State reactions to school funding secured as federal government's Gonski 2.0 passes the Senate

Funding: How Tasmania has reacted to the passage of the federal government's Gonski 2.0 funding through the Senate early Friday morning.
Funding: How Tasmania has reacted to the passage of the federal government's Gonski 2.0 funding through the Senate early Friday morning.

In the early hours of Friday morning the federal government successfully passed their school funding legislation, nicknamed Gonski 2.0, through the Senate.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham celebrated the $23.5 billion “historic” legislation, with the Prime Minister calling it “the biggest reform in Commonwealth school funding ever”.

“What we are delivering is fair, consistent needs-based funding,” he said.

Mr Birmingham thanked the crossbenchers whose support was crucial in shepherding the legislation across the line, including Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie.

Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff welcomed the news, saying the legislation was “good for Tasmania”.

The legislation

The legislation will see all schools below the School Resourcing Standard (SRS) allocated more commonwealth funding to bring them level by 2023, while schools above their SRS will be brought down to level funding by 2027.

The commonwealth funding for government schools will rise from an average of 17 per cent to 20 per cent of the SRS. Non-government schools will grow from an average of 77 per cent to 80 per cent, all by 2023.

The federal government expects all states and territories to provide 95 per cent of the SRS by the same date.

Both Labor and the Australian Education Union have fought fiercely against the legislation, saying it ripped up original Gonski deals that offered more money to Tasmanian schools.

The legislation includes the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data, which the federal government said was needs-based funding to support the “different definitions of disability that exist between jurisdictions”.

David Gonski AC, original creator of the needs-based school funding model, will also chair a review panel of education specialists to provide advice on how the additional funding should be used.

Senate Support

Speaking in the Senate on Thursday evening, Senator Jacqui Lambie said she stood firm by her decision to support the bill. 

“What has been negotiated with the crossbench over the past few days has led to an increase in funding commitments of almost $5 billion,” she said.

During the negotiation in the Senate, the federal government agreed to shorten the delivery time of the funding package from 10 years to 6, a move pushed strongly by crossbenchers who eventually gave their support.

"This package is what Gonski should have always been," Senator Lambie said on Friday.

"It's not perfect, but it's a big improvement, and thanks to the negotiating of the Crossbench, it's been improved even more.

Greens Senator Nick McKim said the party welcomed the additional funding, despite the Greens voting against the legislation in the Senate.

“There remains a gap between the richest and poorest schools, and the Greens will continue to fight for a fairer deal,” he said.

State reaction

Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff said the state government was still working through the details of the amendments to the bill.

“The Commonwealth’s passage of Gonski 2.0 means certainty for Tasmanian students and their families can be assured that they will receive more money, sooner,” he said.

“Gonski 2.0 will mean an additional $186 million in real money for Tasmanian schools, and students will receive more money per student than any other state.”

Opposition education spokeswoman Michelle O’Byrne said the “inferior” legislation would see Tasmanian public schools $68 million worse off over the next two years.

She criticised the federal government for bypassing the education sector in developing the bill.

“What’s even more disappointing is the lack of resistance shown by the state government, which has meekly accepted this massive blow to funding to support our children,” she said.

“The people who deliver education have been excluded from the conversations to pass this bill and states have been left not knowing just how much money we’ve lost over the life of the agreement.”

Sector reaction

Under-resourcing in Tasmanian schools will be “entrenched” by the federal government’s Gonski 2.0 legislation, Australian Education Union Tasmania president Helen Richardson has warned. 

“Senators who supported Turnbull’s plan need to realise they are complicit in entrenching disadvantage in our state and rob a generation of kids the educational lift they need for a bright future,” she said.

“Senators who voted for this legislation need to know the devastating impact this will have on our schools.”

Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff said the union was “playing politics” based on federal Labor’s original Gonski funding.

Director of Catholic Education in Tasmania John Mula said the federal government’s original funding proposals were “detrimental to Catholic education”.

“What the Government is proposing will change the fabric of Catholic education both in Australia and Tasmania over the course of the 10-year funding deal,” he said. 

But Independent Schools Tasmania director Tony Crehan welcomed the legislation and congratulated Senator Jacqui Lambie for her role in securing its passage, noting that almost all Tasmanian schools are presently funded below SRS.