LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – It is obvious the sums do not add up in favour of the Territory signing up to the Gonski education reforms.
The Territory already has the highest spend per student in Australia. Using the Federal Labor Government Gonski funding will not be better than this and, in fact, 41% of our schools teaching 16,250 of our students will be worse off.
Put simply, we spend $15,893 for each student, but through Gonski that would be wound back to the base amount of $9781. Even with loadings added for location, socio-economic status, English language skills, size or disability the funding would still not rise above our current spending.
Where’s the advantage for Territory students and schools? Gonski is supposed to be an education improvement model, yet most of the bureaucrats who have penned the reforms have never set foot in a remote Indigenous community.
If the Australian Government offers to talk about sensible dollar funding then of course we are open to listening. The majority of the Federal Labor Government’s funding actually goes to the jurisdictions that spend less per student than the Territory.
It is not the principles of Gonski we are against, but the Commonwealth is punishing us for already having generous school funding in place.
The proposal as it stands is unaffordable and would force the Territory to put in an extra $592 million over the next six years with the Federal Labor Government contributing just $193 million without an additional dollar till 2017.
That’s a big ask, with no reward for us, and comes at a time when we are saddled with a dismal financial situation after Delia Lawrie’s former Labor Government left us with massive debt.
As it stands, with no new offers on the table for Gonski, the Australian Government will only contribute 33 cents for every dollar the Territory puts in. That’s not on.
While the Territory Government continues to negotiate with the Commonwealth in good faith to ensure that NT schools and their students receive the best deal possible, it is hard to tell what will become of Gonski funding if Julia Gillard loses the Prime Ministership to Kevin Rudd.
There may be a change of Federal leadership by next week so it would not be responsible for the NT Government to enter into a major funding agreement on such shaky ground.