Schools get more Gonski in 2017, but future in doubt


31 January 2017

Children in most states of Australia will this week return to schools that are benefiting from needs-based Gonski funding.

That’s the good news – that Gonski will be changing more lives than ever before and more students will be able to get the support they need to achieve their best.

That means more aides and other support staff in classrooms, more extracurricular programs, better professional development and literacy and numeracy programs for children who need them.

The bad news is that funding for Gonski is not guaranteed beyond the end of the year, thanks to Malcolm Turnbull’s attempts to abandon needs-based funding.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that the Coalition’s plan to axe Gonski after 2017 would hit disadvantaged schools and students hardest.

“We know that Minister Birmingham’s plan will see schools lose out on $3.8 billion in extra resources and effectively end needs-based funding. That will hurt public schools, which will only get 38% of extra federal funding, despite educating 65% of students,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Public school systems in every state are below the Schooling Resource Standard set by the Gonski panel, and the Coalition’s funding policy will see them stay there

“If schools don’t get the full six years of Gonski funding, it will be disadvantaged students who miss out on the extra help they need to achieve at school.”

Ms Haythorpe said the AEU’s I Give a Gonski campaign was gearing up for a big year, with the future of schools funding beyond 2017 likely to be decided at April’s COAG meeting.

After last year’s election win the Coalition has failed to negotiate a new funding deal with the states and territories. But it is still trying to impose a one-size-fits-all schools funding increase of 3.56% after 2017, a measure which would end needs-based funding altogether.

Not only would this see schools and students miss out on resources but it would mean a return to the days of funding based on sector, which saw disadvantaged schools miss out.

“Most state education ministers have already spoken out against ending Gonski funding, because they know the difference it is beginning to make in their schools,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The Federal Government has still not presented state and territory ministers with a detailed funding proposal. We still have no idea of how funding is to be distributed and which states will lose even more under Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s proposed ‘redistribution’.

Without the full six years of Gonski our schools will miss out on $3.8 billion in extra resources in 2018 and 2019 alone. Many would never reach the minimum Schooling Resource Standard that the Gonski Review recommended.

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.

If the state governments fail to reach agreement, the Senate will need to resist attempts to change the Australian Education Act to reduce funding going to schools.

The AEU will continue to lobby to convince all non-Government Senators that this would be a terrible move for Australia and for our children. While Labor, the Greens and independent senator Jacqui Lambie have expressed support for Gonski, there are other crossbench senators who remain uncommitted.

“In 2017, the principles behind Gonski are as important and relevant as ever: that every child deserves a quality education regardless of where they live and where they go to school,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“We’ll keep up the campaign until our schools get the funding they need to make that happen.”