QTU President's comment | 21 September 2018
Morrison out of touch on education funding
The Prime Minister’s contemptuous dismissal of genuine community concerns about the funding arrangements for state schools has added significant heat to the debate on fair funding for all schools.
Yesterday’s announcement of a “special deal” of $4.6 billion in additional funding for Catholic and independent schools, while ignoring the $1.9 billion in cuts to state schools, highlights the federal government’s lack of understanding of the priorities of the Australian electorate. It also ignores the concerns of the millions of parents and family members of the 2.5 million children who attend state schools across the country.
When questioned on the issue of fair funding for state schools, the Prime Minister responded that the issue was a matter for the states. Let’s get this straight. The funding arrangements for all schools are a matter of legislation in the federal parliament, the federal government has the constitutional powers required to raise revenue needed to fund public services and this money is distributed to the states and territories for that purpose. Furthermore, the states already provide funding directly to private schools with Queensland kicking in 23 cents and Victoria 25 cents for every dollar spent in their respective state schools.
It was the Prime Minister, as Treasurer, who masterminded the denial of much needed funding to the most vulnerable students. State schools lost $1.9 billion over 2018 and 2019, Catholic schools lost $250 million and independent schools received increased funding of about $100 million. These latest arrangements directly benefit two education sectors while ignoring the majority.
The reaction of the community and state governments has been swift and brutal. Members of the public see the “special deal” for what it is, a thinly veiled attempt to buy the silence of the Catholic and independent school systems in the forthcoming federal election. The NSW state government, apparently previously ready to sign up to a four-year funding agreement, has refused to negotiate further without a fair go for state schools. Victoria has rejected any agreement with the federal government while special deals are on offer and Queensland Minister Grace Grace was equally certain about the need for a fair go for state schools.
A complete reassessment of the current funding arrangements is justified given the new-found wealth the federal government has determined to spend on the minority sectors of education.
The political rhetoric supporting the need to rewrite the original Gonski school funding model was falsely premised on the proliferation of “special deals”. State schools cater to 70 per cent of all school students and their needs are just as important as any other child’s.
Two education Ministers, first Pyne and then Birmingham, have been side-lined over their failure to resolve the school funding issue. It is entirely likely that the current federal government will find itself side-lined by voters for its arrogance in ignoring the needs of the majority of school students by denying them fair funding now.