Five things you must know about Turnbull's Gonski plan


8 June 2017

There is a lot of confusion and misinformation around what the Turnbull Government is proposing for schools.

While the government says it is investing more and delivering what the Gonski Review recommended, the reality is very different.

With the Senate due to consider the Turnbull plan in the next few weeks, here are five important things you must know.

1. The Turnbull plan is not what the Gonski Review recommended.

One of the most important recommendations of the Gonski Review was the need for national funding arrangements that involved state and territory governments working with the Commonwealth to ensure all schools were funded to an agreed resourcing standard.

The Review said a truly national system was the only way to end the uncoordinated, inefficient and inequitable arrangements that were contributing to poor outcomes in schools. The former Labor Government sought to put in place those national arrangements through agreements with state and territory governments.

But Malcolm Turnbull wants to put an end to those national funding arrangements and tear up the Gonski agreements. Federal Government funding for schools would again be delivered in isolation from state and territory efforts and with no shared goal of ensuring all schools are properly resourced.

The Education Minister Simon Birmingham has admitted the 10 year plan to provide 20% of the required level of funding for public schools (the Schooling Resource Standard) and 80% of the funding for private schools was never recommended by the Gonski Review.

2. State and territory Gonski agreements would be torn up.

In 2013 the Gillard Government signed Gonski agreements with governments in NSW, SA, TAS, the ACT and Victoria. Those funding agreements were designed to ensure that public schools would be close to full resourcing by 2019.

The Federal Government put in two thirds of the additional money required and state and territory governments one-third. (After being elected in 2013, the Coalition decided to give QLD, WA and NT the money they would have got in the first four years of the agreements but without requiring a co-investment.)

Where it has been delivered, schools have done amazing things with the first four years of funding but the majority of the money is scheduled to be delivered in the final two years 2018 and 2019.

The Turnbull Government is proposing to tear up those agreements and abandon the joint targets set in them for public schools to be properly resourced. The Federal Government would not put in its share of the funding and the states and the ACT would not be required to contribute their share either.

3. Over $3 billion in funding would be cut from schools.

The Coalition is promising an additional $600 million over two years. But that is $3.2 billion less than is required to lift all schools to an appropriate level of resourcing. As the Coalition Government itself has acknowledged the ten year difference between its plan and Labor’s is $22 billion.

The full funding is urgently required for schools to be able to build on the work that they have done in the first four years and ensure they are able to meet the needs of all children. Eight out of ten school principals say that the funding they have received so far is not enough and that students who are at risk of falling behind in literacy and numeracy would be the worst affected by the cuts.

You can read more about what principals say the impact would be on their students here.

4. Public schools would be left under-resourced.

Under the Gonski agreements over 80% of the additional funding is due to go to public schools due to the higher level of student need in those schools.

But the Turnbull plan would deliver less than half of the additional funding to public schools and only a fraction of the amount necessary to lift all schools to the Schooling Resource Standard. By limiting the amount of funding they would provide to 20% of the amount required, the Turnbull plan puts all the responsibility on the state and territory governments, who have far more limited revenue-raising capacity, to find the other 80%.

The Australian Education Union estimates that Tasmania, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, NT and NSW public schools would still be under-resourced and below the Schooling Resource Standard after a decade of the Turnbull plan.

5. Private schools would be over-resourced.

The Turnbull plan would deliver 80% of the funding required to meet the resource standard in private schools. But by failing to take into account the generous funding that state and territory governments provide, this would leave many private schools over-resourced in total.

The AEU estimates the proportion of overfunded private schools would jump from 17% now to 65% after ten years of the Turnbull plan.

As you can see, the Turnbull plan is not what the Gonski Review recommended and it will not deliver the resources that public schools need to ensure no child misses out.

We need the Senate to reject this plan when it is brought forward for debate in the next few weeks.