Thanks to Gonski there is now more money than ever flowing into our schools, but it was only made possible by the immense effort put in by the union and its members, so it’s no wonder that after all that work we would feel a little protective of this gold nugget that we call Gonski.
There might be principals and schools where the funding is transparent, collaborative and equitable.
If, in these places, teachers and the principal have met as a committee and decided that the school would best benefit from employing a language teacher three days a week, that’s good — that’s the way every school should be run.
But at the moment that’s not happening in every school. Right now, in some schools, there are principals who are looking at their Gonski funds and making big decisions about how that funding will be spent next year. Some of those decisions will be good, others won’t be: examples — an electronic sign for the front of the school; $2000 in casual release for the exec team to plan TPL.
These decisions are not inherently bad but in an environment where we are going to be judged on the effectiveness of how this money is going to be spent, is it really a good idea to have these decisions made by one person?
I’ll paint a narrative: there’ll be a news report, similar to the one released recently about the effectiveness of Reading Recovery, and in it, a Liberal politician would be speaking vehemently about the "waste of money" that the Gonski program is and pointing to a case in point.
If teachers don’t have input and regular detailed reports about how that money is spent it’s entirely possible that the educational outcomes we strive for won’t be realised.
I say “regular detailed reports” because the annual school report does not have a quality breakdown of specific funding decisions, merely an overview that comes after the fact.
Most people will have one or more experiences during their career where they were told repeatedly that funding wasn’t available for a program, only to be flabbergasted three months later when another member of staff is given a few thousand dollars to run a different specialised program.
This is not collaborative nor transparent and it is time for us to fight for fair procedures that provide teachers with the training and authority to be intricately involved in the decision-making processes of school funding that they themselves worked so hard to achieve.
Eric Thorsby is Federation Representative at Point Clare Public School and Councillor for Gosford TA