The Federal Government’s school funding plan passed through Parliament last night.
What it means for schools is billions less in funding over the next few years and the end of the signed Gonski agreements.
But the news is not quite as bad as it could be with the Turnbull Government forced to agree to significant last-minute improvements in the Senate.
Here is a summary of the most important changes:
State and territory Gonski agreements will not be honoured.
This is the worst part because it means billions in vital funding that was to flow to schools in the next two years will not be delivered. Some schools will only get 10% of the money they need to ensure they can keep improving teaching and learning and provide the one-on-one support children need.
Public and private school funding will be set at a fixed rate.
Public schools everywhere except the NT will receive 20% of their required funding (set by a Schooling Resource Standard or SRS) and private schools will receive 80% from the Federal Government. These fixed proportions were never specified by the Gonski Review and give lie to the claim of the Government that it is delivering a “needs-based” funding system. Originally the Turnbull plan was to take 10 years to get schools to the 20% and 80% point but now it will take six years. The extra spending involved in reducing the timeframe is $4.9 billion over a decade.
State and territory governments will have to increase their funding.
As part of the Gonski agreements, state and territory governments agreed to put one third of the funding needed to ensure public schools reached 95% of the SRS in 2019 (2022 in Victoria). The Turnbull plan announced last month involved no commitment from the state and territory governments but this was changed in the Senate. Now states and territories will be forced to increase their spending to 75% of the SRS over six years and they face the loss of funding if they do not. Even if they do contribute their share, public schools will not reach the 95% point until 2023.
Schools will remain woefully underfunded for students with disability.
The Federal Government will cut funding next year for students with disability to SA, WA, the ACT, Tasmania and the NT. This is completely unacceptable given the high levels of unmet need in this area.
So the bottom line is, the plan is not as bad as originally proposed by the Turnbull Government but it is still not good enough.
Many public schools will have to wait at least six more years to get to the point where they have enough resources to ensure no child misses out.
Schools will also have to scale back the plans they have put in place for next year to continue the huge improvements they have made to teaching and learning with the first four years of Gonski funding.
Already the ALP and the Greens, who have strongly supported public education and opposed the final Turnbull plan, have said that there needs to be a much greater investment in public schools.
We need to keep going until every school is properly resourced and no child misses out on the support they need.