Children in most states of Australia will return to schools next week that are benefiting from needs-based Gonski funding.
That’s the good news – that Gonski will be changing more lives than ever before and more students will be able to get the support they need to achieve their best.
The bad news is that funding for Gonski is not guaranteed beyond the end of the year, thanks to the federal government’s attempts to abandon needs-based funding.
The I Give a Gonski campaign is gearing up for a big year. With the future of schools funding beyond 2017 yet to be decided there is a lot to lose, and a lot to gain.
After last year’s election win the Coalition has failed to negotiate a new funding deal with the states and territories. But it is still trying to impose a one-size-fits-all schools funding increase of 3.56% after 2017, a measure which would end needs-based funding altogether.
Not only would this see schools and students miss out on resources but it would mean a return to the days of funding based on sector, which saw disadvantaged schools miss out.
Without the full six years of Gonski our schools will miss out on $3.8 billion in extra resources in 2018 and 2019 alone. Many would never reach the minimum Schooling Resource Standard that the Gonski Review recommended.
They are doing this despite the growing evidence of the success that Gonski is delivering, and the opposition from state and territory governments.
Last December’s education ministers meeting was a major embarrassment for Education Minister Simon Birmingham, whose plans to cut Gonski were roundly rejected by state ministers.
Minister Birmingham failed to provide any detail to ministers about his funding plans, a move described as ‘ contemptuous’ by state ministers, who refused to discuss other proposed reforms until there is clarity around the future of funding.
While the Gonski funding agreements are the results of years of work, with input from thousands of expert and public submissions, Minister Birmingham wants to develop a new funding system with no input from anyone, even the state governments which run the majority of our schools.
Victorian Education Minister James Merlino, together with SA’s Susan Close and the ACT’s Yvette Berry presented the I Give A Gonski campaign’s petition – which has over 10,000 signatures – to Minister Birmingham at the start of the meeting.
Minister Birmingham is still saying that agreement will be reached this year, with April’s COAG meeting seen as the next chance to complete a deal.
If the state governments fail to reach agreement, the Senate will need to resist attempts to change the Australian Education Act to reduce funding going to schools.
We will need to convince all non-Government Senators that this would be a terrible move for Australia and for our children. While Labor, the Greens and independent senator Jacqui Lambie have expressed support for Gonski, there are other crossbench senators who remain uncommitted.
This would mean thousands of children would miss out on the support they need at school.
In 2017, the principles behind Gonski are as important and relevant as ever: that every child deserves a quality education regardless of where they live and where they go to school.
We’ll keep up the campaign until our schools get the funding they need to make that happen.