Gonski school funding a live issue

The outcome of the 2016 federal election has done nothing to diminish the importance of a genuine sector-blind, needs-based funding model for all Australian schools.

The campaign to ensure that political leaders are not tempted to walk away from the progress made to date now gathers pace.

During the recent election campaign, the federal Coalition failed to articulate any alternative to the Gonski school funding model. Their education policy attached a suite of abhorrent initiatives to a relatively small amount of extra funding. Current funding arrangements, due to expire next year, are to be re-negotiated with the states and territories in early 2017.

The QTU is aware that the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) will meet in early December and again in early 2017. These are the only opportunities for the federal government to conclude the parameters for negotiation of a new federal school funding regime with the state and territory leaders. Our campaign focus over the coming weeks must be on the leaders who will ultimately make decisions regarding the future of school funding, the Premiers and the Prime Minister. You will soon receive information about our plan for activities to urge commitments from our leaders.

Some of these leaders have already publicly criticised the plans of the Turnbull government and rejected calls for new arrangements that would diminish funding commitments beyond 2017. While Queensland has publicly committed Gonski funds to schools in 2017 in the form of Investing for Success, we are all in the dark about what the future holds. This situation is bad for students, bad for parents and bad for schools.

The desperation of federal politicians, particularly the Education Minister Senator Birmingham, to distract the public from this crucial issue has been manifest in attempts to drag the public debate back to a public education versus private education scenario. Accusations of overfunded schools in both sectors and the alleged production of “hit lists” of schools by the Coalition government has also failed to dent the resolve of the community at large to push on towards achieving the Gonski campaign’s ultimate outcome. 

A majority of one for the federal Coalition in the House of Representatives, a Senate cross-bench of unprecedented complexity, and increasing difficulties for the current Prime Minister and his team are strong indicators of the failure of, among other things, the campaign to put an end to Gonski school funding. The resultant turmoil also means that the Turnbull government, which requires legislative changes to realise budget savings from education, will likely be frustrated in this significant policy agenda.

Our cause is just. The original Gonski report is now almost five years old and based on funding figures from even earlier. That original report made the urgency for change clear in the refrain “resources delayed are resources denied”. Students beginning primary school at the time of the Gonski report will be almost ready to move to secondary school, and secondary school students will be finishing year 12 when the current funding arrangements expire. These students don’t get a second chance to make up for those “resources denied”. Through our ongoing efforts we can ensure that this is the last generation of students to complete schooling in a system resourced below the minimum level required for success.

Kevin Bates                                                                                                                   President

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 121 No 8, 11 November 2016, p12