Gonski faces crucial year

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21 December 2016

The future of schools funding will be on the line in 2017, with the Turnbull Government trying to convince states, territories and the Senate that cutting funding to disadvantaged schools is in our national interest.

The AEU will continue to fight for needs-based Gonski funding because we know it is working, and we know our schools need the full six years of funding the Gonski Review recommended.

Schools received record amounts of Gonski funding in 2016, and are using it to deliver for their students, yet only 20% of the total of Gonski funding has been distributed so far.

Australia’s schools are struggling with declining results, based on international testing, and increasing workloads for teachers.

Funding schools on an equitable basis, and targeting funding where it is needed, is the first step to reducing these trends.

But the Turnbull Government wants to move away from Gonski funding after 2017, to a system which would cost schools $3.8 billion in resources and shift away from needs-based funding.

To do this will require agreement from the Senate to amend the Australian Education Act, and the AEU will continue to work to ensure the support of minor parties Senators for Gonski.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said Malcolm Turnbull needed to recognise the success of Gonski and fund it in full.

“Ending Gonski will take money from the most disadvantaged schools, which are already using it to lift results for their students,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“It would mean many schools would never get the resources they need which would entrench disadvantage, and gaps in results between advantaged and disadvantaged schools.

“Under Gonski, 80% of extra federal government funding will go to public schools, because that is where the majority of need is.”

The Federal Government’s cuts, and their refusal to present a concrete funding proposal has angered state and territory governments.

In the lead-up to December’s Education Council meeting, states expressed opposition to any cuts, with Victorian Education Minister James Merlino saying the Federal Government was treating schools and students ‘with contempt’ by not giving details of its funding plan.

While the Gonski funding agreements are the results of years of work, with input from thousands of expert and public submissions, Minister Birmingham wants to develop a new funding system with no input from anyone, even the state governments which run the majority of our schools.

The next major meeting will be the COAG meeting of Malcolm Turnbull and state premiers in April, and the AEU will again lobby state governments to stand firm against cuts.

The impasse over funding has again exposed federal education minister Simon Birmingham as having no real agenda for schools, beyond cuts to needs-based funding.

He is making no efforts to lift the entry scores for teaching courses at universities, despite the worrying drop in ATAR scores required, and the surplus of teaching graduates.

His plan to introduce another test for literacy and phonics in Year 1 will make no difference unless schools are given the resources to help students who can’t pass it.

He has still not committed to funding 15 hours of quality pre-school for every four-year old beyond 2017, despite the research that shows this is the best way for children to start their education.

There’s a long way to go in the battle to properly fund our schools on the basis of need. But 2017 is shaping as a crucial year for our long-running campaign to make sure every child, in every school has the resources they need to succeed.