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Gonski disappoints on funding argument
letter published in The Australian Financial Review, 23 February 2012

The Gonski report on the Review of School Funding suggests a school resource standard be set by using the performance of high performing schools to determine future government funding levels.

But can it really be concluded that high performance reflects the amount of funding received by such schools?

Perhaps, rather, high performance reflects the high quality of teachers or management of those schools or even the curriculum, possibly the quality of their students too. It is disappointing that the report seems to say that performance depends on the amount of funding.

All the more so given that funding has increased strongly in recent years while relative standards have fallen.

The report also seems to overlook the importance of increasing the competitive framework within which schools operate. Parents have increasingly been sending their children to non-government schools because they generally perform better – and they compete. While some argue that this reflects higher funding for such schools, their much greater autonomy is vitally important too. Union resistance to autonomy continues to be a major problem for government schools.

Finally, does recent experience seriously suggest that the federal government assume greater responsibility for government schools as Gonski advises? States are far from perfect but comparisons between states do offer competitive challenges for state education ministers who would under Gonski attribute their deficiencies to the Feds.

Des Moore
Institute for Private Enterprise
South Yarra Vic

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