David Gonski speaks out on funding debate

by Robert Ballantyne20 May 2016

David Gonski – whose name has become synonymous with education in Australia – has broken his silence and weighed into the school funding debate.

Speaking at the Competitive Advantage forum in Sydney, Gonski said that despite pushing for needs-based funding, he had never set specific spending targets.

“I said further funding was required but I didn’t say how much and I didn’t say who should pay for it. Needs-based funding is what I pushed for, and we have that,” Gonski told assembled media.

As for the amount required, Gonski said that was “a matter for the politicians and the people of Australia.”

“I’m not going to comment one way or the other on that, because it’s not for me to do. It is up to the politicians to work out how much, who pays it, and when it’s paid,” he said.

Gonski commended the NSW Government and Education Department for “getting it right” with its needs-based school funding model.

The state’s Great Teaching, Inspired Learning (GTIL) initiative has received international recognition as a model that has delivered improved teaching quality and student learning outcomes.

Yesterday, NSW Premier, Mike Baird, outlined a new approach to school funding, saying that while he supported more money flowing into schools, it must also be assessed.

“If this money is coming in, is it delivering the outcomes that we expect? An endless stream of money doesn’t mean the outcomes are flowing,” he said.

“Our hope is there are additional funds, but we’re not shying away that you have to assess whether this is delivering the outcomes. We understand the pressure the ­federal budget is under.”

In the lead-up to the Federal Election in July, both major parties have pledged additional funding to schools – with attached conditions.

In a statement last week, Labor announced that its funding plan for schools would be based on the outcomes of evidence-based learning programs. Labor leader, Bill Shorten said his government’s plan would ensure that Australia lifted its educational performance, particularly in maths and science.

This followed a plan by the Coalition to make its $1.2bn in school funding conditional on literacy and numeracy checks for students in Year 1, as well as schools demonstrating a proportion of literacy and numeracy specialists. Teachers would also be paid based on competency rather than length of service.