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Gonski is dead. Long live Gonski?

TJ Ryan Foundation Research Associate, Dean Ashenden, writes in Inside Story (4.5.17) that a successful Gonski version 2 is essential – but far from sufficient – for genuine school funding reform.

‘It was not, as education minister Simon Birmingham declared, a “momentous” day for schools, but it was a big one: against almost all expectations (including mine), a Coalition government has announced that it will do a Gonski. Sort of. Probably.

‘The government says it will introduce needs-based, sector-blind funding for all schools, and spend more money over the coming decade to do it – all straight out of Gonski version 1. What’s more, it will get David Gonski, together with Gonski 1 panel member, the redoubtable Ken Boston, to fix one of its weak spots, making sure that more and better-distributed money does the needful. Gonski 1 was merely a “review of school funding.” Gonski 2 is a Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australia.

‘In its attempt at that very big ask, the review will face substantial obstacles, in the structure and politics of schooling, in the habitual practices of schools, and in unmeetable expectations.

‘… If teacher organisations and others fail to trust Gonski 2, the government has only itself to blame. It has the chance to redeem itself, but it won’t if it prefers cheap political shots to giving Gonski 2 a platform of consensus from which to speak.’

A week is a long time in school politics

TJ Ryan Foundation Research Associate, Dean Ashenden, writes again in Inside Story (12.5.17) about the revised Gonski school funding plan, asking whether, after a forty-year detour, we are heading towards a plan first envisaged in 1973?

‘On announcement day, it was all about Achieving Excellence in Australian Schools. Ever since, it’s been all about money and politics. So what’s new? Nothing, and everything.

‘It’s still the case that all involved are plotting and pitching and thinking inside the only box that most of them have ever known, a uniquely Australian Rubik’s Cube of sectors and fees and rigged rules and governments tripping over each other.

‘But they’re also playing astonishingly different roles from before, so different that some half-remembered lines from Handel’s Messiah came to mind. I looked them up. “Ev’ry valley shall be exalted, and ev’ry mountain and hill made low; the crooked straight and the rough places plain.”

‘Baddies have suddenly become virtuous (the Christian schools lobby, the Coalition government), heroes have turned into villains (Labor, the government schoolteacher organisations). Only the Catholic hard men, the Hapsburgs of Australian schooling, remain depressingly familiar, forgetting nothing, learning nothing.’

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