States stand up for Gonski

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State and territory education ministers have stood up for Gonski at today’s Education Council meeting in Melbourne, rejecting Federal Government plans to scrap it after 2017.

But the Federal Government remains intent on pushing ahead with its plans, and aims to have a new deal approved at next year’s COAG meeting of state and territory leaders.

It is disappointing that the Federal Government continues to ignore the evidence that Gonski is working in our schools.

However state and territory support is important for securing the full six years of funding our schools need and sends a strong message to the Senate that it should not support any changes to legislation which would end needs-based funding.

Without the full six years of Gonski our schools will miss out on $3.8 billion in extra resources in 2018 and 2019 alone.

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.

State and territory ministers refused to discuss other proposed reforms until there is clarity around the future of funding.

Today has again exposed Education Minister Simon Birmingham as having no plan for schools beyond cuts to needs-based funding, failing to even present an alternative funding model to state ministers.

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.

His failure to present a concrete proposal at today’s meeting further angered state ministers – who are already concerned by Minister Birmingham’s comments that he wants to ‘redistribute’ funding from one state to another, without adding any extra resources to the system.

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said the Federal Government had treated schools and students ‘with contempt’ by refusing to outline details of its funding model.

He said that Victoria’s disadvantaged students were two years behind their peers, and that the full six years of Gonski funding was needed to close that gap.

SA Education Minister Susan Close said she would not accept a redistribution of funding, even if it left SA better off.

“If South Australia were to benefit it could only occur at another jurisdiction’s cost. That is unacceptable. I want adequate funding for education in Australia and the ministers will all take a view it’s about increasing the quantum of funding, not shuffling the deckchairs,” Ms Close said.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, a long-term Gonski supporter, said the state “will continue to press the commonwealth government to fully fund the Gonski agreement”.

The reality is that virtually all school systems in all states are below the needs-based resource standard that the Gonski Review recommended. We need extra resources, and to target them at the schools that disadvantaged children attend.

State and territory ministers refused to sign off on other conditions the Federal Government wants to attach to funding, until the Gonski issue is resolved.

While there is more to lifting school results than just funding, it is clear that resource shortages are the key problem that schools are facing.

Minister Birmingham’s plan to introduce another test for literacy and phonics in Year 1 will make no difference unless schools are given the resources to help students who can’t pass it.

There’s a long way to go in the battle to properly fund our schools on the basis of need. But we won’t win the fight without the support of state governments, and today has been a good demonstration of their support for Gonski.

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