Thursday, 31 December 2015
Wednesday, 30 December 2015
Birmingham as Scrooge
Today’s announcement that the Turnbull government won’t honour the final two years of Gonski schools funding is unsurprising but nevertheless disappointing. The Abbott/Turnbull government long ago walked away from Christopher Pyne’s ‘unity ticket’ pledge. The timing of the announcement, between Christmas and New Year, suggests the government wanted to minimise scrutiny of its decision, with good reason. Turnbull and Birmingham may have missed Christmas by a few days but Ebenezer Scrooge would be proud of them.
Part of the problem here lies with the Gillard government’s failure to fully adopt and bed down the reforms recommended by David Gonski and his expert panel in 2011 after 18 months of research. Had the Labor government made a better fist of this task and developed a consistent national model, including an independent federal body to determine funding, we might not be where we are now.
There’s little doubt that an incoming federal Labor government would deliver on the additional funding promised to the states and which state premiers and education ministers are demanding. So it’s the LNP government that has questions to answer.
Today federal education minister Simon Birmingham has indicated he wants a new needs based funding model developed by 2018. Gonski tabled his report in late 2011, so the LNP has had two years in opposition and two years in government to develop a schools funding model. Now Birmingham wants another two years. Despite the rhetoric, it’s hard to escape the conclusion it’s just not that important to this government, except to neutralise it as an election issue.
There’s no doubt the government has to consider its budgetary situation. But what’s the long term impact on the economy of an education system that marginalises a good proportion of the population? And I expect most people could nominate some potential savings. Try offshore processing of refugees, big business tax avoidance and Direct Action payments to big polluters for starters. And if a serious review of school funding took place there would be potential savings from private school funding – an option Gonski was forbidden from contemplating.
There are other concerns coming from Birmingham’s announcement today. His claim that public schools cannot be trusted to spend additional funding wisely is both irrational and insulting. There is a wealth of research about what makes a difference to student learning; our issue quite simply is that we don’t have the funding to do what’s needed. I don’t recall non government schools being questioned in this way as their funding sky rocketed over the last 15 years. And if we look at where that funding went, it supported the employment of additional teachers and the development of new facilities, which Birmingham classifies as wasteful. Ironically, the impact of that funding was not to lower school fees (they’ve increased at a rate far exceeding the CPI) but to concentrate advantage in non government schools and disadvantage in public schools. At some stage government is going to have to address this issue, unless of course it favours education as a means of preserving privilege.
The other major area of concern is Birmingham’s signal that he wants the commonwealth to play a more interventionist role in schools. This might satisfy some egos in Canberra, but it’s a poor signal. Schools remain a state responsibility under the Australian constitution and if we need anything from Canberra it’s less intervention, not more. If you want evidence, look at the slide in Australia’s educational performance over the last 15 years while Canberra has adopted a much more active role and sought to direct policy while doling out more funding to schools that are already well off in the name of promoting choice. The equity gap is widening; our most needy students (80% of whom are educated in public schools) are falling further behind and our highest ability students are flatlining. Birmingham would be better advised to make a meaningful contribution to the federal constitutional reform process.
Both the LNP government and Labor claim they want a needs based school funding model. That is completely at odds with the pattern of education spending over the last 15 years. It’s time to do something.
Dales Blog: http://dalepearce.net/2015/12/29/birminghams-channels-his-inner-scrooge/
Tuesday, 29 December 2015
The federal government has dashed hopes that Malcolm Turnbull would reverse the objections of his predecessor, Tony Abbott, to the Gonski school funding model, confirming that funding for the program is not guaranteed beyond 2017.
State governments and the education union had been buoyed by comments Turnbull made shortly after taking over from Abbott that indicated that Gonski may be given a lifeline.
The sharp funding increases slated for the last two years of the reforms – 2017 and 2018 – were scrapped in the 2014 budget, and not reinstated in the most recent budget update.
The federal education minister, Simon Birmingham, confirmed on Tuesday that the Gonski funding model was no longer on the table.
“Nothing has changed in relation to the Turnbull government’s policy on schools funding,” he said in a statement.
The teacher’s union was disappointed that Gonski was no longer an option, saying that Turnbull’s “positive comments” on the program had caused many in the sector to be optimistic.
“I think it would be a shock to anyone waking up this morning,” the federal president of the Australian Education Union, Correna Haythorpe, told Guardian Australia. “People were very hopeful that the last two years would be funded.”
Shortly after becoming prime minister, Turnbull was asked if he would reconsider funding the fifth and sixth years of the Gonski funding.
“This is all being considered by the government in the context of a very tight budget,” he told the ABC in late October.
On Tuesday he said the Coalition’s education policy was up for review.
“The bottom line is that the funding after 2018 is still a matter for discussion between the federal government and the states,” he said in Victoria. “Funding is important, but there is a lot more to it, I think as we all know. The key element is teacher quality and we are very focused on that.
“Simon Birmingham, the education minister, is in discussion with his colleagues and the states, and we are certainly committed to ensuring that working together with the states, our common challenge has the outcome that all Australian kids get access to a high quality education.”
States have expressed their disappointment.
“I understand the budget pressures they are under but I strongly believe it is too early to make a decision in relation to that funding,” the New South Wales premier, Mike Baird, said.
“Yes, the funds might have to be found, but if we prove over the next two or three years that those funds are delivering better educational outcomes for our kids, particularly some of our most disadvantaged kids, what sort of government would not want to participate in that?”
Baird said NSW was committed to funding the full term of the policy and wanted the federal government to consider doing the same.
The acting Australian Capital Territory education minister, Mick Gentleman, said the government must be clear on how it was going to fund schools if it ditched the Gonski model, which allocates money to schools based on the individual needs of students.
“They have to move quickly to end the current uncertainty and begin negotiations with the states and territories and non-government sectors,” he said.
Education policy will shape up to be a “key election issue” in 2016, Haythorpe predicted.
Polling of just under 700 voters in Turnbull’s eastern Sydney electorate of Wentworth found that eight out of 10 voters supported increased funding for public schools in line with Gonski recommendations.
The ReachTel poll, conducted in October, found that 73% of Liberal voters supported the proposition.
Birmingham insisted that the federal government would stick with the needs-based policy championed in the Gonski reforms.
“The Turnbull government remains committed to engaging prior to 2018 in discussions with the states, territories and non-government sector about post-2017 funding that is fair, transparent, needs-based, affordable and looks beyond just a two year horizon,” he said.
Also read Lucy Clark's article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/29/its-a-no-brainer-if-you-want-school-funding-to-be-needs-based-fund-gonski
And for Liberal ministers who can't read budget papers, here is a graph showing how the previous government funded Gonski
Monday, 28 December 2015
Fresh concerns have been raised over the potential consequences of the Federal Government's overhaul of the childcare sector.
The Government has proposed legislation that would end a program that provides funding for services specifically tailored for Indigenous children.
It wants to move these services into the mainstream funding system but Indigenous communities fear some centres will be forced to close as a result.
Yappera Children's Service, in Melbourne's north, is one of hundreds of centres around the country providing early education designed for Indigenous children.
The centre's chief executive officer Stacey Brown said she was worried about the future of the centre.
"I think that there's a lot of uncertainty under the new model of funding," Ms Brown said.
Child care providers say the changes will impact upon "vulnerable" families the most
"There's a lot of danger and our most vulnerable families will be the most impacted under this new model of funding.
"We see red flags that are going to impact on our families and I think that we will see those families no longer accessing our services in the future."
Services such as Yappera operate as part of a Government program called Budget Based Funded (BBF) services.
They receive an annual Government grant and some services do not charge parents any fees.
But the program is due to end by July 2017 when the Government's overhaul of the childcare sector comes into effect.
Services of this kind will have join other childcare centres under the mainstream funding model.
Leanne Gibbs from the Community Child Care Cooperative said the change will have big implications.
"Children will miss out because budget-based services and Aboriginal child and family services have been developed and established to meet the particular needs of Aboriginal children and families and they've been doing a fantastic job delivering that service," Ms Gibbs said.
"But trying to fit within a mainstream model means that those particular services won't be able to offer such an effective delivery of early childhood education.
"What I think we'll see with these proposals are more children missing out, rather than more children engaging and wherever we see children trying to fit in with a mainstream model, it just doesn't work."
But the Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the new funding regime will be simpler and fairer, claiming there were problems with the BBF program.
Ms Sydenham said BBF services played an important role in Indigenous communities which needed their own funding stream.
"They provide really quality early learning services but they also provide a huge scope of other services that support children's early development, that support families and particularly those most vulnerable families, they outreach to those families," she said.
"They really have that trusted relationship that supports families to deal with whatever crisis is coming up.
"So if these services go down, then the communities lose a lot more than child care.
"These are essential community hubs [and] we're really concerned [that] through this process are just not getting enough attention by the Government."
The Federal Opposition's Early Childhood spokeswoman Kate Ellis said she shared the concerns.
"What we do know is one service alone out of these Budget Based Funded services will be half a million dollars out of pocket," Ms Ellis said.
"So we fully expect that as a result of this change many of these services just will not be viable and will be shut down which means many of Australia's most disadvantaged children will be locked out of early childhood education.
"We know that in every single state and territory in Australia Indigenous children have lower participation rates in early childhood education and we all need to be working to close that gap, not shutting down services that some of them have access to."
On top of this the Health Minister has announced cuts to Medicare services related to treatments for ear, nose and throat complaints which will directly impact indigenous Australians especially in remote communities who have particular heath issues in these areas. With their announcement on Gonski, Briggs quitting in disgrace and Brough being made to finally step down I wonder what other little gems will be announced between now and New Years?
Interesting story from the Independent
Chile’s divestment in private schools
So where is our (public) education money going?
Do private schools outperform public schools? Is there a return on this public investment?
But don’t private schools save public money? We all pay taxes!
The Turnbull Liberals have used the Christmas-New Year period to lock-in behind Tony Abbott's legacy on schools - confirming they will dump the needs-based Gonski reforms and keep his massive school cuts.
This comes after two consecutive Liberal budgets have stripped $30 billion from our classrooms over the next decade.
"This just proves Malcolm Turnbull is every bit as bad as Tony Abbott when it comes to schools," Shadow Education Minister, Kate Ellis, said.
"Any hope that a change in Liberal leader would save the Gonski reforms and undo their school cuts is now dead.
"These reforms are a once in a generation opportunity to lift results and close the gap between our schools, by giving every student the individual support they need to achieve their best.
"We are already seeing great results - but without the final two years students will simply be left behind.
"Literacy and numeracy programs will be cut; subject choices will be cut; sport and music will be cut; extension programs will be cut; remedial support will be cut; speech pathology and allied health services will be cut; and students with disability will not get the support they need.
"Every student in every school will be worse off.
"The Liberals went to the last election promising an 'absolute unity ticket' on school funding - first Tony Abbott tore that unity ticket up, and now Malcolm Turnbull has set fire to it.
"This is a huge betrayal of parents who simply want to know that their child will get a good education.
"In contrast to the Liberals, Labor will go to the next election with a much better plan for the future for Australian students - a properly-funded, sector-blind, needs-based school funding model that is consistent with the Gonski reforms."
And the story from the Sydney Morning Herald this morning ( I love the bit where Birmingham blames the evil unions for how government's spend their education budgets. He is peddling the same tired old 'class sizes don't matter' nonsense as if he was David Kemp and it was the 1990s! Mmmm what are those class sizes in elite private schools. I know for a fact it is rare for them to get over 20 in primary and much lower in secondary!)
The Turnbull government will not fund the final two years of the Gonski school funding deals and will not compete with Labor in an election-year battle to shower more money on schools, Education Minister Simon Birmingham says.
The elevation of Malcolm Turnbull - a close friend of school funding reform architect David Gonski - to the prime ministership gave some naive people the hope that the government would fund the six years of Labor's school agreements.
NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli and Victorian Education Minister James Merlino have been lobbying for the Gonski deals to be funded in full.
But in an interview with Fairfax Media, Senator Birmingham said the Coalition would seek to strike fresh funding deals with the states from 2018 - the year two-thirds of the $10 billion funding was scheduled to start flowing.
Instead of handing out big funding increases, he said his focus will be on creating a simpler funding system that holds state governments accountable for how they spend federal money.
"I don't see much benefit for anyone if we dedicate two more years of funding just to create more uncertainty down the track," Senator Birmingham said.
"The previous [Labor] government's approach showed great largesse in tipping additional funding into the system, but they created a complicated model that lacks fairness and transparency.
"I want a school funding system that is genuinely needs-based and is targeting the money where it's most required."
Senator Birmingham said he supports the underlying principles of the Gonski model - which distributes more funding to schools with disadvantaged students - but that simply spending more will not necessarily improve educational outcomes.
The minister said he hoped to negotiate new funding deals with the states to last at least four years from 2018. These are unlikely to be negotiated before the next federal election, which is due to be held in September or October.
Labor is set to go the election promising big increases in school funding paid for by raising tobacco taxes.
"We won't be driven by what Labor will or won't do," Senator Birmingham said. "We will run our own race."
In a signal to the states to expect tough negotiations, Senator Birmingham said the federal government does not have a "limitless" amount of money to spend on schools. The budget update released earlier this month showed the Commonwealth deficit blowing out by a further $26 billion over four years.
Many states are in fact in a better fiscal position than the federal government, he said.
In a significant change from the Abbott era, Senator Birmingham flagged a more interventionist role for the federal government in schools policy, with new funding tied to specific measures such as giving principals more control over their budgets and improved teacher quality.
Previous education minister Christopher Pyne sought to strip out the "command and control" features of the Gonski reforms, saying he would not "infantilise" the states by telling them how to spend money.
"There has been a very significant growth in funding to schools but that hasn't been matched with a clear focus on improving school outcomes," Senator Birmingham said.
"If you are going to deliver extra funding into the education system, it has to be clear how the money will be used."
He said some schools have done "fantastic things" with the extra Gonski money such as employing speech pathologists and investing in phonics teaching.
"But some officials have said, 'We're not quite sure what we're going to do with the extra money, we're just going to employ more teachers'," he said.
"We should not just follow the tired old union formula that smaller class sizes deliver better educational outcomes."
From the SBSs satirical ‘Backburner’ web site
The Turnbull Government has confirmed it will not be providing the funding for the final two years of the Gonski agreement saying that it became aware that this money was being wasted on the future of Australian children.
Reports indicate the Government became outraged when initial feedback revealed schools had been planning to spend Gonski funding on educational materials, teaching facilities and new construction instead of the initial plans to make sure the P&C fete is really off the hook.
The Turnbull Government has proposed renegotiation to take place as Gonski funding was originally planned to begin, declaring it time to reevaluate our expectations on education.
“We need to reexamine this agreement in great detail,” said Minister for Education Simon Birmingham. “We’re concerned that a lot of this funding is going towards the education of children that we’ve already pretty much written off. There are some real dead-end kids out there and our figures indicate it’s much cheaper to just forget about them.
“We need to make savings and the bloated and ritzy public education system is clearly the place to start. It’s time we stopped pouring money into schools that just spend it all on textbooks like a big bunch of nerds.
Sadly I can imagine them saying this! If you want to check out the planned (obscene) excesses of some of Sydney’s ‘elite’ private schools check out this site: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/simon-birmingham-dont-expect-schools-election-cash-splash-20151227-glvlpx.html which highlight Sydney's most expensive school renovationsA group of Sydney private schools are planning to spend up to $200 million in building new facilities.
(Also note a wannabe elite private school in Ballarat is currently building a ‘infinity pool’)