Australia has quite a complicated school funding model that sits across both state and federal governments. A few years ago, the then Labor government appointed David Gonski to chair a committee to make recommendations on funding reform. Gonski suggested a needs-based funding system to replace the series of different deals that existed at the time. However, Labor immediately committed to ensuring that no individual school would lose money under the subsequent plans, a move that both increased costs and confounded the needs-based principle.
Since the election of a (centre-right) Coalition federal government in 2013, there have been suggestions that Gonski would be abandoned. Last week, the government surprised many by announcing “Gonski 2.0” – a model that some would argue is closer to the original aims of Gonski, complete with a real-terms increase in funding and a new review by the man himself that will look into how additional funding should be spent.
This is not my area of expertise but, helpfully, Glenn Savage has written a clear article for The Conversation that goes some way to answering questions on the implications.
I am particularly interested in the review into how new money will be spent. As I suggested last week, increases in funding have the potential to be wasted on fads and gimmicks.
The federal government have suggested that this won’t happen because Gonski 2.0 funding will come with strings attached:
“The Government has established the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools, to be chaired by Mr David Gonski AC, to provide advice on how the extra Commonwealth funding provided in the 2017 Budget should be invested to improve Australian schools’ performance and grow student achievement…
Delivery of reforms will be a condition of funding for states.”
This could be a positive step. However, the government have previously hinted at ideas such as rating teachers against the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. These standards are pretty woolly and, to my mind, do not reflect the best evidence available on quality teaching.
So we will have to see what the review produces.
It’s also not clear at this stage whether this plan will survive political wrangling. By adopting a pretty centrist policy, the government may have succeeded in wedging the Labor party at the expense of alienating its own right wing.
Former Prime Minister and all-round sore loser Tony Abbott is already shouting from the attic.