The Turnbull government commits another $1.2 billion to schools - but is it enough?
May 02, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
The Turnbull government has announced a $1.2 billion boost to school funding as it struggles to counter Labor’s popularity on education in the run-up to the election.
The announcement comes on the eve of the federal budget, with the extra funds to be distributed over three years from 2018 and tied to a number of conditions around teaching accountability.
The figure is a quarter of what Labor has committed to fully fund the final two years of the Gonski spending reforms and is spread across an extra year.
It lifts the annual increase in education spending from a CPI-linked figure of around 2.5 per cent to 3.6 per cent.
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen branded the increase “pathetically inadequate” and the Australian Education Union’s Corenna Haythorpe described it as a "quick fix designed to get the Coalition through an election campaign”.
But treasurer Scott Morrison says the extra $1.2 billion is “real money" which will come from savings in other portfolios - as opposed to Labour’s $4.5 billion commitment which the Government claims is not properly costed.
The Government’s message that funding does not equate to better results is failing to hit home with voters in marginal electorates, with recent polling showing overwhelming support for Gonski.
Tony Abbot went to the previous election committed to the spending policy - the product of a wide-ranging review into schools funding by academic David Gonski.
His government pulIed support for the final expensive two years of Gonski funding shortly afterwards, and the new PM has been under increasing pressure to recommit those resources.
In announcing the spending increase this week, education minister Simon Birmingham stressed that a key part of the package was tying the funds to reforms designed to lift school performance and student results.
The money will be distributed on a needs basis to schools across the public and private sectors which sign up to a suite of measures, including:
Senator Birmingham said: “Analysis shows Korea and Poland spend less per student on school education than Australia yet perform better than us in international assessments, while countries like Norway, the United States and Sweden spend more per student and perform worse.
“It is clear that while a strong level of funding matters, what you do with that funding matters more.
“That’s why today, the Turnbull Government is saying to every mum and dad that for your child to get ahead we must focus on what matters most.
“We must focus on the evidence, we must concentrate on those things that we know make a difference to student achievement and we must not accept the status quo.
“Our quality-focused and evidence-based priority reforms will ensure funding distribution is needs-based and drives reform in core, robust and proven ways of improving outcomes in education.”
Shadow education minister Kate Ellis described the new funding as a “desperate political band-aid” while NSW education minister Adrian Piccoli, a coalition state MP, said his government would continue to lobby for full Gonski funding.
Ms Haythorpe said: “The extra funding being promised falls far short of what is needed and will see disadvantaged schools and students with fewer resources than the Gonski review recommended.
“This means that not all students will get the individual support in the classroom they need to help them succeed.
“We need the Federal Government to deliver its share of the last two years of Gonski, not a compromise that will leave schools $3 billion short.”
The $1.2 billion forms part of the Government’s ‘$73.6 billion student achievement plan’.
A formula for its distribution has yet to be confirmed.