An architect of the Gonski education reforms has lashed out at the Andrews government, saying its new school funding law will do nothing to fix disadvantage and inequity in Victorian classrooms.
Under legislation that passed Parliament last week, Catholic and independent schools will receive at least 25 per cent of the state government funding given to public schools.
Dr Ken Boston, who sat on the Gonski review panel, said the changes were inconsistent with the funding model developed by the panel because they were not needs-based or sector-blind.
“To market this as Gonski is to do Gonski a grave disservice. For a government who says it believes in needs-based funding this is not a sensible first step.”
Dr Boston said school funding should be allocated according to need, with extra loadings for disadvantage including disability, Indigenous students and remote schools.
“This is simply handing a parcel of money to the non-government sector to distribute as they see fit. With Gonski you start with the needs of the school regardless of what sector they are in.”
But a spokeswoman for Education Minister James Merlino said non-government schools had been seeking funding certainty for a long time and the sector “strongly supported” the legislation.
“Non-government schools are an important part of Victoria’s education system, catering to a wide range of communities around the state and serving unique and diverse cultural, religious and social needs.”
The spokeswoman said Victoria’s funding distribution models were consistent with the Gonski reforms and the minimum 25 per cent of funding given to non-government schools would be allocated according to need. The legislation maintained the existing percentage rate used for non-government schools funding.
Save our Schools spokesman Trevor Cobbold accused the state government of pandering to the private school lobby by legislating to link their funding to government school costs. He said the 25 per cent figure was “arbitrary”.
“They have a distorted sense of priorities. If the number of disadvantaged kids go down in private schools they still get the same amount of money.”
Catholic Education executive director Stephen Elder said the arrangement allowed Catholic schools to provide extra support to some of Victoria’s neediest students.
“Minister Merlino hasn’t got the luxury of being able to pander to special interests like Dr Boston and the AEU, he has a responsibility to all Victorian families.”
The Greens and Sex Party opposed the bill, but it was supported by the Coalition.
Greens education spokeswoman Sue Pennicuik told Parliament the move was “astounding”, flew in the face of the national education reform agreement that Victoria signed up to and and would increase inequity among schools.
Australian Education Union Victorian branch president Meredith Peace said she opposed the legislation because it was not needs-based.
“The jury is in about this issue, we need a needs-based funding model that applies across all sectors and delivers additional support to students who need it.”
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