Time to pressure Coalition on Gonski Guarantee

There are serious threats to the new funding deal for NSW schools, so there is more campaigning to be done.

Maurie Mulheron
President

The signing of a new schools funding agreement between the Federal and NSW governments on April 23 was an historic breakthrough after many years of campaigning. Like all settlements, the deal is not without its compromises, but what has been achieved is a new funding scheme that is designed to direct additional resources to those schools where they are most needed in practice, the public ed- ucation system.

Supporters of public education must now move into the next phase of the campaign “Guarantee Gonski”.

Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott and education spokesperson Christopher Pyne are threatening to scuttle the Gonski funding model if elected in September, indicating a Coalition Government wouldn’t support the plan unless every state and territory signs up to the Gonski deal.

We now know what we must defend. A clear message must be sent to the Federal Coalition: Act in the national interests, put politics aside and support the new funding agreement.

Supporters of public education are encouraged to contribute to the Gonski Guarantee campaign on Public Education Day, May 23, by emailing federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott via igivea gonski.com.au or phoning his office on (02) 9977 6411, or contacting their local federal Coalition MP or candidate to seek a guarantee to honour any Gonski agreement.

Meanwhile, other states and territories must also follow the lead set by NSW and sign up in order to make the funding deal a national agreement to benefit all Australian students.

It is important that the new funding model is legislated in the Federal Parliament by the end of June. Federation continues to call on all politicians to pass the legislation.

It must be noted, the cuts to the university sector announced by the Federal Government and the cuts to TAFE in NSW by the State Government to fund the new agreement can never be justified.

Gonski deal at a glance
Total funding package

$14.5 billion over the next six years from 2014

$9.4 billion (65 per cent) from the Commonwealth

$5.1 billion (35 per cent) from the states/territories

NSW share of the $14.5 billion

$5 billion (34.5 per cent)

Sector shares

Public $12.1 billion (83.4 %)

Catholic: $1.4 billion (9.7 %)

Independent: $1.0 billion (6.9 %)

Schools funding plan New Student Resource Standard

Of the new money, 83 per cent about $12 billion is notional per student base funding which, for 2014, is $9271 per primary student and $12,193 per secondary student. A number of needs-based loadings, in addition to the base loading, make up the remaining 17 per cent. These loadings are designed to reflect the additional costs of educating Indigenous students, students with disabilities, those from low socio-economic status (SES) families, others with limited English proficiency, and the location and size of schools.

Indexation

The Student Resource Standard will be indexed at 3.6 per cent per year, which, in effect, means the new funding scheme is a growth model.

The Commonwealth will provide additional new funding under the National Education Reform Agreement, which will be indexed at 4.7 per cent per year from 2014, and must maintain its current level of school education spending.

In signing the agreement, states and territories must agree to maintain their current “funding effort”, stop any cuts and must provide new funding indexed by at least three per cent per year from 2014. The NSW Government negotiated for this indexation rate to be 2.6 per cent next year and then three per cent for each year onwards, and for 95 per cent of the total to be reached by 2019.

Significantly, the new model removes the discredited and flawed Average Government School Recurrent Costs indexation measure, which was a mechanism that, perversely, meant that as the public system enrolled more students with complex needs, private schools also received additional funding.

Needs-based loadings

Indigenous students: The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) loading will apply to all Indigenous students and start at 20 per cent of the student base amount for the first ATSI student in a school. As the ATSI student enrolment increases so too does the funding amount. For schools with 100 per cent ATSI students, it will be 120 per cent of the base amount.

Low SES status students: The SES loading will apply to students regarded as living in lowest 50 per cent in terms of socio-economic circumstances. This loading will capture 9000 schools and 1.7 million students nationally and apply to students in two quartile groups differently, depending on the degree of disadvantage.

Low English proficiency: The agreement recognises that more work will be need to be done on developing a nationally consistent way of identifying students with limited English language skills who need more support. However, the loading will be initially based on an existing measure of disadvantaged students from a language background other than English calculated at 10 per cent of the Student Resource Standard per student.

School size: Small primary schools will receive up to $150,000 additional funding and small high schools $240,000.

School location: The additional cost of educating children in rural, regional and remote schools has been recognised with a loading starting at 10 per cent of the Student Resource Standard increasing to 80 per cent, depending on location.

Students with disability:The Federal Government intends that the full loading for all students with disabilities will e implemented from 2015 after a nationally agreed standard has been developed. In the meantime, the Federal Government will extend the current More Support for Students with Disabilities National Partnership with an extra $100 million in 2014 as an interim loading.

NSW commitment

By signing the agreement, the NSW Government must commit to providing one-third of the total new funding for schools, which is about $1.75 billion. The NSW Government must agree to stop education cuts and ensure growth in school funding every year and must also commit to the National Plan for School Improvement, effectively a combination of policies previously announced by the Federal Government.