Public School Funding Fight: Time to change strategy and our language

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.


5 thoughts on “Public School Funding Fight: Time to change strategy and our language

  1. Kez says:

    Libs’ much-touted notion of ‘user pays’ obviously doesn’t apply to government-funded private schools.
    You are exactly right – it’s all gloves off now for proper funding of public schools. I’m there with you.

  2. One of their promises was to have an open and transparent government. Well, they achieved that alright, you can see right through them. It is so obvious that they are tilting the social scales in favour of the well heeled in our community, at the expense of the bottom feeders.

    In reality, we should have free education.
    Only a few decades ago, Australia had FREE education.
    Free education is Australia’s investment in its future.
    Anything less is detracting from our nations future prosperity.
    To favour any one sector of the communities education (private Vs public), is, apart from social divide, restricting Australia’s potential to produce the best from our children.

    Australia’s greatest asset is not mining or agriculture, it is our children.
    We must invest heavily in developing this asset.
    Educate our children to the best of the nations ability.
    This will establish Australia’s future as a great nation.

    The greatest impediment to education, comes from politicians who know not what they do.

    My cartoon on education . . . .


  3. Rob says:

    You’re hopelessly confused by your own ideology. A billionaire sending their kids to publicly funded public school is just fine and a dandy but the same billionaire sending them to a top private school receiving less govt funding per student is an absolute travesty?

    I suggest you a) forget the crazy idea that taking govt money out of private schools will see more go into public schools and b) go back to the idea of ‘need’ being about educational need rather than economic need

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