Gonski at risk: act now

Gary Zadkovich
Deputy President

A Bondi Junction shopper takes in what the fully-funded NSW Gonski agreement would mean for local schools

In proposed legislation currently before federal parliament, the Turnbull government aims to cut billions of dollars from schools and abandon the Gonski needs-based funding model.

A total of $846 million will be cut from NSW public schools in 2018 and 2019 if the NSW National Education Reform Agreement is terminated.

In a deceitful ploy to set a smokescreen for the cuts, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham called their funding plan “Gonski 2.0”. They also engineered a reason for people to mistakenly think that David Gonski supported it.

It is not “Gonski 2.0”. It is and should be called the Turnbull plan.

The fact is that Mr Gonski was invited to the government’s media conference to be announced as the leader of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools. This review is to provide advice to government on how funding can best be used to improve teaching and learning. Its terms of reference state: “The Review will not reconsider the calculation of Commonwealth or state funding for schools, which was the subject of the 2011 Review of Funding for Schooling, also chaired by David Gonski.”

David Gonski has not endorsed the Turnbull cuts to the NSW agreement.

Campaign action

In response to the announcement of the Turnbull plan, Federation used NSW Department of Education data to show the extent of the cuts across the state. This school-by-school data was released to the media on 11 May.

The Presidents of the Secondary Principals’ Council, Primary Principals’ Association and Federation of Parents and Citizens’ Associations joined with our union at a media conference to reveal the truth behind the Turnbull plan. This resulted in extensive media coverage and recovered the ground that Mr Turnbull and Mr Birmingham had taken in their pre-Budget political stunt.

The strong, unequivocal support for full Gonski funding in Labor Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s Budget Reply is a most significant commitment that is duly welcomed by Federation.

The email to all principals from NSW Education Department Secretary Mark Scott on 11 May reinforced the unity upon which the NSW agreement is founded.

“...[T]he Commonwealth Education Minister has written to you with an estimate of the funding increases that your school will attract from the latest announcement. You should not rely on these figures for future planning or budgeting purposes. The figures for your school were calculated by the Commonwealth on the assumption that every school would receive exactly the same increase in funding. The commitment by the State to the Gonski principles of needs-based funding means that every school receives a different level of funding to reflect the needs of their school community,” the email states.

Teachers, principals and parents in public school communities have been greatly heartened by bipartisan support in the NSW parliament for full funding for the NSW agreement. NSW Liberals and Nationals support the agreement and have honoured the state government commitment with full funding for its six-year duration. NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes continues to publicly advocate for full Commonwealth funding for 2018 and 2019. NSW Labor, the Greens and MPs on the crossbenches are also supportive.

If the legislation to introduce the Turnbull plan passes in the House of Representatives, where the Liberals and Nationals have a majority, it will be paramount that a majority of crossbench senators vote with Labor to reject it.

It is crucial, therefore, that members act on the union’s emailed request to send a lobby letter to all crossbench senators to maintain support for fully-funded Gonski agreements. Members should also send individual, personal messages to senators and local federal MPs by telephone and email, citing the amount of funding that the Turnbull plan will cut from their schools.

In all locations across the state, Federation members must continue to support this crucial campaign. Teachers, principals and parents have worked too long and hard to let the Turnbull government abandon needs-based funding and deny public school students the support necessary to achieve their potential in education and later life.

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