Queensland's Gonski deal - you won it. Now the devil's in the detail.

President's comment, 7 November 2013

Queensland has signed up for a truncated Gonski school funding deal with the new coalition federal government.

Queensland Teachers’ Union members and supporters can congratulate themselves on a campaign that forced the state and federal governments to admit that the former funding model was broken.

Late on Thursday 7 November 2013, Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek announced that he had reached a deal with federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne that would deliver $884 million in funding to Queensland state schools over the next four years (2014-2017).

While this dollar figure represents the same amount of money promised by Labor under the Gillard/Rudd government for the first four years of the scheme, it is just 1/3 of the total funding Queensland could have called upon had the state signed a deal with the previous government prior to the election. In this regard, Queensland missed a critical opportunity.

It is disappointing that Queensland will not see the investment of $1.3 billion in education by the state government, as required by the previous federal government’s “Better Schools” program. Under the new coalition deal, Queensland will still also miss out on the full benefit of Gonski, with the state government apparently free to spend this money without reference to student needs and with no requirement to maintain its own contribution to the education of Queensland students.

In Western Australia and the Northern Territory, we are currently seeing savage cuts to public education, while Queensland suffers the consequences of employing more than 500 fewer teachers this year than were required for student growth.

It is also of grave concern that Mr Langbroek has convinced Mr Pyne that the $537 million being spent on the problematic Great Teacher=Great Results initiative should be counted as Queensland’s contribution instead.

It is also yet to be seen if the Catholic and Independent school systems receive the full Gonski program funds or only the federal government contribution, given that Queensland has received dispensation from paying its fair share.

Notwithstanding those concerns, the critical issue for Queensland teachers and principals is that the state government now engages with the Queensland Teachers’ Union as the representative of the teaching profession, to negotiate a transparent plan for the distribution of funds to schools and/or education programs that will deliver real benefits to students in all state schools.

Schools had a clear indication from the previous federal government of exactly what amounts of money they would have received under the “Better Schools” program [check your schools funding under the old model here]. The test of any new Queensland scheme now developed will be the delivery of equivalent benefits into the hands of school principals enabling them to do the best for their school communities.

The people of Queensland spoke out in the Queensland plan process and voted education as the number one issue for our state. The Queensland government now has a clear obligation to heed those wishes and use the Gonski education funds, won through a Queensland Teachers’ Union/Australian Education Union campaign that has lasted more than a decade, to invest wisely in the education of all Queensland children.

Kevin Bates

7 November 2013