Federal Budget 2013
Federal Budget includes little in the way of surprises with the usual promise of big savings and big spending, though not this election year.PT5M5S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2jkj6 620 349 May 14, 2013
As much as the states have been exhorted to ''Give a Gonski'' and wooed with offers of extra cash if they endorse the Commonwealth's ''once in a generation'' school reforms, much of the detail has been missing until now.
Sure, we all knew the headline figure: a $14.5 billion boost to schools if the states agreed to chip in a third and sign up to school improvement reforms including higher entry standards for teaching and annual performance reviews for teachers.
Illustration: Andrew Dyson.
But how the government intends to phase in the extra money over six years - and what happens if the jurisdictions don't sign up - has remained something of a mystery.
The budget papers finally provide some clarity. Anyone hoping for a massive injection of federal funds in the first couple of years will be sorely disappointed.
Just $473.4 million has been set aside next financial year - less than 5 per cent of the total Commonwealth contribution - predicated on all states and territories signing up.
The following year is much the same, with just $478.8 allocated in 2014-15, growing to $737.3 million in 2015-16 and $1.1 billion in 2016-17.
The budget papers also reveal the government will ''redirect'' $2.1 billion set aside in forward estimates for national partnerships programs into the new needs-based funding model.
The Gillard government's 2010 election promise to give top teachers cash bonuses, for example, for which $665 million was allocated over the next four years, will now ''terminate'' on December 31, without a single bonus being paid.
Similarly, $203.2 million over five years in reward payments for schools showing improvement in literacy, numeracy, attendance and year 12 results - also an election commitment - will be ''redirected'' into the new funding model.
''The proposed reforms … will provide all schools with the level of resourcing required to improve results and give all students the best possible education,'' the budget papers say.
Other programs where funding will be ''redirected'' include $258.5 million over four years for schools with low socio-economic communities and $412 million over three years for a program that supports principals to take greater responsibility for running schools.
Under the government's new needs-based funding model, every student will be allocated a base level of funding, with additional loadings for disadvantage such as disability.
State schools would receive the full amount from state and federal governments, while private schools would receive a proportion of the base, determined on parents' ability to pay fees, plus the loadings.
NSW is so far the only jurisdiction to agree to the reforms, with the other jurisdictions given a deadline of June 30 to sign up.
However, the budget papers say states that do not sign will continue to receive payments for teacher bonuses - except Victoria and Queensland, which pulled out of the scheme - and national partnerships funding for low socio-economic schools. The ball is now firmly in the court of the states and territories, which can no longer moan that they are ignorant of the intentions.
Nor can the federal Coalition, which will be forced to make a difficult decision. Will it dismantle the school funding reforms, now spelt out in the budget?
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, education spokesman Christopher Pyne and shadow treasurer Joe Hockey have all threatened to do just that if the Gillard government cannot reach agreement with all the jurisdictions. ''I have always said that the states cannot assume that any bad deal which is negotiated by this government will necessarily be sustained by a future government,'' Mr Abbott said last month.
But with NSW already a signatory, it would be an invidious task for an Abbott government to claw back the $153 million in extra funding that would flow to NSW schools next year under the deal.
NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell is broadly spruiking the benefits of the deal: ''A decision not to sign up to this agreement comes with a pretty big sting in the tail.
''Not just termination of national partnership funds but also a reduction in the rate of increase in base funding for schools across NSW,'' he said last month. ''So devil and a hard place.''
The federal Coalition may now also find itself between the devil and a hard place.