Funding campaign goes on until Gonski is implemented
The release of the Gonski Report on school funding on 20 February represents a once in a generation opportunity for increased public investment in public schools and a fairer funding model.
While all the stakeholders welcomed the report from the expert panel, there are two groups who remain to be convinced: a federal government whose initial response to the report was at best luke-warm, and a federal opposition that remains wedded to the flawed SES system it introduced after the 1996 election.
Former federal MP and QTU Deputy General Secretary Arch Bevis reminded us at the recent QTU Union Reps Conference that these opportunities do not come along regularly. In the period after the Second World War there have only been two previous fundamental changes to federal funding for schools: the 1973 Karmel Commission and the changes after the 1996 election of the Howard government.
It is imperative that the recommendations of this report, which would provide an additional $3.8 billion to public schools alone, are implemented rather than lost. As the report itself says: “The need for the additional expenditure and the application of what those funds can do is urgent. Australia will only slip further behind unless, as a nation, we act and act now”.
The recent AEU Federal Conference paid tribute to the work of schools and members who have contributed so much already to the development of this report. It noted that over 6,000 of the 7,200 submissions to the review in 2011 were directly attributable to members in public schools, and in recent months over 25,000 emails have been sent to federal politicians encouraging them to implement a fairer funding system and increase investment in Australian public schools.
Given the demands on teacher time, we would all have hoped that this report would have been the end of our lengthy campaign. However, there will now have to be another phase of the campaign to ensure that the federal government and state governments reach an agreement to implement the recommendations of the report.
Having come so far, we cannot allow governments to fail the students in our schools or squander the brighter future that a better funding model offers to them.
At its meeting in March, the State Council endorsed the QTU’s most wide-ranging involvement in a state election campaign in its history. While the QTU will continue to publish comparisons of policies of the political parties, the Union also implemented a model of political involvement based on supporting candidates who support the QTU, its members and their objectives, not only in words but in actions. While running its own campaign independent of any political party, the QTU has been communicating with its members and the general community in a number of electorates in support of candidates who meet those criteria. As part of the Queensland Council of Unions Charter campaign, the QTU also adopted a number of seats in which to campaign.
Irrespective of the result of the state election, this will be the strategy that the QTU implements into the future: supporting politicians who we identify are supporting us and our objectives in words and deeds.
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 117 No 2, 16 March 2012, p5
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