Stay strong, AEU presidents tell education ministers

Federation President Maurie Mulheron has joined with other teacher union leaders to call on state education ministers to stand strong in voicing their concerns about the plan, as the Education Ministerial Council meets in Adelaide today to discuss the new schools funding plan that was legislated earlier this year.

“Under Minister Birmingham’s new funding model, NSW Public Schools will be $1.5 billion worse off over the next four years,” Mr Mulheron said. “Combined with the government’s refusal to fund the additional loadings for students with disabilities, this new plan utterly fails to address the educational disadvantage identified in the original Gonski review.”

“The original Gonski review defined a Schooling Resource Standard [SRS] that identified a per-student amount of funding needed to address educational disadvantage in Australia. This was meant to be funded by 2019. Under Birmingham’s new plan, 87 per cent of NSW Public Schools will not reach the SRS by 2023,” Mr Mulheron said.

Gathered outside the Adelaide meeting venue, AEU Federal and branch presidents met with the arriving education ministers, many of whom expressed their commitment to the original funding model.

“The commonwealth has ripped up the deal,” said South Australian minister Susan Close, while Victorian minister James Merlino described the new funding model as ‘unacceptable’.

Queensland minister Kate Jones made her intentions clear, saying “We’re not going to sign up”.

This meeting occurs in the wake of a recent OECD report that showed Australian education funding was actually in decline as a proportion of GDP, and is also below the OECD average.

“The OECD has recently reported a downward trend in Australia’s commitment to education spending as a proportion of GDP and compared to total spending on government services. It reports on these facts because it recognises that low resources hurt student outcomes,” AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said.

Within that trend of declining investment, Ms Haythorpe said, disadvantage was heightened for public schools, many of which would remain below the school resourcing standard even after ten years of the Turnbull plan, while many schools in the wealthy private system would remain well above it.

“We expect that States and Territories will come under strong pressure from the Federal education minister to sign a multilateral agreement or lose Federal funding in 2018.”

“This is nothing short of funding blackmail, where consultation to identify what is actually best for the thousands of children in our public schools is replaced by coercion to ram through a deal in no-one’s interests except those of the Federal Government.”

The meeting follows the announcement this week of a rushed four-week timeline for submissions to the latest Gonski review process that will reduce transparency and scrutiny.

“States and territories know the impacts of this plan – putting the brakes on Federal investment in public schools puts the brakes on the future of children in schools open to everyone, schools that cater to families already facing the challenges of broader inequality,” Haythorpe concluded.

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