$853m ‘black hole’ in Gonski funding

$853m ‘black hole’ in Gonski funding

With just a week before the state budget, Victoria’s Education Minister, James Merlino, has accused the former Coalition government of diverting $800m of funding intended for the 2016 and 2017 school years into a “black hole”.

"When you have an immediate black hole of $800m plus election commitments that we will deliver on, that's our first priority," Merlino told The Age, adding that his first priority was “dealing with the mess” of the former Liberal government.

"They spent it on prison beds ... they certainly didn't spend it where it was intended and where they agreed to spend it, and that is in education," Merlino said.

The premier added that finding a way to financially fill the multimillion dollar gap in the May 5 budget would be a challenge.

However, while Merlino said he was "absolutely committed to Gonski", he did not confirm that he would fund the final two years of the agreement.

The VIC Government, which vowed to make Victoria the "Education State" before the election, has suffered a backlash from the Australian Education Union (AEU) and other public education advocates over school funding.

Former VIC Premier, Steve Bracks, will now investigate how the state’s funds are allocated and used.

Bracks will also examine how the funding allocation per student for schools, is calculated and distributed.

The investigation will also probe Commonwealth contributions to school funding and how to provide principals and their schools with "clarity and transparency" about funding.

The government said it had commissioned the review after its own investigation revealed that over $800m was missing from state Gonski funding for the 2016 and 2017 school years.

In February, Merlino revealed the same investigation had revealed $53m missing in Gonski funding for the 2014-2015 school years.