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Pyne good to his word on Gonski

By Kevin Donnelly - posted Friday, 29 November 2013

The old adage, never let the truth get in the way of a good story, certainly applies to the media's coverage of the school funding debate and Minister Pyne's argument that there must be a further review of school funding next year.

Critics argue that the then Howard governments' socioeconomic status (SES) model of allocating funding is inequitable, overly complex and lacking transparency.

The Gonski model, or more correctly the Rudd government's interpretation of the Gonski model enshrined in the Australian Education Act, is supposedly transparent, equitable and easy to understand.


Hello? In the rush to get as many jurisdictions as possible to sign on to its funding model in the weeks before the recent federal election the Rudd government made different offers to different states – there is no consistency.

NSW for example, after South Australia was offered a different deal and additional money was offered to Western Australia in a vain attempt to get it board, threatened to invoke its no disadvantage clause because it appeared to be losing out.

Notwithstanding the boast that rivers of money are about to wash over state and territory education systems it's also true that the lion's share under the Rudd funding model isn't due to eventuate until 2018-2019; two years beyond the forward estimates.

If the premiers and chief ministers who signed on to the Rudd model actually believe, given the ALP's history of record deficits and financial incompetence, that the money will eventuate then they must also believe in the tooth fairy and the Elvis is about to do an encore.

What journalists have also failed to pick up over the last week is that the Rudd funding model contains a transition clause resulting in schools not receiving the full amount of their base level of funding, the Schooling Resource Standard, until the start of 2019.

The Rudd funding model, otherwise known as Gonski light, is also inequitable as it discriminates against parents wishing to send their children to Catholic and independent schools.


Wealthy parents sending their children to privileged, well-resourced state schools will receive the full amount of state and Commonwealth funding. Parents at Catholic and independent schools, on the other hand, are financially penalised as they are not entitled to the same amount.

Even less affluent non-government schools serving disadvantaged communities will have their amount of government funding deducted by at least 10%.

While the original Gonski report argued that funding must be based on the needs of the child, regardless of school attended, the Rudd model penalises parents who want school choice.

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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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