term issue for independent schools is funding certainty to allow schools to responsibly plan for the future.” Daniels did, however, applaud the Government’s pledge to include independent school representatives in future discussions over details of the plan. Chief counsel for the defence of the current funding arrangements is predictably the Liberal Party. Leading witness Tony Abbott stated in an address to the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia and Independent Schools Council of Australia National Forum, “The only way, ladies and gentlemen, right now to ensure that no school is worse off is, I believe, to stick with the existing system.” The Opposition Leader was openly sceptical about the Government’s ability to successfully execute the changes recommended in the Gonski Review, explaining that he has seen nothing to suggest that the Howardinitiated SES model of funding could be improved upon. Mr Abbott also drew attention to the common misconception that the Commonwealth Government unfairly favours independent schools when it comes to funding. “Overall, the 66 per cent of Australian school students who attend public schools get 79 per cent of government funding; for 34 per cent of Australians who attend independent schools get just 21 per cent of government funding. So, there is no question of injustice to public schools here. If anything, the injustice is the other way.” Mr Abbott’s testimony is supported by the Shadow Minister for Education, Apprenticeships and Training Christopher Pyne. Pyne described Prime Minister Gillard’s speech in which she expressed the goal for Australian students to be ranked in the top five in the world by 2025 as “all feathers, no meat” (2012). The Liberal Party, he claimed, would maintain the recurrent funding that schools currently receive with a rise of approximately six per cent each year to manage increasing costs. Unfortunately, the credibility of the claims made by the Federal Opposition are seriously undermined by the recent release of the New South Wales State Government’s budget. Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli admitted that tough decisions had to be made when announcing cuts to State and Regional Education Offices and a cap on non-government school funding for four years, although he also claims that education funding is being increased by $383 million. His assertion that, “general seems a challenging one. Judgement in this case will be suspended pending further evidence.
Abbott, T (2012) Address to the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia and Independent Schools Council of Australia National Forum Retrieved 27 September 2012 from politics. com Abbott Sceptical That Gonski Is “Doable At This Time”: http://australianpolitics.com/2012/08/20/abbottsceptical-that-gonski-is-doable-at-this-time.html Australian Council of State School Organisations Parents urge political leaders to go with Gonski Australian Council of State School Organisations Media Release Retrieved 27 September 20120 from: http://www.acsso.org.au Australian Education Union (May 2012) Report Warns of Budget Cuts to Public Schools Australian Education Union Media Release Retrieved 26 September 2012 from: http://www.aeufederal.org.au/ Media/MediaReleases/2012/2305.pdf Australian Education Union (Sept 2012) Teachers urge political leaders to fund Gonski Australian Education Union Media Release Retrieved 27 September 2012 from: h t t p : / / w w w. a e u f e d e r a l . o r g . a u / M e d i a / MediaReleases/2012/0309.pdf Coorey, Phillip & Patty, Anna “Double whammy as school cuts hit twice” in the Sydney Morning Herald Retrieved 27 September 2012 from: http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/doublewhammy-as-school-cuts-hit-twice-20120912-25sxv. html Garrett, Peter (2012) Better Schools: A National Plan for School Improvement Ministers’ Media Centre Retrieved 26 September 2012 from: http://ministers.deewr.gov.au/gillard/better-schoolsnational-plan-school-improvement Independent Education Union Step in right direction, more work to be done Independent Education Union Media Release Retrieved 27 September 2012 from: http://www.ieu.org.au Independent Schools Council of Australia Independent Sector will Partner with Government to Improve School Outcomes Independent Schools Council of Australia Media Release Retrieved 27 September 2012 from: http://isca.edu.au Piccoli, Adrian Building a sustainable education system in NSW Media Release on NSW Government Department of Education and Communities Retrieved 27 September from: http://www.dec.nsw.gov.au/about-us/news-at-det/ media-releases1/building-a-sustainable-educationsystem-in-nsw Pyne, Christopher All feathers, no meat Media Release Retrieved 27 September 2012 from: http://web02.liberal.org.au/latest-news/2012/09/03/ all-feathers-no-meat
expenses in the education portfolio have outstripped growth in Government revenue and this is simply unsustainable,” does not bode well for the negotiations between the states, territories and the Federal Government about who will provide the extra funds required for the National Plan for School Improvement. What is most damaging to the Liberal Party case is that the NSW funding cap for non-government schools has far-reaching implications. Since Commonwealth funding is directly tied to state and territory levels, a freeze on increases to state funding equates to a freeze on increases to Commonwealth funding. A recent Sydney Morning Herald (2012) article maintains that decreased state and territory spending means the indexation rate for this year will be just 3.9 per cent, compared with the average indexation rate of six per cent, representing a drop in independent school funding of $150 million from the previous year. According to the executive director of Catholic Schools in the Sydney archdiocese as quoted in the article, the NSW funding freeze represents a $15 million funding loss for Catholic schools; all of which appears to prove that the SES model of funding does not guarantee that some schools will not lose out. The upcoming trial of the Federal Government-initiated Gonski Review is likely to be long and drawn-out. On paper, student need seems to be a solid principle on which to base education funding, but the reality of implementing the National Plan for School Improvement in a difficult economic climate against the competing priorities of the states and territories, not to mention the education sectors,
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