The Federal Budget has exposed Malcolm Turnbull’s schools funding plan as a sham which will end needs-based funding, widen resources gaps and increase inequity.
Individual schools will be denied hundreds of thousands of dollars of Gonski funding, and some of the most disadvantaged schools in Australia will get the smallest increases.
We now know that schools will get $3.2 billion less in 2018 and 2019 than they would have got had Mr Turnbull simply honoured the Gonski Agreements with the states.
That $3.2 billion represents thousands of students who won’t get the benefits of smaller classes, extra literacy and numeracy programs, or extra support in class
It's the amount of extra money we needed to make sure every school in Australia was on track to meeting the minimum Schooling Resource Standard that the Gonski Review recommended.
But finding this funding and honouring signed agreements was not a priority for Malcolm Turnbull.
He chose to prioritise a $48 billion company tax cut over properly funding our children’s education.
He has also chosen a personal income tax cut for wealthy individuals – including himself – ahead of giving our schools the resources they need.
His new model would see public schools in the NT will get the smallest increases of any sector, just 1.3% per year, less than inflation, and far less than private schools in other states. This is despite their high levels of need.
The wealthy King’s School in Parramatta would receive an extra $320,000 in 2017, while Katherine High School in the NT would get just $72,000
The cuts will effect disadvantaged schools, who have been doing great things with their Gonski funding.
Chris Presland, principal of St.Clair High School in Sydney, said that the new model would ‘wipe out’ the gains his school had made under Gonski.
His school would be getting $300,000 less in 2018 and $430,000 less in 2019 under Turnbull’s plan.
Mr Presland said the school would have to cut back on literacy and numeracy programs and would be unable to expand attendance programs that had seen a 7 per cent attendance improvement from senior students.
Disadvantaged schools miss out
The original Gonski agreements were designed to deliver 80 per cent of extra federal funding to public schools after 2017. That’s a reasonable figure given public schools educate two-thirds of students and, on average, have higher needs.
But the system Malcolm Turnbull wants would see just over half of all extra federal funding delivered to private schools.
That means that under the Turnbull plan 84% of public schools will not have reached the SRS by 2027.
That is entirely against the principles behind the Gonski Agreements, which recognised that schools funding is a joint responsibility, and were designed to get state and federal governments working together to fund schools.
If high-need schools have their funding cut, they won’t be able to cut the gaps in achievement which are dragging down our school system.
Students will miss out on the support they need to succeed at school, and that means gaps in achievement between advantaged and disadvantaged schools will continue to widen.
Disability ignored again
The Coalition went to the 2013 election promising to fund all students with disability according to their need. But nearly four years later we still have no idea when or how they will do this.
This Budget gave no clarity on this issue and is another missed opportunity to address one of the most urgent shortfalls of funding in our school system.
The government’s own figures show we have 468,000 students with disability who require funded support at school, yet only 200,000 are receiving it.
We need the federal government to take the lead on this issue, and ensure that students with disability get the help they need to reach their potential at school.
Turnbull's cuts opposed
State and territory governments have given Malcolm Turnbull’s new funding model a thumbs down, calling on him to honour the Gonski Agreements in full. That’s not surprising when you consider how much their schools have to lose.
South Australia will miss out on $265 million of the $330 million contained in the Gonski Agreements, and other states are estimating similar losses.
We need them to stand firm at next week’s Education Council meeting in Adelaide, and stand up for the full Gonski.
We also need the Senate to fight for real needs-based funding, with Malcolm Turnbull to introduce legislation to Parliament this week to make his new funding model law.
Senators who say they believe in equity and fairness can’t back a funding system that won’t deliver needs-based funding and will leave many disadvantaged schools without the resources they need.