In the continuing campaign to convince the Abbott Government to honour the Commonwealth’s commitment to funding the fifth and sixth years of the NSW Gonski agreement, Federation has requested the Department not to conflate the terminology of its Local Schools, Local Decisions agenda with the benefits of the Gonski funding model.
The Department has been ascribing the benefits of increased Gonski funding to the Resource Allocation Model (RAM), which is merely the distributive mechanism of its devolution agenda. Department documents, for example, have referred to “RAM equity funding” when this funding is derived from the equity loadings implemented through the needs-based Gonski model. Such references to the RAM are also appearing in the school discourse on increased funding support for students.
This is misleading and problematic for the longer-term Gonski campaign. Whenever the public has been surveyed, people have overwhelmingly supported the Gonski model as being fairer in meeting student and school needs. Consistently, the polls show that Gonski is rated as a good policy by more than 80 per cent of respondents. It is imperative, therefore, that this momentum is maintained by continuing the positive messaging about the benefits of Gonski.
Members should remember that there is nothing inherently positive about the RAM. It is nothing more than the tap through which government funding flows. The tap can be turned up high with Gonski funding, as it is currently, or it can be turned down low by a future government or treasury. The latter has certainly been the experience in Victorian public schools since the Kennett government introduced devolutionary policies in the 1990s.
The experience in TAFE bears this out. Since the advent of the RAM in TAFE, funding has been cut year after year. Members are urged, therefore, not to use the language of the devolutionary policies that are designed to defund our public schools and TAFE colleges.
Use the language of Gonski needs-based funding. Emphasise that Gonski is designed to lift all schools to a national resource standard, and provide additional funding to students in need of extra support. It’s fairer. It’s good for public school students.
It’s one of the most significant public policy reforms in a half a century.