Christopher Pyne has now made it clear that any concept of sector blind needs based school funding has been joyfully and gleefully knifed. His speech to the Christian Schools proclaimed loudly that this Government has sworn to maintain the Government’s emotional commitment to the continued funding of private schools, while ditching public schools. By any calculation this is the opposite extreme of the Gonski proposal.
It is not sector blind – in fact it is sector funding apartheid
Pyne’s announcements leave private schools in the hands of the Commnwealth Government in a context where the current Government has shown that it is anything but resource constrained where their interests matter. How else can quarantining top end schools from funding cuts be seen? We can’t have a budget emergency if we can still afford to subsidise schools with olympic heated indoor 8 lane swimming pools, specialised art performance spaces and so on. If anyone can explain to me why schools with resources like this and per student fees of of over $20,000 pa need government subsidies at all I would like to hear it.
Pyne’s announcements cost shifts all funding responsibility for public schools to cash constrained states. This means that from 2016, there will be no targeted Commonwealth funds for public schools, with the singular exception of the Chaplins-in-schools program, of course. This is a dramatic shift. For over 40 years, the Commonwealth has provided additional support to public schools in recognition of its special responsibilities for addressing disadvantage, supporting Indigenous populations and maintaining the national education estate.
It is the very opposite of needs based.
The ‘not one dollar lost to private schools’ promise has been kept but the public school sector has been slashed.
There will be no national system of funding transparency and accountability
There is no longer any agreement nationally by states to apply the principle of needs based funding. In practical effect this will mean that states like NSW and Tasmania will apply the principles, but states like WA and NT – where our schools most disadvantaged and underfunded schools lie – will continue shamelessly to neglect their remote schools.
The Gonski funding compromise (which is what it was) was a chance to put in place a win-win funding system, where funding could be increased on a needs base without undermining power and privilege. It was given the fatal blow by this Government but they weren’t the only ones who undermined this win-win solution.
Private education sector workers, parents and lobbyists of all persuasions, where were you when Gonski needed support? Were you pushing for timely and accurate implementation of this win-win solution?
No, we did not hear your voice in support. But we did hear: ‘more funding for disadvantaged students won’t improve student outcomes’ and ‘this proposal is too complicated’ and even, ‘this proposal will lead the Government sector to game the system by concentrating disadvantage’. We also saw your frequent and undocumented backdoor visits with the then PM and education Ministers and the subsequent watering down of the needs based weightings to ensure you did not just ‘not lose a dollar’ but could retain your sector ‘share’ of the spoils.
So I and many others will never accept such a compromised solution again.
One of the first things that will go is this ridiculous Government schools and non Government schools language. Public schools are not just state schools or even just government schools. They are public institutions and a core part of our national education estate – our ‘common wealth’. And the term non Government is a misleading misnomer as Marian Maddox reminds us:
... one challenge of writing about schools is finding appropriate terms. One common terminology distinguishes ‘government’ from nongovernment schools. …these terms are of limited use. .. all Australian schools receive considerable government support, meaning that no school can seriously claim non government’ status … (Taking God to school: the end of Australia’s egalitarian education)
So I will never again use ay other terms but public schools and private schools or the even more accrue ‘government funded private schools’ and I urge all people who care about langauge accuracy to do the same.
Christopher Pyne might be dancing around with glee at the idea of punishing public education – Labor’s base. But public education advocates will not give up. The next phase of the stronger than ever struggle for needs based funding and a strong and vibrant high quality public sector will be gloves off. Bring it on.