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from the principal TGillard-Rudd leadership challenge lessened something funding goes to non-government schools that educate 32%Governments. The simple fact is that if you combine Federaland State funding together, only 20% of all governmenthe release of the Gonski Report in February attractedsignificant media attention, though in the short term the of its immediate impact on the public’s consciousness. Some of Australian students. While proponents of the State system are tempted to dismiss the Report as its recommendations nearly always focus solely on Federal Government when cannot be implemented in the present political and giving out that the private schools receive more funding economic climate. This may be true, but my guess is that than state schools, the Gonski report would appear to the Report will be a very significant reference point in all suggest that the bulk of underfunding of State schools is future discussions about school funding, and that the way it the responsibility of the States. State Governments have is received by public opinion will have a significant impact allowed the State school systems to be increasingly in shaping community attitudes. under-resourced, especially in the area of maintenance, The Gonski Report is ambitious and, to use the while the bureaucracies ever expand. It could also be words of Sir Humphrey Appleby in Yes Minister, ‘brave’. argued that the AEU has been an obstacle to reform in this It focuses on addressing educational disadvantage in area. It has reached a stage where a credible case can Australian schools through recommending an additional be made that many State schools should receive Federal $5 billion dollar increase in school funding per annum. funding in manner akin to the non-government sector. This key recommendation is popular with advocates of Australia spends a lower proportion of its GDP on State schools, as the vast majority (75%) will be directed education than many countries, though I’m uncertain to the State system where most of the disadvantaged whether such figures take into account private investment students are educated. The non-government sector is also in education through school fees. Australia has, I think, happy because it has argued that the focus of the debate the biggest non-government sector in the developed world. should be on increasing the size of the cake, rather than My concern about the Gonski Report, in this respect, is making the argument of the State versus private system. for the Government to commission such a Report, and for Hopefully, all agree that there are pockets of disadvantage the authors of it to have as a central feature of a Report, – indigenous children, children in remote and country a spending target that is undeliverable, is problematic to Australia, children with physical and mental disabilities, and say the least. It raises unrealistic expectations. Moreover, children from very poor backgrounds – where an injection the timing of the Report and the Government’s decision of resources is needed to meet their needs. Moreover, the to give more time for consultation makes it unlikely that its logic of the Report appears to encourage and enable the main recommendations will ever be implemented. First, non-Government sector to assist more in this area. This, there appears to have been little consultation with the indeed, was a theme of many submissions made to Mr States, who will be expected to find much more money Gonski and of the panel from private schools. for education. Second, the Federal Government, itself, There is, however, an important caveat to this. It seems unlikely to commit to such an increase because of its presumes that a $5 billion injection is possible, and can commitment to a budget surplus. Third, the fact that by the be delivered. The detail that is passed over is that only time the consultations following the Report are completed, 30% would come from the Federal Government, with the there are likely to be four non-Labour States, and already rest coming from the States. This would seem to vindicate the Federal opposition has expressed its opposition to the those who have argued that the State Report. A Federal election is due before the next funding schools are primarily responsible for arrangements, due for 2014. It is hard to see anything like funding State schools, whereas from the model of funding suggested by Gonski being in place the 1960s the Federal Government by then. The guarantee given by the Government that no has undertaken the responsibility school will be a dollar worse off, with the Prime Minister of providing some state aid to seemingly confirming some aspect of indexation, would the non-government sector after again seem to raise questions about implementation of the almost a century of no funding. Report. The Australian Education Union The second key feature of the Report is the recommendation (AEU) and others repeatedly talk to establish a school resource standard as a basic measure of non-government schools for funding students in all schools. It is proposed to represent receiving more the efficient cost of education, so as to determine base government funding funding for all schools. This may well be the most critical than State schools. aspect to the Report, if we put aside the question of the They conveniently availability of additional funding. Such a cost would be (and deliberately) worked out in identifying a school resource standard, and ignore the fact that then government schools would receive this payment in full. State schools receive Additional funds for needs, such as students with disability, most of their funding would be provided. Exactly what this school resource (88%) from State standard would be is not specified in the Report, though an St Aloysius’ College A Jesuit School for Boys _ Founded 1879 a l oy s i a d / page 4


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