Ten years ago, the release of the Gonski review of school funding was hailed as an historic opportunity to make Australia’s grossly inequitable education system more equitable. To get there, Gonski recommended the adoption of a nationally integrated needs-based funding model which would see funding redirected from overfunded schools towards those in need.
Over the last ten years, however, both federal Labor and Coalition governments have adopted policy positions that have undermined this model. Labor made special deals with the private sector that undermined the integrity and reform-capacity of the model when it was in government, and when it came to power in 2013, the Coalition abandoned substantial funding commitments for both the Commonwealth and the States.
The end result is that 10 years on from Gonski, Australia’s public education system remains substantially underfunded and gross inequalities between the public and private sectors remain.
This year’s budget provides little hope for getting the Gonski reforms back on track. The Australian Education Union reports that funding for public schools has been slashed by $559 million over the next three years while ‘funding for private schools has increased by $2.6 billion over the forward estimates.’ No funding for capital works in public schools has been provided either.