In the aftermath of the Federal Budget, and just weeks after the release of the Commission of Audit, David Gonski has delivered an attack on the plans of the Abbott Government to renege on schools funding.
Speaking at the Australian College of Educators (ACE) Inaugural Jean Blackburn Oration in front of more than 700 guests, David Gonski called on the Abbott Government to rethink its directions. His address was called “Thoughts of a reviewer of school funding, two years on”.
In his speech, David Gonski made particular reference to the Federal Government not funding the model beyond the fourth year and to limiting any Commonwealth growth to CPI. In effect, the Federal Government would freeze funding at 2017 in real terms. The indexation measure beyond that is effectively a cut in real terms.
Citing his experience of visiting schools in western Sydney, Gonski warned of the enormous equity gap that continues to grow where parental wealth has largely determined a child’s educational outcome.
“To this day I remember a principal at a primary school in a very low socio-economic area in the west of Sydney looking at me when I asked had he had any success in getting parents involved with the school. He noted that 40 per cent of his student roll changed each year and that getting the kids to school within an hour of commencement each morning was his personal goal for the year — involvement of parents he had tried but just at the moment felt it was too hard.”
At one point in his speech, David Gonski tackled head-on the myth that increased funding does not lead to improved results — an argument run by Federal Minister Christopher Pyne and various right-wing commentators. Indeed, it was one of the arguments advanced in the Commission of Audit which claimed that school education funding increased in real terms between 2000–2012 but Australia’s results in international tests declined during the same period.
David Gonski countered, “The monies distributed over the 12-year period to which the commission refers were not applied on a needs-based aspirational system, any effect of our review only starting this year, that is 2014.”
In other words, that period between 2000–2012 was when the Howard Government funding model was in operation — a model that delivered money to where it was least needed, the already advantaged in the non-government sector.
“I cannot easily forget the differences I saw in the schools I visited,” Mr Gonski said. “To say that many of the schools in the state systems need further assistance both in money and tender loving care is to me an understatement.”