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The Forum > Article Comments > Audit Commission's Gonski landmines > Comments

Audit Commission's Gonski landmines : Comments

By Dean Ashenden, published 8/5/2014

Saying that it's a mess was the easy part of the Commission's job. Figuring out what to do next is not so simple.

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The real landmines are the ones the Gonski report left, which I pointed out the day the report was released in an unpublished letter to the editor of The Age:

‘The Gonski report is, overall, a magnificent and meticulous plan for the future funding our schools (“A historic chance to fix education funding”, 21/2), but it contains two daggers – one pointing at the hearts of all our teachers and one pointing at the hearts of low-fee private schools.

‘To determine the school resource standard by looking at what so-called “high-performing” reference schools cost is both bizarre and dangerous. It is bizarre because some differences in expenditure have nothing do with education (e.g., the different WorkCover levies in different states) and nothing meaningful is to be learnt by averaging out the costs of a $30,000-fee private school and a $10,000-a head public school that just happen to have the same student results. It is dangerous because it adopts the “inputs don’t matter” philosophy that so damaged Victorian schools in the 1990s.

‘To ignore school resources and determine funding for private schools based on the capacity of parents to pay is both discriminatory and inequitable. It is discriminatory because there is no suggestion that public schools be funded in the same way - though this recommendation will give impetus to that idea. It is inequitable because it will force the most inclusive private schools to put up their fees and thus become more exclusive….
Posted by Chris C, Thursday, 8 May 2014 9:18:50 AM
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‘More than 80 per cent of the recurrent costs of a school are teacher employment, and there is little scope for variation in the remaining less than 20 per cent. The AEU, the IEU and the low-fee private school authorities ought to combine to pressure the government into adopting an explicit staffing formula as the basis for the school resource standard and the schools’ own resources as the basis for the funding phase-down. The model adopted by the Victorian Labor government in 2005 is conceptually rational though financially inadequate.’

Some six months after I saw the problems in report the AEU woke up to one of them (i.e., the use of so-called “high-performing reference schools” instead of a staffing formula to determine the school resource standard):
“Minimum quotas for the number of teachers per school will need to be maintained even as principals are given more control over hiring and budgets, the public education union says.” (“Autonomy worries teachers” (print title), “Minimum teacher quotas must stay: union” (web title of article behind a paywall), The Australian Financial Review, 5/9/2012)

More recently there has been outrage form the public education lobby that means-tested fees are being proposed for government schools, as I said they would be.

In time, the social stratification that follows from the Gonski-endorsed legislative entrenchment of the Howard governments’ SES funding model will also become apparent.

The public education lobby failed to read the signs properly when the Gonski review was established, failed to make a case for a specific funding formula and now lives with the consequences.

There is more in submission 42 at
Posted by Chris C, Thursday, 8 May 2014 9:19:06 AM
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Yet, given the age of entitlement being over, I agree Chris, all education and health ought to be means tested.
I mean, a university education almost certainly means the graduate will earn $70,000+ above the average, per, and only ever become 1% of the unemployed demographic!?
Sure yes, it could take a decade to qualify, but people spend that much time on the dole queues, particularly in regional areas, where youth unemployment could be 30-40%!
The trouble with Gonski and public health, they just spend money we're not collecting!
Mainly because avoidance is both professional and endemic.
If these same avoiders didn't have an educated workforce, paid for by somebody else, they just wouldn't be able to run a business or collect quite huge profits.
I mean, there are many multinationals that pay no company tax to anyone, yet have budgets bigger than many sovereign nations!
If we were fair dinkum, we would just crack on and close all the loopholes!
And the only way of actually doing that is to jettison the highly complex system we have now, with more holes than Swiss cheese, and replace all that, with a single stand alone unavoidable expenditure tax, everyone without exception or exclusion pays.
The higher the income, the more tax one would pay, the least paying the lest tax.
And given a direct funding model, the GST could go, along with payroll tax, PAYE PAYG, Fuel excise etc.
States could manage their greatly limited responsibilities, by first, seriously downsizing, and collecting all tobacco and alcohol excise, and capital gains, which would replace the welfare for the rich, negative gearing!?
Set at just 4.8%, an unavoidable expenditure tax will raise considerably more NET tax, than the current complexity. Around 100+ billion more per!
Meaning that we can afford Gonski, even more so, with much more autonomy, and a direct funding model, that would add as much as an additional 30% to coal face funding?
And that still very finite bucket of money, would go far further, if we just included means testing.
Posted by Rhrosty, Thursday, 8 May 2014 11:48:05 AM
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The SES funding model was claimed by many to be broken. It was not. It was never able to work properly because it was never fully resourced, and its overarching principles had to be compromised to make it fit within the funding levels provided by the government of the day and succeeding governments. The new funding model has suffered the same fate.

The SES funding model was replaced by the current model which is more complex, less transparent and, without a national schools resourcing body, more subject to government whim, especially with regard to the School Resourcing Standard. It provides parents and schooling authorities no funding certainty going into the future, and it fails to adequately address the provision of adequate public funding to students with disabilities, particularly those in the non-government schooling sector.

We do not have, and have never had, a 'Gonski funding model'. The funding model that was implemented by the Labor Government looked as much like what Gonski proposed as my old ute looks like a Mercedes. The crucial fifth and sixth years of the model we have were never included in the forward estimates, so talk of 'Pyne's brazen effort to get rid of Gonski' by the author is nonsense. It is simply repeating AEU hyperbole.

It's time people let go of the Gonski funding model that never existed and set about trying to build a nationally consistent model for funding schooling. The one proposed by the Gonski Review got it pretty right. It's a pity it was never implemented.
Posted by Ian D, Thursday, 8 May 2014 11:54:56 AM
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Spot on Rhrosty, as I have been advocating for this tax for years, although I refer to it as a finacial transaction tax. Idotht even think it needs to be as high as 4.8% but, if it were, I myself, having year to date paid just under $20,000 in tax, not including GST would be almost $16,500 better off. Show me a better way to stimulate an economy and provide ample funding for everything.

You see unlike income tax, or GST, of which much is claimed back, a financial tax taxes money, not people and it collects tax every time it is transferred from one account to the next and, the most any one individual will ever pay (on your model) is $4.80 out of every $100 earned/spent. Even if you bank it it collects tax.

Bring it on. Why won't they at least try it.
Posted by rehctub, Friday, 9 May 2014 11:45:43 AM
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