Opinion: Turnbull’s Gonski cuts will hurt schools

The AEU’s report “Getting Results: Gonski funding in Australian Schools” profiles 24 schools which are using the increased resources from Gonski to change students’ lives.

I’ve visited many of these schools during our Gonski campaign and have seen first-hand what Gonski is doing to break down the barriers that many children face with their learning.

You know Gonski funding is working when you see children finally receiving the speech therapy they need to participate in class, or reading a book by themselves for the first time, or getting the mentoring and tutoring they need to complete Year 12 and become the first in their family to go to university.
That’s why this election is critical for the future of our schools.

On July 2, voters face a stark choice between investing in our schools, and Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to Gonski funding and disadvantaged schools.

Cutting Gonski would be a huge blow for the thousands of students who are still waiting for the help they need at school, and the teachers who are working hard with limited resources.

It will be a disappointment for the schools which have already used their Gonski funding to lift results through smaller classes, more one-to-one support, extra literacy and numeracy programs and more professional development.

Throughout our campaign we have sought support from all political parties for Gonski – because we believe something so important should be above politics.

But sadly that has not been the case.

Unlike the last election, when we had a so-called ‘unity ticket’ on Gonski, this time the Coalition is not even pretending it will deliver the funding our schools need.

Malcolm Turnbull has decided to turn his back on Gonski funding after 2017 and move away from any attempt to address the chronic underfunding of disadvantaged schools.

This would deprive schools of two-thirds of the extra resources they need to give all their students a quality education.

Schools will get $3.8bn less in 2018 and 2019 than they would under Labor or the Greens, who have both committed to honouring the Gonski agreements in full.

Malcolm Turnbull says he will work out an alternative funding system but there is no certainty about how the funding will be distributed, with no guarantees that it will be done on the basis of need.

In fact, the Coalition’s Budget Papers clearly show a drop in funding to public schools in Tasmania and the Northern Territory after 2017 — something that should never happen under a true needs-based system.

I have seen the evidence of the difference Gonski funding can make when it gives skilled and passionate educators the resources they need to turn around the lives of our children.

You won’t find many public educators who think that governments are throwing money at schools, or that extra funding won’t make a difference.

And the public agrees with them.

Polling conducted for the AEU last week in three key marginal seats in NSW shows that there is high support for Gonski, and high awareness of Malcolm Turnbull’s plan to stop it.

It found that 61.6% of voters support Gonski, compared to just 17.4% who oppose it, and that a clear majority of 63.4% of voters prefer investment in schools to Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to company tax.

Australians clearly recognise that the best way to improve our economy in the long-term is by educating all our students to reach their potential.

Worse still for Mr Turnbull, was the fact that 51% of voters said they were “very aware” of his plans to cut Gonski.

There is no doubt Gonski will be one of the key issues at this election and  the AEU will continue to campaign for it up to July 2 and beyond if necessary, both with TV and print Ads and our grassroots campaign in key marginal seats.

We have made this commitment because we cannot afford to lose the progress which Gonski funding has already made towards changing the lives of our children.

We want a society where all kids who need help at school can get it, regardless of where they live or which school they attend.

It is not acceptable for us to have a situation where one in seven students is at risk of leaving school without adequate literacy skills

Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to Gonski will hurt our kids, and we can’t let that happen without a fight because giving every child a well-resourced school is vital for Australia’s future – both for the fairness of our society and its economic future.