An education union is spending $2 million to win the best deal on Gonski
Feb 27, 2016 | News
The Australian Education Union will spend $2 million on an advertising campaign to pressure the Government into full Gonski funding.
The teachers’ union aims to lock-in support for the full six years of school funding through a TV ad campaign and by targeting marginal seats in the run up to this year’s General Election.
The Gillard Government signed partnership deals with the states and territories in 2013 to significantly increase needs-based funding to schools following a review by David Gonski.
The Abbott Government then dumped plans to fund the final two years in favour of new spending agreements - and while the Turnbull administration has yet to announce a policy, it has flagged a move away from the expensive Gonski model.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten has already pledged to fund Gonski in full, which equates to an extra $4.5 for schools in 2018 and 2019.
Union president Corenna Haythorpe described the campaign as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to address funding for disadvantaged schools, stressing the approach was bi-partisan.
She said: “I’ve spent much of my teaching career working with students from disadvantaged backgrounds, so I have first-hand experience with understanding the barriers that these children can face in getting an education.
“We are talking about children from homes where violence can be common, or where parents may be affected by drug and alcohol abuse or mental illness.
“Children who have never been read to, or whose vocabulary is far behind their peers when they start school.
“Children who cannot concentrate because they haven’t had breakfast.
“Children whose medical conditions or disabilities don’t get diagnosed until they arrive at school.
“School can be the circuit-breaker, it can be a life-changer or even a life-saver for these children.
“For many it is the one chance that they have.”
The TV ads will air in Sydney, Brisbane and regional NSW and will be backed by a print and digital media campaign.
They build on the AEU’s ‘target seat’ initiative which is designed to build support for Gonski funding in local communities.
Polling taken in marginal seats earlier this month recorded strong voter support for Gonski, with around two thirds believing the funding model should be continued.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham says the Coalition plans to negotiate new four-year funding deals with the states for 2018 onwards which will give clarity on education funding beyond the next two years.
"Unlike the Labor Party, we won't be tricked into thinking that just spending more money automatically improves results," he told Fairfax Media in January.
"What we will do is make sure that any funding commitments the Turnbull government make are commitments driven by how you improve student outcomes, by how you actually get the best results in the classroom from students.”
The AEU argues that funding according to need is essential in addressing the widening gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children in Australia - a trend outlined in a recent study by education think tank The Mitchell Institute.
Speaking at the AEU conference this week, Ms Haythorpe said: “If helping some children costs more, we need to recognise this is an investment in their future.
“We cannot continue with a situation where one-in-seven students leaves school without the basic skills they need for work.
If we do not recognise the importance of early intervention, we are effectively writing off children from disadvantaged backgrounds and that is unforgivable.”
The pro-Gonski ad campaign will begin on 6th March on free-to-air TV.