I have fairly strongly and with some frustration criticised Federal Labor on a number of occasions recently in relation to the weak position on schools funding they took to the election last year. Possibly with a view towards minimising potential electoral pitfalls leading up to the poll, a decision was taken by the then Federal Opposition to simply adopt the Howard Government schools funding model until at least 2012. This stance certainly did a good job of eliminating schools funding policy as a potential electoral saviour for the Coalition, but it also served to entrench an inaccurate and arguably unfair funding model for four more years, longer even than the first term of the Rudd Labor Government.
Despite the delay, which admittedly does ensure that the current quadrennial funding arrangements are not abruptly disrupted, I nevertheless applaud the announcement of a schools funding review made by Julia Gillard in a recent speech delivered at the AGM of the Association Of Independent Schools NSW; as Jewel Topsfield and Farrah Tomazin report for The Age:
Education Minister Julia Gillard has blasted the existing system as complex and confusing, and declared that a complete review of schools funding would be finished by 2011.
In keeping with Labor’s pre-election promise to retain the existing funding model until 2012, changes would not be introduced until 2013. But Ms Gillard has made it clear she wants radical change across private and public schools funding.
I find it very interesting that this review of schools funding is painted primarily in such a negative light; the main story that Topsfield and Tomazin appear to pull from the speech is that “hundreds of private schools could be at risk of losing some federal funding”. This seems like wild speculation at this exceedingly early stage, and particularly so given that there will be no change to the current funding arrangements until 2013. Of course, the possibility that hundreds of private and public schools could have their funding increased as a result of an overhaul of schools funding is not canvassed, although that is probably just as likely an outcome.
It just goes to show that the private school that stands to potentially lose funding (or even – has its funding “reviewed”) is today apparently one of Australia’s most revered and protected sacred cows. It would seem that some people out there are decidedly short of context when it comes to budgeting and where the majority of problems requiring funding solutions reside in Australian schooling.