Monday, 26 September 2016

Australian Education Minister out to bully the states under the guise of fixing Gonski education funding model?

On 23 September 2016 ABC News reported:

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham says he is not expecting to broker a final deal on the highly-charged school funding debate as he meets state and territory counterparts in Adelaide today.

Senator Birmingham yesterday attacked the Gonski funding model, which expires at the end of the next school year, saying it had been "corrupted" by a patchwork of individual deals with state governments.

"The Turnbull Government is determined to right this corruption," Senator Birmingham told the ABC's AM yesterday, vowing to "replace the special deals that Bill Shorten cobbled together ... with a new, simpler distribution model where special deals don't distort a fair distribution of federal funds".

Changes to the funding model involve altering federal legislation, and it is anticipated that the Commonwealth can make the changes without the agreement of the states.

When asked if he would push ahead with changes without state support, Senator Birmingham responded that he was "not looking for a result today".

"I'm looking for informed feedback and information from the states and territories," he said.

Another education ministers' meeting is scheduled for this year ahead of COAG discussions early next year. The funding changes are not expected to the finalised until after those consultations.

Senator Birmingham said he is expecting "robust discussion" from the education ministers, some of whom have said they were blindsided by the Senator's remarks.

South Australian Education Minister Susan Close said the first she knew of analysis of the Gonski model given to the media was when she heard Senator Birmingham on the ABC.

"It's extremely discourteous," she told AM this morning.

"We've had no paper presented to us and all we are left with is trying to glean what the proposition is by listening to programs such as yours.

"It seems what he's saying is just a recasting of 'we're not going to give you the money we know you need'."

The analysis highlighted disparity in per-student funding between the states thanks to a "patchwork" of 27 deals signed under the Gonski model.

But Ms Close told AM the Gonski model never envisaged full parity between states until its sixth year in 2020.

"The view that's being put forward through this study that somehow the disparity that occurs in the transition period is a reason to stop doing it at all is a view that will be firmly rebutted by all ministers," she said.

While waiting on the outcome of this “robust discussion” it is well to remember that, given the obvious pro-private schools bias displayed by Coalition federal governments, it is highly unlikely that the Turnbull Government intends to remedy this…….

Recent trends in school recurrent funding strongly suggest that over forty per cent of students in Catholic schools next year will average as much, if not more, public funding than their peers in similar government schools. Two years further on an additional forty per cent will most likely join them. Half the students in Independent schools are on track to get as much, if not more, than government school students by the end of the decade.

This finding emerges as one of the most significant to date from our analysis of My School data. We have previously shown that changes in school funding in recent years – increasingly favouring students who are already advantaged - has done little for student achievement and nothing for equity. Earlier this year we pointed to a $3 billion overinvestment in better-off students, without any measurable gain in their achievement. Now we find that state and federal governments, within four years, will be funding the vast majority of private school students at levels higher than students in similar government schools. Concerns about funding equity should now be joined by concerns about effectiveness and efficiency in how we provide and fund schools.

The apparent runaway public funding of private schools is a legacy of discredited sector-based funding which the half-hearted implementation of the Gonski recommendations hasn’t really touched - and which current school funding schemes and dreams will almost certainly worsen. While Gonski pointed to the need to close the gaps in student achievement, the only gap being closed is that between government funding of its own schools and its funding of the schools that are considered to be "private". Private schools are about to operate at a far more substantial, and previously unimaginable, public cost.

In this report we illustrate how funding has changed and how familiar claims about the relative cost of schools have become obsolete and misleading. We address questions which arise about our schools: what is public, what is private, what should be the difference between them, what obligations do and should fully-funded schools have to the public which pays to run them? Such questions have to be answered if schooling is to provide access and equity combined with effectiveness and efficiency.

The Guardian on 23 September 2016 reported that Senator Birmingham’s NSW counterpart, Adrian Piccoli, is well aware of what his own party at federal level is intending:

The New South Wales education minister, Adrian Piccoli, has warned he will publish full results of commonwealth funding cuts in new school agreements which he says would increase funding to some of the most expensive private schools while cutting funds to public schools.
“We will be making it very clear which schools will win out of any new funding model and which schools are going to lose,” Piccoli told the ABC.
“And what they are proposing is public schools are going to lose money in NSW but continuing to index some of the most expensive private schools in Sydney and across Australia by 3%. That means expensive private schools go up a minimum of 3%.”

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