Gonski commitment paper thin

Susan Armstead
Relieving Editor

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Education Minister Christopher Pyne backed away from breaking their Gonski funding promise under the pressure of community campaigning.

Their latest position shows why the campaign for properly resourced public education must continue. Firstly, it works and, secondly, because Pyne’s words and actions show that his government still doesn’t believe in genuine needs-based funding and will seek any opportunity to undermine it.

Even the Gonski Review and all its 7000 submissions have been removed from the Federal Education Department website.

The truth is we now have a Federal Government that has publicly ridiculed the key education policy it says is has adopted. Other pressing concerns stem from the fact that they have still only committed to funding the first four years of a six-year agreement. These include:

• the bulk of the funding for the five sign-up states, including NSW, is scheduled for years five and six

• the non-sign up states are not being required to co-contribute their one-third share as the sign-up states are

• the non-sign up states are not being required to grow their budgets by three per cent or, indeed, to stop cutting their budgets

• the Abbott Government has said it intends to substantially amend the Gonski legislation

The attack on the funding model includes the Centre for Independent Studies’ Jennifer Buckingham writing “equity loadings have little if any evidentiary basis, though they contribute a substantial proportion of the large funding increase attached to the model" (Sydney Morning Herald, December 4).

As the equity loadings target students with disabilities, indigenous students, low socio-economic status students, low English proficiency, school location and school size, teachers, parents and communities around Australia would be astonished to learn there is “little evidentiary basis” to support equity loadings. It is just not true.

Recently Ken Boston, Kathryn Greiner and Carmen Lawrence (three members of the expert panel that produced the Gonski Review) joined the Need to Succeed Alliance. Along with 75 others, they signed an open letter to Mr Pyne stating, “the Gonski funding model proposes an entirely new sector-neutral approach: per capita base funding for all schools, and loadings for categories of disadvantage. We believe this is the way to give every student what he or she needs to achieve, regardless of the school they attend or their background.”

All that has happened is Abbott has sought a political quick-fix. There is no commitment that the essential architecture of Gonski will be implemented. The deceit continues. Our campaign continues.