The Gonski road trip launch in Hobart

Maurie Mulheron
President

No turning back in Gonski campaign

State Schools Teachers' Union of Western Australia President Pat Byrne, parent Nadyne Cornwall, grandparent and bus aid Joy Ayton, and School Board Member Trevor Knuckey at the Perth launch of the national Gonski road trip. Launches were also held in Hobart, Darwin and Brisbane

The most important educational reform in over 40 years is under threat because of a federal government that is openly hostile to public schools and the work they do. But we have come too far to allow this critical reform to be scuttled because of ideology.

Federation will support the Australian Education Union Vans to Canberra strategy that has begun and which concludes with an event in Canberra on March 18 in the lead-up to the May Budget. Particular emphasis will be placed on those NSW public school communities that are included in the itinerary and associated events. Members are encouraged to visit Federation’s website for updates.

Federation also understands the importance of the Senate Select Committee on School Funding that was recently established with the support of the ALP and the Greens. Federation will encourage all public schools throughout NSW to develop a short submission in support of the Gonski funding model and calling for its full implementation. A simple submission page can be found on the national I Give a Gonski website (www.igiveagonski.com.au).

Why do we need to defend the model?

The essential elements of the funding model recommended by the review panel chaired by David Gonski included an explicit Schooling Resources Standard for all Australian schools which incorporated six loadings that took into account school profiles based on socio-economic status, Aboriginal enrolments, English language proficiency, disability, remoteness and school size.

A six-year transition model was proposed to enable all schools to be lifted to the minimum resource standard.

The Gonski panel recommended that state and Commonwealth governments take joint responsibility for funding the model, with the Commonwealth taking the lead role. The Federal Government was to contribute 65 per cent with the participating state governments the remaining 35 per cent. The Federal Government was to index its contribution by 4.7 per cent, with participating state governments obliged to index their contribution by 3 per cent.

Under the national agreement reached in April 2013 between the NSW and Commonwealth governments, the following additional funding should flow into NSW schools during the transition years.

$ million 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 TOTAL
Government schools 118 249 382 745 1153 1597 4243
Catholic schools 19 37 53 98 141 181 529
Independent Schools 16 21 25 46 66 85 260
TOTAL 153 307 460 889 1360 1863 5032

However, during the 2013 federal election campaign, the Coalition only committed to the financial years from 2013-14 to 2016-17. No commitment was made for the final years when the bulk of the funding is to be delivered.

Since gaining office the Abbott Government has signalled that it intends not only to refuse to fund the full transition period but also to dismantle the essential architecture of the Gonski funding model. The Government has stated that it will amend the Australian Education Act to remove what it labels "prescriptive and control" features for states and territories. This essentially would allow any state and territory government to refuse to contribute its share and even allow a state or territory government to cut its education budget.

Let us remember that prior to signing up to Gonski, the O’Farrell Government designed Local Schools, Local Decisions to help deliver the massive cuts of $1.7 billion to education.

Federation remains steadfastly committed to the national Gonski campaign to ensure that the Federal Government delivers the full six-year transition model designed to bring all schools up to the Schooling Resource Standard. If the Abbott Government fails to commit to the funding model beyond 2017 at the May Budget this year, then a significant number of public schools will be operating below the Schooling Resource Standard and left without the adequate level of resources that could address student need. This is unacceptable.

Teachers have reacted with some scepticism to the attempts by Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne to distract attention from the issue of funding with his announcement of a curriculum review and the need for "independent" public schools.

Public schools need greater resources, not politically-driven attacks on curriculum or policies designed to fragment and weaken the system.