For all the bluster and bluff about schools funding over the past week, families should make sure they arm themselves with the facts to cut through the scaremongering and spin.
1. Current Federal Funding is the Shorten Model
Schools and states are receiving federal funding that exactly matches what Labor promised ahead of the 2013 election. The inequities between different state government school systems and between different non-government schools are inequities that Bill Shorten built into the 27 different funding models he signed up.
It is an outright lie to suggest current federal funding for any state or territory or non-government school is worth anything less than what Labor originally proposed – that's why we had to reinstate in the 2014 budget the $1.2 billion Mr Shorten sneakily cut from budgeted schools funding ahead of the 2013 election. Labor’s claims about the deals done by the previous education minister are a smokescreen for their inability to explain why they ‘corrupted’ David Gonski’s report and created 27 different funding deals that treat both schools with identical circumstances in different ways.
2. The current schools funding arrangements are not what was envisaged by the ‘Gonski’ review
As one of the architects of the ‘Gonski report’, Ken Boston, highlighted recently, “In the run-up to the 2013 election, prime minister Kevin Rudd and education minister Bill Shorten hawked this corruption of the Gonski report around the country, doing deals with premiers, bishops and the various education lobbies.”
Under the current arrangements Bill Shorten authored, a disadvantaged student in one state receives up to $1,500 less than a student in another state in the exact same circumstance, which only gets worse by 2019 when the difference blows out to more than $2,100. Bill Shorten has failed his own fairness test, where a child’s postcode or the state they live in is determining the different funding they receive from the Federal Government, while special deals for some schools from years ago are currently entrenched for decades to come.
The Turnbull Government is determined to right Labor’s “corruption” of the Gonski report and replace the special deals that Bill Shorten cobbled together as he ran around the country wheeling and dealing with the highest bidder with a new, simpler distribution model where special deals don’t distort a fair distribution of federal funds.
3. The Coalition is increasing schools funding. There are no cuts
There are no cuts to school funding and repeating a lie ad nauseam does not make it true. The Turnbull Government is growing investment in schools from around $16 billion in 2016 to $20.1 billion by 2020. That is funding above inflation and above enrolment growth projections.
The Turnbull Government will be working to ensure that funding is distributed fairly and according to need so that schools currently delivering valuable programs can continue to do so.
4. We need to focus on what boosts results for students
We know that a strong level of funding is important for our school system and we have that. But we also need to focus on evidence based measures that will get results for our students because NAPLAN results and our international rankings show that, despite significant funding growth, we are not getting sufficient improvements in student outcomes.
As detailed in our 2016 Budget document Quality Schools Quality Outcomes, we want students leaving school with literacy and numeracy skills that are up to scratch, we want to reward teachers for their competency and achievement not just their length of service, we want to be able to identify and help Year 1 students who need additional support and we want to give families more transparency so they can monitor their children’s progress and better support them.
I am working to implement the exact funding commitments and school reform proposals that Malcolm Turnbull and I took to the recent election – growing funding, distributed according to need and used to implement real reforms that lift student outcomes.
There are a lot of common ambitions between the Coalition, Labor and the various stakeholders in schools regarding funding and investment.
I believe that we all want to deliver funding that is distributed according to need and we all want to help boost student outcomes so I call on Labor to drop the schools-scare campaign and work with the Turnbull Government to iron out the problems with the current distribution of funding and to work with us to implement reforms in our schools that are proven to lift student performance.