Monday, 16 March 2015

Merlino Disappoints

Tampering with ( what's left of) Gonski
Gonski is supposed to work like this: students in need are disproportionately enrolled in government schools; so following the tenets of Gonski the government will provide disproportionately extra funding to government schools; then following the 25 per cent guarantee it will provide extra funding to non-government schools, not because they have a high proportion of needy students – to the contrary – but because the government schools do. It is a bizarre arrangement, a funding scheme at war with itself.

The government has compounded that blunder by subsequently refusing to commit to Years 5 and 6 (2018 and 2019) of Gonski funding – the years in which that extra funding is scheduled to be sharply increased.

On both these scores Education Minister James Merlino is shamed by his conservative (National Party) counterpart in NSW, Adrian Piccoli. Piccoli has explicitly rejected any attempt to modify or constrain the Gonski principles in the interests of any sector, and has given a commitment that if re-elected his government will provide full Gonski funding for 2018 and 2019.

The Victorian government did not adopt its very different approach because it had a better idea. It acted on a pre-election commitment made under political pressure, with the Catholic Education Office (CEO) allowing its powerful voice to speak for the interests of the non-government sector as a whole, high-fee independent schools included.

Both the government and the CEO have defended their manoeuvrings in Orwellian terms. Responding to critics of the government's legislation, including Gonski panel member, Ken Boston, CEO executive director Stephen Elder said that "Minister Merlino hasn't got the luxury of being able to pander to special interests like Dr Boston and the AEU". Special interests!! Are you for real Elder. Spoken like a true former Kennett Government member! In fact, of course, what the government has done is pander to a special interest seeking to protect itself from Gonski's sector-blind, needs-based funding.

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