Coalition's Gonski distraction

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27 September 2016

The Federal Government‘s attempts to scrap Gonski funding have met strong resistance from state governments at last week’s Education Ministers meeting in Adelaide.

States rejected attempts by Education Minister Simon Birmingham to distract from the $3.9 billion in cuts to schools funding after 2017 by claiming that individual Gonski agreements with states have ‘corrupted’ the funding system.

Minister Birmingham wants to redistribute funding between the states – leaving some worse off – while not offering any extra overall funding.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that abandoning needs-based funding after 2017 would mean no state’s public schools would reach the minimum resource standards the Gonski Review recommended.

“Pitting one state against another will do nothing to lift results in schools – what is needed is to lift our overall investment in schools and target the extra funds to addressing disadvantage,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The Coalition’s funding plan, as outlined in the Federal Budget, will still see schools $3.9 billion worse off in 2018 and 2019 alone.

“It will still see 62 per cent of federal funding increases distributed to private schools, whose needs are far less than public systems.

“Now Education Minister Simon Birmingham is saying he wants to take funds from some states and give them to others. How will that improve results for students?

To their credit, the majority of State and Territory Ministers have rejected the plan out of hand, because they know that it means less funding for schools than they would have received under Gonski.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said that NSW would lose $400 million from Minister Birmingham’s proposed redistribution as well as the $1.4 billion of Gonski it should be getting in 2018 and 2019.

"This is really a lost opportunity and I think we're back to the bad old days where we're going to be fighting regularly over school funding and that's always going to come at the expense of students,” Mr Piccoli said.

SA Education Minister Susan Close said SA believed the full Gonski funding arrangements should remain in place.

"The Gonski arrangement is not just about a model for giving money to students who require it, but it is also about the quantum of funding. Gonski without the quantum doesn't work. We need to have the money,” she said.

All other states, with the exception of WA, said they opposed the Coalition’s plan.

Prior to the meeting Minister Birmingham tried to ambush the states by releasing figures which claimed the Gonski agreements signed with each state were unfair because different states were getting different amounts of federal funding for schools with the same needs.

But these figures are misleading – because they only take into account the Federal Government’s contributions to schools.

The Gonski agreements were designed to allow all school systems to shift to a minimum resource standard over six years, ending in 2019.

Because each state began from a different point, and has a different capacity to contribute, the agreements were always going to be different.

As it stands not a single state will have all its public schools at the minimum resource standard by the end of 2017.

Replacing different agreements with a one size fits all deal will do nothing to lift standards in schools and help kids get the support they need, unless we lift the overall amount of funding available, and restore the $3.9 billion the Coalition wants to cut from Gonski.

The Coalition’s push to replace Gonski with an agreement that delivers the bulk of extra federal funding to private schools, will take us further away from the goal of ensuring every child has the help they need at school.