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May 31

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Giving a Gonski

I don’t know about you, but I’m already finding the Federal Election a tedious exercise. The incessant need to give ever more to an electorate that doesn’t want to pay for it, promotes snake-oil verbiage. It also encourages burgeoning debt that our politicians seem powerless to contain.

Education is a favourite area for politicians to snipe over. Small wonder. Education and training is one of the nations biggest expenses. It is also a topic that interests many people because everyone is an expert.

The disastrous attacks by Federal Labor on independent schools, particularly high-fee independent schools, in the 1998, 2001 and 2004 federal elections were stopped when Kevin 07 did a kiss and make up. With nearly half of secondary students in Australian cities going to non-government schools, this was a wise political move. Even the toxic hatred of private schools by the Greens has abated a little. However, there are still things to fight over. Gonski is one of them.

In common with many heads of independent schools, I believe that the Gonski model for funding schools should be implemented as soon as possible. Why do I say this when King’s is unlikely to get any more Gonski money? I say it because it is fair and I say it because it’s good for Australia. No one wins when any sector of education is poorly supported.

I like the Gonski model of funding schools because it preserves entitlement. Every child gets some funding. It also honours needs-based funding. Those children requiring extra educational resources get more under Gonski.

So what is stopping the full implementation of Gonski? It’s the m_n_y. (Do you really need to buy a vowel?)

Yes, there are things that should be done other than throw money at under-resourced schools. Educational improvement is guaranteed by better teaching rather than extra dollars. But, the dollars do help, if only to attract quality people to the teaching profession.

If we don’t want to replicate the magic-pudding talk of our politicians, we have to come up with ways Gonski can be funded. I’m going to suggest two options.

Option 1 Just as Australia has introduced a Medicare Levy on wealthier families to help pay for medical services, why not introduce an Educare Levy on wealthier families, irrespective of whether their children are at a State or Private school. The average wealth of families sending children to some state schools can be far in excess of those sending children to some private schools.

Option 2 Require the charitable status enjoyed by many non-government schools to be better deserved by asking them to partner with and help an under-resourced school.

If politicians begin to pay more attention to education and come up with creative ways to do away with educational disadvantage, it might prevent me from throwing a brick at the telly every time I see a politician on the hustings.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.timhawkes.com/giving-a-gonski/