to top up budgets," she said.
New Zealand First supported bulk funding in the 1990s but its education spokesperson Tracey Martin said that was not the case anymore.
She said bulk funding failed then and it would be wrong for the government to exhume it now.
"We did have odd circumstances where the bulk funding happened, boards of trustees placed some of that funding in investments, those investments lost and the school ended up without money to go on with and had to come back to the state," Ms Martin said.
Ms Martin said the newly proposed global budget model was clearly bulk funding.
"What you're saying is this is the amount of money you've got, that's it, it's all up, here you go have it, and the government takes its hands off the wheel."
Education Minister Hekia Parata said in a statement the new proposal was not bulk funding.
"Bulk funding is not on the agenda. All of the proposed directions for change, and the relevant background papers which are publicly available, are up for discussion with the advisory group, on which the PPTA are represented, and the wider education sector in the coming months."
The ministry said if the global budget plan went ahead, it would be in place by 2020.