State’s Gonski funding threat a concern

If you can believe noises out of Canberra this week, then Tasmania’s share of Gonski funding could be under direct threat.

Mainland media reports yesterday claimed that federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham was preparing to outline a new funding model to his state and territory counterparts at a meeting today in Adelaide.

Senator Birmingham described the existing arrangements as a “corruption” of David Gonski’s original vision for needs-based school funding.

Many of the reports were highly critical of the breakdown of state-by-state funding levels, with Tasmania set to receive 40 per cent more funding next year than Western Australia.

According to the figures listed in those reports, lower socio-economic public schools in South Australia will receive $2897 a student in 2017, while a public school in the Northern Territory will get $4224.

To compare, a similar school in NSW will receive $3236, WA $2649, the ACT $2942 and Victoria $3130.

Tasmania's figure of $3366 is admittedly marginally higher than Victoria’s, the ACT and WA.

However, critics of that funding split seem to be conveniently sidestepping the fact that the Gonski model was always going to be needs-based.

That is, schools should receive federal funding based on their needs. Poorer performing schools in poor areas would get the most assistance, while higher performing schools in more affluent areas would receive less.

It’s a formula difficult to argue against.

You don’t have to look any further than the annual NAPLAN results to realise that both the Northern Territory and Tasmania have historically been underperforming.

To be critical of the fact that the Northern Territory is receiving the largest share of Gonski funding borders on hysterical. The same goes for Tasmania.

What is most concerning is the response from the federal minister. 

Senator Birmingham was quoted by Fairfax Media as saying the current funding system is not truly needs-based and needs to be overhauled.

Tasmania’s Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff, who is already fighting a political battle of wills at home over school starting ages, could be in for a difficult time in Adelaide as he fights to keep the state’s share of funding at the levels required.

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