The ACT government and education groups are up in arms over federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s “complete back flip” regarding the federal government’s commitment to the Gonski system of school funding.
Under the Better Schools reform, the ACT was set to receive an additional $190 million over the next six years to be directed toward the children with the highest needs.
“That is $100 million into government schools, $60 million into Catholic schools and $30 million into non-government schools and the last time I spoke to the Catholic and independent school sectors we were of one that this funding agreement should be honoured,” ACT Minister for Education and Training Joy Burch said.
Mr Pyne’s announcement that funding will only be guaranteed for 2014, with a further review to come, has left a level of uncertainty for schools, but the exact implications in the ACT are still unknown, with the federal minister yet to brief or consult his State and Territory counterparts.
“Given that this policy change has been announced by media and seems to change every time Mr Pyne sits in front of a camera, we are not really clear [what will it mean for ACT schools],” Ms Burch said.
“I will be waiting with interest … to hear first hand from the federal minister about what this actually means and remind him that here in the ACT we have a signed an agreement with the Commonwealth and to me it matters not which government signed the deal, it is a deal that needs to be honoured.”
The ACT branch of the Australian Education Union believes the announcement will “come back to bite” the government, with the funding reform heavily supported in the ACT.
“It is clearly a broken promise; education was a core issue at the election, and today’s events are extraordinary,” branch secretary Glenn Fowler said.
“[The coalition] jumped on this so called unity ticket in the days leading up to the election because their own polling told them that Australians are sold on the Gonski reforms – 90 per cent of Australians believe that these reforms are needed.
“David Gonski made it very clear that this is an urgent reform, and to be dillydallying and engaging in mischief-making is absolutely not in the national interest and all Australians should hold them accountable for this sleight of hand,” Mr Fowler said.
The ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations said the announcement has left parents feeling very disappointed after getting bipartisan support for the Gonski reforms toward the end of the election campaign.
"That original Gonski committee … had people of all political persuasions," president Vivienne Pearce said. “[The review] took years with lots of experts … and lots of people like us putting submissions in, and now we’re going to be coming up with something different at the end of next year – where’s the expert input?”