Tuesday, 13 May 2014

More Budget Analysis

In last night's Budget the Abbott government signalled it will avoid the biggest increases in school funding planned under the Gonski reforms by tying future Commonwealth contributions to the consumer price index. Gonski is now literally gone-ski which is a great pity. Abbott and Pyne promised before the election to match only the first four years of the former government’s landmark reforms but gave the impression that a vote for them was a vote for the Gonski reforms.

The reforms were based on providing a base level of funding for each student to be topped up with student loadings according to need, but the Coalition repeatedly questioned the plan’s affordability. ( Mostly however they rejected it for their own base ideological reasons. It was no co-incidence that the 'elite' independent schools also rejected it.)Labor’s biggest increases were planned in the final two years of the six-year phase-in period. They were and are affordable.

Budget papers show the government plans to increase school funding by just $54.1m in 2017-18, which would effectively freeze school funding at the 2017 level in real terms.

“From the 2018 school year onwards, total school funding will be indexed by the consumer price index, with an allowance for changes in enrolments,” the budget says.

This amount shows as an increase not a cut because the largest planned Gonski expenditure was outside the four-year cycle covered by the Labor government’s final budget but it is all smoke and mirrors.

Last night the AEU said the government was effectively abandoning the Gonski reforms.( You didn't need to be a rocket scientist to work that one out!) the big question now is - How will the Labor Party and the AEU respond to this? It better be boisterous and proactive!

“By failing to honour the Gonski agreements beyond 2016-17 and cutting indexation this government has shown its hand. It is intent on turning its back on the most disadvantaged students,” Said the AEU.“Public schools which educate the overwhelming majority of disadvantaged students will be disproportionately affected.”

Pyne, sought to highlight the total amount of school funding in the short term but nobody in state education is fooled by that.

The government has found an extra $245m over five years to continue the national school chaplaincy program until at least December 2018.

The budget earmarks savings of nearly $20m over five years by finding efficiencies in the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, but then allocates $5m to the same body to continue a scheme that funds non-government education authorities to improve the quality of education!

The government will save a further $21m over five years by abandoning a quality teaching and learning measure outlined by the former government in its final economic statement.( Who needs high quality teachers?)

The budget also earmarks nearly $10m for a one-year trial of early exposure to languages other than English through online language learning programs.Pyne said the government was also meeting an election promise to provide $2m for the development of new languages curriculums for foundation to year 10. Does he seriously think that $2 million across all Australian primary schools for this will make any difference at all?

The intriguing aspect of this budget is that it is not even a budget that cuts government spending. In fact this government will spend more over the forward estimates than the previous Labor Government did on average during its last 3 years. What they are doing is taking money away from vulnerable people ( much has been made of the lame freeze on MP salaries and the high income earner levy but they have a sunset clause not the long term funding cuts to education, health, social welfare etc which are ongoing) and putting it into building and buying things like an over rated jet fighter, roads that may not produce any benefit and slabs of money to please government friendly interest groups. 

This budget has been condemned by all quarters ( except the Murdoch press of course) for its meaness and shortsightedness. It is designed to punish and humiliate rather than support, nurture and educate. It sums up the ethos of Abbott, Pyne, Hockey, Andrews, Morrison and Turnbull to a tee.

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