Labor will pump $4.5 billion into the nation's schools by fully funding the Gonski funding agreements it struck when last in office, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will say today in his first election-year policy announcement.
With Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull soaring in the polls, Labor is attempting to shift the focus to education - one of the party's traditional strengths.
When the Coalition came to power in 2013 it announced it would only fund the first four years of Labor's six-year school funding deals. State governments have lobbied hard against the reduction given the biggest increases in spending, around two thirds, were contained in years five and six.
Mr Shorten will announce on Thursday that Labor will honour the full six years of funding deals with NSW, Victoria, the ACT, South Australia and Tasmania - giving the states funding certainty until 2020.
The policy is expected to cost an extra $4.5 billion over school years 2018 and 2019, with the total package expected to cost $37.3 billion over the decade.
Agreements with the other states which did not sign on to Gonski would be negotiated if Labor wins government.
Labor will also provide $320 million in additional funding for students with disability for three years from 2017 while working with the states to fully implement a new disability loading.
The spending will be paid for through previously-announced increases in tobacco excise, tightening superannuation concessions, a crackdown on multinational tax avoidance and scrapping a new $1000 baby bonus for couples with a stay-at-home parent.
By 2020, Labor wants to have 95 per cent of students completing Year 12 and by 2025, the party wants to return Australia to the top five countries in reading, maths and science.
"Australian schooling is going backwards internationally and this presents an immense threat to Australia's future economic and social prosperity," Mr Shorten said.
"Talk about innovation without a commitment to quality education is just talk.
"As most mothers do, my mum drummed in the importance of education into me from a very young age.
"Every Australian child should have the same chance of succeeding at school as any other child in the country – no matter what their background, no matter where they live, and no matter what type of school they go to."
Former education minister Christopher Pyne said Labor had left the school funding system in a "shambles" when it came to office and the government had delivered a national model by providing $1.2 billion to Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
His successor, Simon Birmingham, told Fairfax Media the government will seek to negotiate new funding agreements with the states from 2018.
"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."
Shorten followed this up with an email to schools:
I know you care about education and about ensuring every child in every school, no matter their background, gets the opportunities they deserve.
That’s why I wanted you to know about the huge announcement I’m about to make in just a few moments.
I’m about to go out and announce Labor’s Your Child. Our Future — our plan to put the needs of your child at the centre of school funding.
Our plan would represent the most significant improvement in school education in Australia for a generation. It’s a positive plan for every child in every school, no matter their background, to make sure they get the opportunities they deserve.
I’m proud to announce that this plan means a Shorten Labor Government would deliver the Gonski reforms on-time and in-full for our kids – reversing the Turnbull Government’s cuts.
I’ve spoken to so many teachers, students and parents over the last two years and they’ve been crying out for proper investment in our schools. Even you signed a petition calling for investment in our education system.
You and I know that Australia’s schools are falling behind. We must make it a priority now to invest in education for the future of our nation.
That’s why I’m announcing our five part plan today:
1. Focus on every single child's needs
2. More individual attention for students
3. Better trained teachers - and more of them
4. Better targeted resources and better equipped classrooms
5. More support for students with special learning needs
Every school, every child — public, independent or catholic schools — will all benefit.
You’ve taken action before and now I’m asking if you can take action again. I need you to help me spread the news on Labor’s positive plan.
I honestly can’t think of anything more important a Government could do than invest in our kids.
Thanks for standing with me on this,
PS You can read more information about the detail of our positive five part plan for schools and implementing Gonski by
Federal Labor today committed to delivering the vital last two years of Gonski funding.This is the funding for 2018-19. They already committed to this at their Federal Conference ( Refer previous post last year) But this is a welcome announcement Bill Shorten who said it was a critical investment in our children and the nation’s future.
It comes as plenty of evidence ( again refer previous posts) that where the funding is being delivered so far it is making a real difference for students and teachers.
The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said he supports needs-based funding (but has adopted Tony Abbott’s position of scrapping Gonski after next year.) Turnbull seems to hold lots of positions on important issues but does nothing about them!
Under the Abbott/Turnbull policy no public school in the country will be funded according to student need and no school will get the vital last two years of funding in 2018 and 2019 – the time when the biggest increases are due to be delivered.This can and should become a big election issue. We should not allow ourselves to be lied about this again!