Supporting the independent education community

Our Union’s position on the Turnbull Government school funding model

The following statement is the IEU NSW/ACT position.

“We are united in support for our federal position on school funding”, said IEU NSW/ACT Branch Secretary John Quessy.

The funding model announced by the Turnbull Government prior to the Budget is not a “needs-based’ model and is not a further iteration of the model proposed by the Gonski Review panel.  The model fails to measure and fund actual need, but claims to distribute the arbitrary ‘bucket’ on a relative needs basis.  It abandons the calculation and attainment of measured learning needs.

The Turnbull government’s funding bucket, though clearly increasing over the decade, is $22 billion less than schools had reasonably expected over this next decade under the current funding Act and promises.  

It is significant to note that although the full amount of the expected and legislated additional ‘Gonski dollars’ will not flow in 2018 and 2019, the proposed indexation rates in these immediate years will at least ensure that there is sufficient capacity for fair and equitable salary and conditions outcomes in all sectors.

The only exception in relation to indexation is in ACT Catholic systemic schools where funding is immediately being reduced.  This change is fundamentally unfair given the failure of government to consult and provide adequate notice of change and clear and sustainable transition provisions.  An adequate transition package will be essential and it is unclear as to whether the announcement in this regard is in any way adequate.

The model’s failings:

First, the model does not actually measure and fund the real cost of providing an education system as proposed in the Gonski review.  There will be no genuine Schooling Resource Standard (SRS).

Second, the indexation rates proposed do not and will not reflect the historic and actual increased costs in the education sector.
Third, the model has failed to provide a review of the socio-economic status (SES) measure used to underpin the funding, as was required in the current school funding Act.  Consequently the SES distribution process remains unreliable.

Fourth, schools will not reach the funding benchmark proposed in the current Act, certainly not by 2019 and for virtually no schools over the decade.  The ‘additionality’ mechanisms of the current Act, intended to move funding for all schools to 95% of the SRS benchmark by 2019, have been abandoned.

In addition to these failings, the IEUA is extremely concerned about the Turnbull government’s stated intention to “tie” school funding to particular policy decisions of the government without any knowledge of the detail of these requirements and to be determined by a review panel conducted by a merchant banker.  The government’s pre-election school education policy and the budget paper documentation suggest that this will include ‘performance pay’ models, including measurement of student outcomes.

The IEUA also notes that the indexation proposals, which not only fail the test of attaining an actual Schooling Resource Standard, are significantly less than the indexation rates in the current Act and will involve an arbitrary-economic-rationalist approach post 2020, involving a calculation based on the Consumer Price and Wage Price indices.  These figures do not adequately reflect costs in education and certainly provide no capacity to meet current and emerging needs, including those unmet needs clearly identified by the Gonski review panel such as; students with disabilities, Indigenous students, rural and remote students.

We note also the Turnbull government’s unilateral decision to use the data from the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data (NCCD) about students with disabilities to determine the SWD loading despite ongoing and grave concerns of employer stakeholders about the reliability of this data.

The IEUA notes that the reported ‘deal’ to set a floor of 3% indexation post 2020, while minimising the significant dangers and negative outcomes of the consumer price/wages price index approach, will still unreasonably limit the capacity of the education professionals to improve wages and conditions and to improve the teaching-learning for students.

The IEUA notes that, unlike the Gonski review panel’s work, there has been no engagement of the profession by the Minister in the development of the new funding model.  The Minister’s office has refused not only to engage with the Union, but to even return requests for contact.

It is the IEUA’s view that the proposed model is NOT Gonski 2.0.  Fundamentally it fails to meet the principles of the Gonski review panel and fails to meet the challenges of today’s school  education environment.  It also fails to meet the Union’s core funding principles as outlined in the IEUA’s 2010 School Funding policy.

The government’s claim to end the ‘school funding wars’ has manifested itself as a ‘war on schools through funding’.  Education professionals and our students expect and deserve better.