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It’s time to give a Gonski for kids

Thursday, 23rd May, 2013

By Maureen Clark, President of the Barrier Teachers Association

Today is Public Education Day and we can celebrate it with a degree of mixed feelings.

The Federal Government has finally endorsed the Gonski review of Australian education which recommends giving more money to those schools that most need it. Commonsense surely, you might say.

Not since Gough Whitlam has an Australian government recognised the importance of education for all, regardless of health, wealth or postcode.

Funding for public schools, in particular, has been gradually eroded in that time and it is the public school system which educates all students from all backgrounds.

The lack of a quality education can be readily linked to unemployment, crime and poverty and becomes a generational cycle.

There is a lot of ground to make up.

The funding package provides Australian schools with $14.5 billion over six years from 2014, with the Commonwealth providing 65% ($9.4 billion) and the states 35% ($5.1 billion).

Of this, public schools would get 83% ($12.1 billion) and the private system 17% ($2.4 billion).

Contrast this with the present situation where public schools receive only 33%  of funding while educating 67% of students.

You can see why our public schools are rejoicing, especially here in the Far West of NSW (and no doubt in other rural and remote areas of Australia which lack political clout).

The reason is that funding will finally be all about who needs it most.

All schools, public and private, will receive a base amount topped up with loadings for indigenous students, low socio-economic background, disabled students, the size of the school and remoteness of its location. Locally, our schools would be on a winner!

So why mixed feelings?

Only one state premier has so far signed up to the Federal-State funding deal. Come September, the funding of our schools will be a major point of difference between the parties in the Federal election. Unless other state premiers join Premier Barry O’Farrell in supporting the Gonski funding reforms, we will have lost a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to advance our public schools and increase literacy and numeracy standards of our students.

Speakers at the Mining and Energy Symposium held in Broken Hill over the past three days have emphasised the need for increased skills and training and the significance of education for industry and productivity.

Surely it is time for all parties to agree that investment in education is essential to our growth as a nation and stop using our schools and students as a political football.

Tony Abbott - it’s time to Give a Gonski for our kids!

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