Schools await resurrection as Gonski goes underground
At the end of a tumultuous week for Australia’s education system it is clear that the ‘Gonski’ funding model is gone, but unclear as to what will replace it.
Several state education departments have been jarred from the secure knowledge that billions of dollars were on their way, into a wilderness of new plans, old plans and the intangible notion of ‘teacher quality’.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne announced earlier this week that the Federal Government would scrap the new education funding model. He also moved the debate away from the money aspect, saying the new funding deal should promote teacher quality, parental engagement and school autonomy.
The model was initially suggested by a panel formed to investigate failings in the old system and come up with a new way to help improve all schools equally.
There has been some progress since Pyne’s announcement, but much of it only creating more confusion between state and federal education departments.
The amount of funding on offer is changing, with Mr Pyne this week accusing his Labor predecessor, now party-leader Bill Shorten, of ripping money out of the ‘funding envelope’ when some states refused to sign the deal.
All regions other than Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory had signed variations on a deal that would change the way federal school funds are allocated. For most of the signatories to the Gonski deal – brokered under the previous Labor government – it would mean billions of dollars of federal funds to be spread to the schools that needed it most.
While the signatory states still do not know what the future holds – the regions which did not sign up have been given a $230 million funding boost.
“Unlike Short Change Shorten, who took $1.2 billion out of the school funding model, we're putting $230 million back in for WA, Queensland and Northern Territory for one year while I sort out the Shorten shambles that I've been left,” Mr Pyne said, combining two separate issues with his fondness for nicknames and alliteration.
Mr Pyne says the schools will receive funding as planned in 2014, but after that it is not yet possible to tell.
“We can be absolutely sure that in 2014 every school will get the same money that it would have under the agreement, whether it signed it or not,” he said.
“Beyond 2014 I need to sit down and work out a school funding formula that is fair and equitable to everyone.”
The Federal Education Minister will meet with his state and territory counterparts in Sydney today; he expects he will be well met.
“I think I'll get a very warm reception from my education ministerial colleagues because we're all friends,” Mr Pyne said.
South Australia's Education Minister Jennifer Rankine said: “This will be the biggest betrayal ever of children around this nation if this Federal Liberal Government turns their back on the Gonski deals.”
Tasmanian Education Minister Nick McKim says: “This is an outrage perpetrated on Australia's most disadvantaged students, on their parents and on their schools... Christopher Pyne: stick to your promise and don't try to cover up one of the biggest broken election promises in Australia's history.”
The New South Wales Premier and the Victorian Education Minister have both said they want to stick the deals they signed.
Minister for Education Christopher Pyne says that the reform of the reform will not return to a Howard-era funding model based on socio-economic status, but has indicated he thinks that would be a good place to start.