We now have a clear choice between the major parties on Gonski after Malcolm Turnbull yesterday announced he would not deliver Gonski in full.
His alternative policy will hurt disadvantaged students and will leave schools at least $3 billion short of the resources they need.
This means students would be denied the support and extra programs they need to reach their potential.
It means the great work that schools are already doing with Gonski funding, lifting results through more support and attention for students, won’t be extended.
The evidence is clear that Gonski funding is getting results but two-thirds of the extra funding is to be delivered in the last two years of the agreements.
Malcolm Turnbull’s policy would see disadvantaged schools would miss out on the boost to resources they should be getting from the last two years of Gonski funding in 2018 and 2019.
This means an end to needs-based funding and many schools, especially disadvantaged public schools, never reaching the minimum resources standards the Gonski Review recommended.
It leaves us with a clear choice between the Coalition, and Labor and the Greens which support the full six years of Gonski and the $4.5 billion in extra resources our schools need.
It’s a choice between investing in our kids, or limiting their opportunities.
No detail, not enough funding to schools
Mr Turnbull’s plan would see an extra $1.2 billion go to schools from 2018 – 2020, increasing funding by just 3.56% per student per year.
All this would do is restore a small fraction of Tony Abbott’s cuts to school funding with no idea of how the money will be distributed or what it will be spent on.
Details of how the policy would work are sketchy. There is still no confirmation of how the increased funding will be distributed and what amounts will go to public and private schools.
There is no obligation on State Governments to increase or maintain their own funding to schools, and no guarantee States will honour their share of the Gonski agreements.
This smacks of a pre-election fix, rather than an attempt to address the resource shortages which are stopping schools providing the support their students need.
What students will miss out on
This funding is urgently needed in many schools which have high numbers of disadvantaged students and low levels of resourcing. This funding is needed to make sure schools have the programs to overcome the barriers that are stopping students from reaching their potential.
We have less than half kids with disability getting funded support. Almost 8 out of 10 principals say they can’t fund disability properly.
1-in-7 15-year-olds struggle to read properly and kids from disadvantaged areas are five times more likely to perform poorly at school than those from wealthy areas.
Gonski has allowed schools to provide more support to students and is already delivering results but we know that many schools still can’t extend these programs to every child that needs them until they get the full six years of funding.
We need to decide if we want all students to be able to benefit from smaller classes, increased one-to-one support, targeted literacy and numeracy programs or support to complete Year 12.
If the answer is yes, then we need the full six years of Gonski.
In comments which showed a total lack of understanding of what Gonski is doing, and how great the need is, Education Minister Simon Birmingham said that Gonski funding will just be used to: "build a second or third sports shed or pretty up a school gate”.
He needs to visit some of the schools where Gonski is making a difference.
Conditions on States won’t make a difference
Malcolm Turnbull wants to impose conditions on States in return for the funding, which he says will ensure that the funding is spent properly.
However there is no obligation on the States to maintain their own funding, or to honour their share of the Gonski agreements.
Some of the conditions make sense, but need to be backed up with resources to have any effect.
For example, States would be required to conduct literacy tests on all Year 1 students to check their reading. This is all very well, but what happens next? Schools need the resources in place to help students who are struggling with literacy, and that is what Gonski is giving them.
This plan is simply an attempt to get through an election year without addressing the long-term underfunding of disadvantaged schools which is hurting our kids.
We will continue our campaign for bi-partisan support for the full six years but it appears that the Coalition has decided it has more pressing priorities than investing in our schools.
They need to understand that students are missing out on the support they need because their schools don’t have the resources to provide it.
They need to understand the massive economic benefits of ensuring all students leave school with basic skills needed for the workforce.
We need the Federal Government to deliver its share of the last two years of Gonski. Not a quick fix that will leave schools $3 billion short.