Federal Election 2016: Coalition funding policy - Gonski? What Gonski?

Since changing leader, the federal Coalition government has been running education policy ideas up the flagpole – including abandoning funding for government schools. The eventual release of the government’s document “Quality Schools, Quality Outcomes” in May confirmed that the Coalition remains wedded to the “deficit education myth” that puts control of schools, teachers and principals ahead of resources and support.

That belief threatens the pay and workload of QTU members. To add insult to injury, any proposed federal funding left after the complete abandonment of Gonski funding will be directly tied to conditions, including:

  • changes to state industrial relations agreements to link teachers’ pay progressions – from the level of increments – to their performance
  • a “national certification process” to be completed before new principals can be appointed
  • more standardised student testing, including on entry to school and before students are allowed to leave school in year 12, as well as the need to report “annually to parents against agreed national literacy and numeracy standards for every year of schooling”, which sounds very much like NAPLAN-style testing for every year level.

This is from the government that has said it has no role to play in running schools.
The Coalition document appears to have been produced in a vacuum where the Gonski review of school funding never happened.

To recap, that review ran from April 2010 until December 2011. It considered more than 7,000 written submissions, and the review panel met with hundreds of school community stakeholders. The final report contains more than 300 pages and the executive summary makes the very clear point that “the proposed funding arrangements outlined in the report are required to drive improved outcomes for all Australian students, and to ensure that differences in educational outcomes are not the result of differences in wealth, income, power or possessions.”

The Gonski review is an inconvenient truth for the federal Coalition – so it just ignores it. There are 29 citations of studies, research and reports to support its policy rhetoric, but not one refers to the school funding review.

Gonski is not “just” a slogan – it represents one of the most intensive and wide-reaching formal reviews of school funding and student outcomes ever to happen in Australia.

The Coalition document denies that there are links between student funding and outcomes, but says “improved outcomes are driven by policies and reforms both in the school and in the wider education system”, and that “identifying the gaps and putting in place strategies to fill them through data collection, analysis and research will help form a sound evidence base that can be used to target and formulate more effective education policy”.

Teachers and principals know what they are doing, and what their students need. The real deficit lies in the Coalition’s attitude towards the teaching profession and the subsequent lack of support.

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 121 No 4, 3 June 2016, p16