Friday, 13 March 2015

Ken Boston strikes again

Ken Boston (Ken Boston is a former senior education official in Victoria, South Australia and NSW. He was a member of the Gonski Review Panel) takes aim at Gonski funding in private schools.

Reminder about Gonski funding: Gonski is needs-based and sector-neutral. It envisages the amount of government funding spent in each sector being built up from the bottom according to the educational needs of the children in each sector, rather than determined politically by the top-down allocation of funds to sectors.

In advance of the recent Victorian election, the then Opposition presented itself as the champion of Gonski. The legislation it has now passed is the antithesis: sector-based, needs-blind, top-down, politically driven, and ensuring that the "fair go for all" envisaged by Gonski will not be achieved.

If he has been quoted correctly, Education Minister James Merlino believes that, "the Financial Assistance Model that delivers funding for non-government schools is needs-based, completely in line with the tenets of Gonski" (The Sunday Age, March 8). This is so wrong as to be laughable.

The Financial Assistance Model is not new. It applies only to private schools, not all non-government schools. It has two components: a per capita component (about 40 per cent) and a needs-based component (about 60 per cent). The per capita component is paid to all private schools regardless of need. The intention of the needs-based component is sound, although its administration does not meet Gonski standards of transparency.

The Catholic and other systems are not required to allocate funds according to the Financial Assistance Model, or even to demonstrate how the money is distributed. The system authorities account for the larger part of state government funding for non-government schools, yet they are not publicly accountable for its distribution. We simply do not know whether, or how, educational need is being targeted, nor does the recent legislation require systems to report publicly on their use of taxpayers' funds. This lack of transparency has been criticised by the National Audit Office (2009).

Unbelievably, the Victorian government now stands to the far right of the political spectrum on school funding. Its legislation mandates inequity and under-achievement. It is in sharp contrast to the Liberal National Party government in New South Wales, which has repealed the link between government and non-government school funding, and is moving to a single schooling resource standard against which need is assessed for both government and non-government schools.


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