States stand up against Birmingham’s Gonski cuts

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16 December 2016

States and territories have today rejected the Federal Government’s plan to scrap Gonski after 2017 in a major embarrassment for Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

Minister Birmingham refused to present a concrete alternative proposal for funding at the Education Council meeting in Melbourne today, angering state ministers who want the full six years of Gonski to build on the success it is already achieving in our schools.

AEU Deputy Federal President Maurie Mulheron said the Federal Government had been exposed as having no plan for schools – except to cut vital needs-based Gonski funding.

“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.

“State education ministers want the full six years of Gonski funding, because they know the difference it is beginning to make in their schools,” Mr Mulheron said.

“The Federal Government has still not presented state and territory ministers with a concrete funding proposal – despite repeated assurances that he will negotiate a post-2017 funding deal with the states by early next year.

State and territory ministers refused to sign off on other conditions the Federal Government wants to attach to funding, until the Gonski issue is resolved.

States angry at proposed cuts

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said the Federal Government had treated schools and students ‘with contempt’ by refusing to outline details of its funding model.

He said that Victoria’s disadvantaged students were two years behind their peers, and that the full six years of Gonski funding was needed to close that gap.

AEU representatives, led by Deputy Federal President Maurie Mulheron, presented Minister Merlino with a 10,000 signature petition calling for the full six years of Gonski, which he then handed to Minister Birmingham prior to the meeting.

SA Education Minister Susan Close said she would not accept a redistribution of funding, even if it left SA better off.

“If South Australia were to benefit it could only occur at another jurisdiction’s cost. That is unacceptable. I want adequate funding for education in Australia and the ministers will all take a view it’s about increasing the quantum of funding, not shuffling the deckchairs.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, said the state “will continue to press the commonwealth government to fully fund the Gonski agreement”.

No clarity around Birmingham plan

Despite months of Minister Birmingham falsely claiming that the Gonski Agreements have been “corrupted” and that he wanted to redistribute funding, there is still no clarity about how this would work.

Mr Mulheron said that any so-called redistribution would not fix the key problem of a lack of resources.

“This is simply a distraction. 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.

“Shifting money from one under-resourced public school system to another won’t lift results and it won’t provide any extra support in schools for students who need it.

He said Minister Birmingham’s other proposed reforms ignored the key issue of resourcing.

“What is the point of introducing yet another literacy test for Year 1 students, if there is no funding to support the students who are struggling? Teachers have the assessment evidence, so we already know the students and their schools that need the additional literacy support.

“Teachers’ unions and state governments are already supporting the creation of Highly Accomplished Teacher or Lead Teacher categorisations which recognise expertise in the classroom.

“What we need is for the Federal Government to follow the lead of NSW and Victoria and impose minimum entry standards to teaching degrees, to ensure future teachers have the academic ability they need.

“We have a minister with no plan for schools, just cuts to resources that will hit disadvantaged students the hardest.”