Heat is on candidates to honour six-year Gonski deal

Issue to draw strong voter support at federal election

Henry Rajendra

In training: local coordinators (standing) Foty Loupos, Michael De Wall, Jessie Wotton, Tim Danaher, (sitting) Christine Paulinich, Jeff Ainsworth, Kelly Bowman and Michelle Barlow.

A national targeted seats campaign was launched by the Australian Education Union (AEU) at the beginning of term 3 in pursuit of the full implementation of Gonski needs-based school funding agreements with states and territories.

The AEU has employed full-time local coordinators to cover 18 identified federal electorates. The coordinators have responsibility for building community support, coordinating local activities and pressuring all federal election candidates to support implementation of the six year Gonski program.

Targeted seats in NSW are Banks, Dobell, Eden-Monaro, Gilmore, Lindsay, Macquarie, Page and Reid.

Local coordinators will work with schools and teachers associations in their appointed electorate, plus the respective Organiser. This work will build on the achievements of term 2, when principals, Federation Workplace Committees and parents began developing and sharing their Gonski stories. It is worth revisiting the June 22 edition of Education, which described the strength of sharing Gonski stories.

Gonski stories are powerful narratives, capturing student learning achievements accomplished with Gonski funds and detailing unmet student need that can only be addressed by a fully-funded NSW Gonski agreement.

The power of these stories will become more evident when they are shared with politicians. The foundations of any policy demand made of politicians will be significantly strengthened by re-telling schools’ experiences. In the past, many of us have found ourselves quarrelling with politicians over facts and figures, detracting from what is actually experienced in schools. Of course, facts and figures are important, but only gain real meaning when expressed through the experiences of teachers and students in our schools.

Public school communities will continue to have the opportunity to develop and share their Gonski stories. The NSW Primary Principals’ Association, the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council, the Public Schools Principals Forum and the Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations must be commended for their unwavering support for the campaign and this particular strategy. This strong alliance is a critical component in our collective pursuit of schools funding reform.

While the Gonski campaign will focus on targeted seats, the AEU and Federation will continue to provide resources, support and a program of activities for all public school communities to engage with the campaign.

Public schools across NSW have so far convinced the NSW Coalition Government to commit to the full funding and implementation of the six-year NSW Gonski agreement and pressured the Federal Coalition Government to commit to the first four years of the same agreement. While there is much to do to convince the Abbott Government to fund the fifth and sixth years of the NSW Gonski agreement, every public school community has much of which to be proud.

Campaigning will involve convincing all major political parties to go to the next federal election with a policy to honour the Commonwealth’s commitment to fully fund the six years of the NSW Gonski agreement.

This will include lobbying federal Labor to make an unequivocal commitment on the matter. While Opposition Leader Bill Shorten continues to make statements supporting the Gonski needs-based funding model and criticising the federal Coalition for reneging on its last election promise, he has stopped short of pledging the actual dollar amount required to honour the NSW agreement. Local constituents must challenge Federal Labor MPs to lobby in the party room for such a clear commitment. Politicians must be reminded that Gonski drew strong electoral support in the last federal election, and will do so in the next.

The Gonski campaign will intensify as the federal election nears. The combination of our values, our commitment to all students and a successful Gonski campaign offer the brightest future yet for this country.

A fully-implemented Gonski agreement is the only means by which all schools can reach the minimum resource standard, essential in achieving the best educational outcomes for all students.