War of words erupts over school funding report

The Australian Education Union (AEU) has gone on the attack against the Federal Government, claiming its education plan will favour private schools and abandon needs-based funding.

In a statement yesterday, AEU federal president, Correna Haythorpe, said the analysis, by education funding expert Dr Jim McMorrow, made it clear the Coalition had no commitment to needs-based funding and its plan would deny students they help they needed at school.

“The next Education Ministers Council is on September 23, and we need State and Territory Governments to stand up to any attempt by the Coalition to end Gonski, and to fight to ensure that schools funding remains based on need,” Haythorpe said.

Malcolm Turnbull wants to take us back to a system where schools are funded by sector, not need, which will leave our children worse off.”

The analysis, by Dr Jim McMorrow – an education funding expert – shows that:
  • The Coalition’s plan would see schools a total of $5.28bn worse off from 2016/17 to 2019/20, compared with the full six years of Gonski funding.
  • Of the extra $1.2bn the Coalition has promised over four years under its model, only $450m (38%) would go to public schools and $750m (62% to private schools)
  • Per student funding to public schools would increase by just 1.8% in 2018/19 and 2.1% in 2019/20
In a statement yesterday, the Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, hit back, saying the AEU’s “politically motivated” claims were “based on assumptions from negotiations that have not even commenced yet”.
“Official government analysis of the current Gonski agreement – which is exactly as agreed by the previous Labor Government – from 2014 to 2017 showed the Commonwealth Government had committed 63% of its funds to the non-government sector over the ‘Gonski’ years – more than that predicted in the report,” he said.
“Politically motivated reports, like the AEU’s contribution today, provide nothing more than a distraction from the real conversation that we need to be having about how record Federal Government funding for schools is spent to ensure we are investing in evidence-based reforms that drive improved outcomes for Australian students.”
He added that Labor and the AEU “ought to stop being just one-trick ponies” claiming more funding fixes every problem in education”.
“The Turnbull Government has committed to working with states and territories and the non-government sector to establish a new funding deal post-2017 that is tied to evidence-based initiatives and will see funding distribution informed by need,” he said.
The latest war of words between the AEU and Federal Government follows a draft report released by the Productivity Commission on Monday – titled: Education Evidence Base.
The report urged leaders to explore further research to determine how to improve outcomes before committing more money to schools, pointing out that despite a 14% increase in spending per student over the past decade, student performance in national and international assessments had barely improved.
“Looking within the classroom, particularly teaching practices, is thus paramount to improving education outcomes across all schools and all students,” said Commissioner, Jonathan Coppel.

“We also know there are some schools whose students perform better than expected compared with similar schools.”