What is Gonski 2.0 and haven't we already done this?

The Government has announced a 10-year education plan that will redistribute funding across Australian schools, make a system that’s fairer and ultimately provide better outcomes for our kids. At least that’s what they say it will do.

Not everyone is sold on the reforms announced yesterday, which will cut funding from 24 private schools, give funding to over 9000 others, has Catholic schools fretting over possible fee hikes and has left many others simply reeling from déjà vu.

You see a funding overhaul will require a review of the sector, much like the one Labor commissioned from businessman David Gonski in 2010 and was released in 2012 that led to their signature educational reforms promising a needs-based funding model.

Funnily enough, Gonski – a personal friend of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – will also lead the second review, in which he will consider his original report. Hence, many have labeled the new proposal a revamp of the federal opposition’s 2012 “Gonski report” and have dubbed it “Gonski 2.0”.

The pitch.

Mr Turnbull says the plan, called Quality Schoolswill increase Commonwealth funding for schools from $17.5 billion in 2017 to $30.6 billion in 2027, a 75 per cent increase in recurrent funding but still less than what was proposed under Labor and less than what state and territory education ministers want.

The plan will repair a “patchwork system” and move money from over-funded schools to under-funded ones.

“We will ensure that all schools and states transition to an equitable funding model within a decade,” Turnbull said in a press conference this morning.


Quality Schools Reform

The time has come to bring the school funding wars to an end. With the support of David Gonski, my Government will deliver real needs-based funding for all Australian children.

Posted by Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday, 2 May 2017

“It will ensure that students with the same needs will be treated exactly the same in terms of Commonwealth funding – no matter which state they reside in, or the school system they are being educated in.”

It will also be tied to “funding initiatives” aimed at producing better academic results from students.

The reaction.

At face value, the reforms appear sound and while they do away with Julia Gillard’s promise that no school would be “worse off” under Gonski, many have cautiously welcomed the notion of cuts to wealthy private schools.

That said, Labor has dismissed the Coalition’s plan as “an act of political bastardry” and argue the proposed funding increase is actually akin to a $22 billion shortfall on what they’d promised.

“It’s a smoke and mirrors, pea and thimble effort to hide the fact that instead of cutting $30 billion from schools over the decade, this government will cut $22 billion from schools over the decade, ” Labor education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek told reporters outside parliament today.

She said her party would examine the package more closely, “but on first blush, all I can say is ‘Tell them they’re dreaming’.”

Gonski 2.0 has raised a lot of questions. Source: Getty

The Greens were not immediately dismissive of the plan, with education spokesman Sarah Hanson-Young saying people are "sick of the argy-bargy" over school funding and just want something fair.

"We want more funding for the schools that need it, we want to look after our kids and give them certainty, and for those schools that have been getting off with being over-funded for far too long, they need to be reined in," she told ABC's AM program.

The National Catholic Education Commission say its schools have been unfairly targetted and worry the "ambitious" plan was formed without proper consultation.

Catholic education director for the archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, Ross Fox, said the changes would mean a funding freeze that could lead to the shutdown of some of his schools in the ACT.

"Really we've got to increase fees, we're going to have to shut schools, we're going to have to reduce the quality of education we provide to students," he told the ABC.

Meanwhile, as Meredith Peace from the Australian Education Union’s Victorian branch pointed out, students shouldn't have to wait 10 years for resources they need today.

"There is already a plan to lift all schools to the minimum resource standard - they are the six-year Gonski agreements signed with states in 2013, and Malcolm Turnbull needs to honour them," she said.