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We need to give much more than a 'Gonski'.

By Kevin Donnelly - posted Thursday, 23 May 2013

Why is the Australian Education Union organising a national ‘I give a Gonski’ campaign scheduled for Saturday May 25 to pressure state and territory governments to sign up to Prime Minister Gillard’s new school funding model and related National Plan for School Improvement?

Believe the teacher union and it’s all about raising standards, helping disadvantaged children and supporting parents – wrong.

The reality is that the AEU is driven by self-interest as more money going to government schools means more teachers and more members.  The AEU also has a history of opposing school choice and funding to independent and Catholic schools.


While parents are voting with their feet and choosing non-government schools, with enrolments increasing over recent years by 20% compared to government schools at 1%, the Australian Education Union argues such schools should lose funding.

Even the head of the Gonski review, the Sydney businessman David Gonski, is on the record suggesting that any new funding model must give priority to government schools given concerns, in his words, about the “enrolment shift from government to non-government schools”.

Ignored is that non-government school parents save taxpayers billions each and every year because such students do not have to be taught in government schools.

Also ignored is that 36% of Australian children now go to non-government schools, with the figure rising to over 50% at years 11 and 12 in some areas, and that every child, regardless of school, deserves equal treatment.

But, not according to the Gonski report, the Australian Education Union and Prime Minister Gillard.  The Labor Party’s proposed funding model discriminates against non-government school parents by arguing they have to pay more for their children’s education.

Wealthy, privileged government school parents do not have to financially contribute to what is called the Schooling Resource Standard, the base level of funding per student, while Catholic and independent school parents do.


While government schools will receive the full amount of the base level of funding it’s also the case that non-government schools, even those in disadvantaged areas serving poor communities, will have to contribute at least 10% from local funds like school fees and school fetes.

Once again, the same financial penalty does not apply to financially well-off government schools serving privileged communities. And you can forget the AEU’s claim that state schools deserve special treatment because they are open to all students.

Selective secondary schools are only open to students who can pass the entry test and many schools in leafy, middle class suburbs are only open to those parents who can afford the $million plus real estate in a school’s enrolment zone.

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About the Author

Dr Kevin Donnelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University and he recently co-chaired the review of the Australian national curriculum. He can be contacted at He is author of Australia’s Education Revolution: How Kevin Rudd Won and Lost the Education Wars available to purchase at

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