3 May 2017 | No. 03-17 | Download as PDF

To: QTU Members

GONSKI 2.0 – don’t accept a cheap imitation

On Tuesday 2 May, the Turnbull government proposed a new funding arrangement to replace the existing schemes negotiated with states, territories, and the catholic and independent school sectors.

The Prime Minister has also announced a “Review to Achieve Excellence in Australian Schools”, which will be headed by the chair of the original review into school funding, David Gonski. This review will not look at funding levels but how money is spent.

The QTU recognises the work that David Gonski undertook in the original review of school funding, and believes him to be well-versed in the economic impacts and importance of fair school funding. However, he is an economist, and the QTU questions his suitability to lead a review of the programs that best deliver great outcomes for students.

The Union strongly believes that the profession, our school leaders and teachers, are best placed to use the funding to deliver the best programs for the students within their communities, not a globally prescribed set of programs determined by people with no experience within the profession.

No consultation

Of significant concern to some school sectors was the secretive development of the new model, with no consultation with state and territory governments or the Catholic schools authorities. Given that the roll out of the proposed funding model spans a decade, there is no genuine reason why the Turnbull government should not have consulted widely, with a view of getting agreement with the key stakeholders. There is still more than enough time for this consultation to properly occur. It would seem that getting something into the media cycle prior to the Federal Budget on 9 May was more important than genuine consultation about schools funding.

Although the announcement represents a significant shift in the government’s policy position on funding, reversing its previous rejection of the Gonski report finding that a sector-blind needs-based funding model is the most equitable way of delivering funding, the reduced quantum of money invested will still have an impact on what each sector can deliver.

Conditions attached

The sting in the tail of this announcement is the tying of funding to the implementation of the Turnbull government’s Quality Schools, Quality Outcomes policy, which was released in May 2016 and includes teacher and principal deficit objectives such as:

  • Year 1 phonics testing
  • NAPLAN-style testing and reporting on literacy and numeracy outcomes for every year of schooling
  • performance based pay for teachers
  • national principal certification
  • creation of nationally available data on students, schools and teachers.

These are similar issues to those that QTU members fought against when the Newman government released the Great Teachers = Great Results policy, again without any consultation. QTU State Council has already foreshadowed a ballot to boycott the phonics test for six-year-olds. 

Less funding than Gonski 1.0

The QTU has done an analysis of the proposed funding model and its impact on state schools, both in Queensland and nationally.

  • This announcement delivers only a fraction of the funding originally proposed over six years and set down in the Gonski agreements. Instead of the additional $3.8 billion nationally required over 2018 and 2019, there will be $2 billion over four years (2018 - 2021).
  • Over four years (2018 - 2021), the shortfall compared to the ALP plan is $6.3 billion, and over 10 years it is $22.3 billion nationally.
  • The federal government is trying to destroy the central feature of Gonski: state and federal governments working together to resource schools to the schooling resource standard for each state. Instead, it will fund schools over 10 years to reach arbitrary levels of 20 per cent of a state’s SRS for public schools and 80 per cent of the SRS for private schools. This is not needs-based funding and will only widen the inequity in resourcing between public and private schools.
  • Confusion is also created by the issue of changes to indexation. Gonski 1.0 involved indexation of schools funding at 4.7 per cent per annum, which remains locked in legislation. The Abbott government budget of 2014 cut this rate of indexation to the level of the consumer price index. The new proposed funding model will retain the rate of indexation at 3.56 per cent, as outlined in the Turnbull government’s 2015-16 Federal Budget
  • The reaction has been largely negative, with the exception of the Independent Schools Council of Australia, which represent the schools that will do best out of the plan.
  • The government has flagged that it wants to legislate the full transition funding over a 10 year period.
  • Agreements with the states and territories have been put off until next year.
  • The new Gonski Review that David Gonski will conduct with Ken Boston is tasked with looking at what works and how funding should be spent most effectively, not how schools are resourced.

Impact on Queensland state schools

The upshot of all of this is that Queensland state schools will receive $300 million less in funding that would have been delivered if the current funding agreement, which has been in place in Queensland state schools for the past four years, was continued. The 2014 federal government budget cuts were projected to cost Queensland $3.2 billion over the decade 2017 - 2027. This was money that is needed to cover enrolment growth and the increased costs of education. That the proposed new model now represents a cut of only $300 million is cold comfort to Queensland schools.

Our schools cannot wait another ten years to see the funding reform that is required to ensure that all students meet their potential, no matter where they live or what their family circumstances.

We need the full Gonski investment and not the poor imitation and delayed funding that is Gonski 2.0

 Authorised by Graham Moloney, General Secretary, Queensland Teachers' Union