As Yogi Berra said: “It’s déjà vu all over again.” While we’re still recovering from the nightmare of Gonski 1.0, the government has unleashed Gonski 2.0.
The government’s announcement this week involved three main things: billions more taxpayer dollars for schools over the next decade, an announcement of another Gonski Review into how school funding is spent, and a decision to cut funding to 24 ‘overfunded’ non-government schools.
All three are a distraction from the real problems with the current school funding model.
When the Gonski 1.0 school funding model was released in 2012, it was hailed as a ground-breaking blueprint to shape the future of education (if it was so good, why is Gonski 2.0 allegedly necessary?).
But Gonski’s model turned out to be almost impossible to implement.
The model involved a base level of funding per student and extra funding for disadvantaged students. Disastrously, following the Gillard government’s negotiations with the states and non-government schools, the criteria for disadvantage was expanded so much that the majority of Australian students are now considered ‘disadvantaged’ and attract extra money. So much for ‘needs-based funding’.
This funding model is clearly not financially viable in the long-term. Consider 2017 school funding levels: government schools in almost every state and territory will receive thousands of dollars per student above the base level but are considerably ‘underfunded’ according to the model. This ‘underfunding’ is due to the unjustifiably high benchmark caused by the expanded loadings –not because a few independent schools are ‘overfunded’ as some would have you believe.
It would be a fantasy to pursue this funding benchmark for every school in Australia. The government should have grasped the opportunity this week to remove the ‘Gonski funding’ albatross from their necks.
Everyone is concerned about disadvantaged students and wants a school funding model that effectively caters for disadvantage, but the inescapable conclusion is that ‘Gonski funding’ does no such thing and is an irredeemable mess.
Blaise Joseph is an Education Policy Analyst at The Centre for Independent Studies and author of The Fantasy of Gonski Funding: the ongoing battle over school spending released this week.
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