The prime minister is slammed for his radical plan to make the states fund all public education
Apr 1, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
Malcolm Turnbull’s radical plan to give the states full responsibility for school funding is a “disaster” which will entrench inequality, the national teaching union says.
The proposal is part of a decentralisation agenda for health and education floated by the Prime Minister ahead of the Council of Australian Governments meeting today.
It raises fears, flagged in the Government’s own recent Green Paper on Reform of the Federation, that the ability to raise income tax will vary significantly between states and lead to marked variations in the quality of services they can afford to provide.
And it spells an end to the hope that the Government will honour a $4.5 billion commitment to two more years of needs-based schools funding - provoking a heated backlash from teachers, state leaders and the opposition.
Shadow education minister Kate Ellis has described it as “an incredibly reckless, ill-considered idea” while The Australian Education Union says the plan is a “disaster” which will embed inequality within the Australian school system.
Under Mr Turnbull’s proposal, a portion of federal income taxing powers would go to the states to allow them to fully fund public schools, although responsibility for independent school funding would rest with the Federal Government.
It would mean no extra funding for the nation’s 9000-plus government schools but would make the states fully accountable for service delivery by putting the onus on them to raise revenue.
AEU deputy federal president Maurie Mulheron has urged state governments to reject the PM’s plan and to demand the Coalition keep its commitment to the final two years of Gonski funding reforms.
“His income tax plan is simply a way for the Federal Government to abandon its responsibilities to public schools and hospitals,” he said.
“Locking in a system where state governments have full responsibility for public schools and the Federal Government for private schools is locking in inequity.
“Prior to the Gonski reforms we had a funding system that was not based on need and which saw the biggest increases in funding go to private schools.
“Gonski funding aims to resolve this mess by ensuring that both levels of government take their share of responsibility for funding the schools which educate disadvantaged students.
“Mr Turnbull wants to turn his back on this and go back to an inefficient, divisive and inequitable system which will see thousands of students left behind.”
Speaking on ABC Radio this week, Mr Turnbull said giving states full responsibility for public school funding would reduce confusion over state and federal roles in education.
“Ultimately you’ve got to decide. Do you want to continue to have the Federal Government and the states arm-wrestling about how your local primary school, your local high school, should be run?” he said.
"We have a massive education department in Canberra, in the Federal Government, but we don't employ any teachers.
“You have got to ask yourself whether we should not have clearer lines of responsibility.”
Mr Mulheron claims the PM’s plan would disadvantage students in states with a lesser capacity to raise their own income tax.
It is a view backed by the Green Paper on Reform of the Federation, which outlines the consequences of the change Mr Turnbull is advocating.
The paper says giving responsibility to the states could “lead to very different funding models being applied across the States and Territories and between the government and non-government sectors, leading to differences in the level of public funding for schools with similar population characteristics”.
“This is likely to give rise to concerns about fairness, as well as introduce perverse incentives for governments to shift costs within the system,” it states.
Mr Turnbull says the plan is about understanding that state leaders are better placed to identify the needs of their own schools.
“In terms of state schools, state education, government schools - if the states had the money, if they had the money from a share of the tax base, would they not do a better job managing those schools themselves?” he asked.
"Does the education minister in Canberra know better how to run a primary school in Tasmania or South Australia or Western Australia than the education minister in those states?”
One such education minister is less than impressed with plans to hand him greater budget responsibility.
Victorian education minister James Merlino argues the proposal is a "cynical attempt" to justify abandoning the Gonski agreement.
"It's not enough that they've torn up a signed agreement, they now want to brazenly ditch all responsibility for our government schools," he said.
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