Collapse of his funding model means Turnbull must honour Gonski agreements

5 April 2017

The Turnbull Government has failed its own test to develop a new schools funding model in time for 2018 and has no alternative but to honour the Gonski agreements with the states, the AEU said today.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said it was now 339 days since the Turnbull Government announced it would bring in a new system, and it had failed to provide any detail, or convince a single state or territory government to support it.

“Now, after months of delay Education Minister Simon Birmingham has made a last-minute decision to call for yet another education ministers meeting in June,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“This has exposed the shambolic lack of detail on the Turnbull Government’s alternative schools funding model, and its complete lack of support from state governments.

“They are clearly aware that there is no support for ending Gonski, and are running scared from any exposure of the damage their planned cuts would do to schools.

“We are now in the ridiculous situation that not a single school in Australia knows what will be in its budget in 2018.

“The Turnbull Government is ignoring advice from state governments, principals, parents and teachers that Gonski needs-based funding is working, and trying to push ahead with its own flawed system which would end needs-based funding.

“Malcolm Turnbull has managed to deliver a $24 billion cut in company tax, but won’t find the $3.8 billion that would allow the Gonski agreements to be funded in full.

“He has no plan to lift results, or properly fund schools, just a plan for cuts that will hit hardest the children who need help the most.

“Compare this to the Gonski Review which was based on months of consultation, thousands of submissions and is the most thorough review of schools funding in a generation.

“This review was the basis for the six-year Gonski agreements with the states and territories, which Malcolm Turnbull is refusing to honour.

“They are attempting to move away from one of the key recommendations of the Gonski Review – that federal and state governments work together to ensure ALL schools are funded to a minimum resource standard.

“Instead the Coalition wants to go it alone with a funding system that will treat the best resourced school systems in the same way as the worst resourced.

“They want a system which ignores need, cuts overall funding to schools, and may see schools in the NT and Tasmania have their funding cut, despite having the highest levels of disadvantage in Australia.

Birmingham’s delays continue

“Now Minister Simon Birmingham is seeking yet another delay, and a special meeting of education minsters in June, to try and convince the states to back his funding model.

“He has continually shifted the goalposts to hide his inability to develop a new schools funding model, and the damage his cuts will do to schools.”

In July last year the Education Ministers communique said schools funding was a matter of urgency and would be fast-tracked:

Noting the agreement of COAG in April to finalise school funding arrangements by early 2017, Education Council agreed to progress these issues as a matter of urgency for discussion in September and December.”

In September last year the Education Ministers communique said that funding advice would be finalised in December:

“It was agreed Ministers will use their December 2016 meeting to discuss advice to be provided to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) regarding future school funding arrangements.”

In December last year the Education Ministers communique said that they would finalise a new funding agreement in early 2017.

“Council acknowledged the importance of stable and effective needs-based funding. Council requested senior officials consider the terms of a potential new national schools reform agreement and provide Ministers with advice on high-priority actions early in 2017.”

Minister Birmingham himself said that: “Agreement was reached that officials would undertake work in terms of the potential for a new school agreement based on those reforms, and that that would be brought back to the Education Council in the new year.”

“None of this has happened. States have been kept in the dark and there has been none of Minister Birmingham’s promised consultation with teachers, parents and principals,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“States are now expected to wait until a couple of weeks before June’s COAG meeting to find out how much Gonski funding they will miss out on.

“The endless delays, lack of consultation and contemptuous treatment of states and territories show how little this government cares about schools.

States and private schools condemn delay

Representatives of private school peak bodies have expressed their concerns about Minister Birmingham’s dithering and the fact that no school knows how much funding it will receive in 2018.

The National Catholic Education Commission’s acting CEO Danielle Cronin said on February 5, that there is:

‘Not sufficient time remaining to define, analyse and negotiate changes to the Schooling Resource Standard and understand the implications for all schools in advance of the legislative and administrative arrangements that would be required to implement a new funding model for the 2018 school year.”

Independent Schools Council of Australia Executive Director Colette Colman said on March 30 that:

Australia’s 1,100 Independent schools are extremely concerned about the current uncertainty around funding, which makes planning with confidence from next year extremely difficult.”

Independent Schools Queensland Executive Director David Robertson said on March 1 that:

“It is understandable that schools are becoming increasingly frustrated given there are no firm proposals on the table in terms of what a new funding model might look like. This is hardly conducive to good school financial planning and stability. Our best hope would be research and design of a new system in 2018/19, pilot it in 2020/21 and schedule full implementation from 2022.”

Not a single state or territory government supports the Turnbull Government’s attempt to end Gonski funding. They are aware that, where it is being delivered, the funding is working to lift results in their schools, and that the majority of schools in Australia will not reach the minimum resource standard without the last two years of the Gonski agreements.

Ms Haythorpe said the refusal to honour the Gonski agreements continued the Coalition’s opposition to needs-based funding.

“We should not forget that in late 2013 then Education Minister Christopher Pyne attempted to scrap Gonski needs-based funding before it had started, breaking the Coalition’s election promise that they would be on a ‘unity ticket’ on Gonski.

“It was only an outcry from schools and the community that forced them to abandon this proposal and fund the first four years of the Gonski agreements.

“Now they are trying again, attempting to abandon needs-based funding and move to a system which could see the biggest cuts in funding made to the most disadvantaged states.

“The 2016 Federal Budget states in black and white that there would be cuts to public schools in Tasmania and the Northern Territory after 2017, despite these states having the most disadvantaged students and the worst outcomes.

“But when visiting those jurisdictions, Minister Birmingham has then said these cuts would not occur, creating even more confusion about what the government is proposing.

“He has spoken repeatedly about redistributing funding between the states, but won’t say which states would see their schools lose funding.

“The truth is that public school systems in every state are below the minimum resource standard the Gonski Review recommended, and redistribution would be shifting funds from one under-resourced system to another, and would not see a single extra program run in a school.

“The priority of any funding system must be to ensure all schools reach the minimum standard, so no student misses out on the help they need.

“But the Coalition’s plan would see $3.8 billion less go to schools in 2018 and 2019, and the majority of increased federal funding go to private schools, which educate only one-third of students.

“In contrast, the Gonski agreements would see 80 per cent of federal funding increases going to public schools, recognising the greater needs of their students.

“Malcolm Turnbull needs to admit that his plans for a new school funding system are in chaos and honour the Gonski agreements in full.”

Media Contact: Ben Ruse 0437 971 291