Page 1706 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 8 May 2013
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (11.58): I would like to start by acknowledging Mr Doszpot’s genuine interest in this matter. I understand that he, like many in this place, has been watching the national and local debate on the issue of schools funding with considerable interest. We have all been approached by the various stakeholders who also have a deep and genuine stake in the outcomes. We all care about the educational needs of the territory’s children, regardless of which school they attend. It is an issue that should quite rightly elicit real debate, discussion and dialogue due to its importance. The original Gonski report was considered a watershed moment in Australia’s history of funding for schools. Eighteen months in the making, thousands of submissions and consultations, 41 recommendations and 26 findings later and the landscape of the education sector may never be the same again, and for good reason.
One of the key findings of that report into school funding that we all agreed to was that Australia lacks a logical, consistent and publicly transparent approach to school funding. So that was then, 2011. This is the information that we all know and agree on, but we can also agree that things have changed quite a lot since then. Here in 2013 the Gonski report has evolved to become the better schools legislation. Some of the more system-wide recommendations have been reduced in size or scope and school improvement plans now place a greater emphasis on individual schools and principals. We also have a much clearer idea of what will be done to support teacher learning.
The debate has turned to mostly focus, somewhat understandably, on who is going to pay rather than just how much it will cost. Just on that point, I would like to take a moment to express my concern and disappointment that it seems that universities will be facing cuts to fund the better schools program. I share the view of my federal Greens colleagues when it comes to this issue. I believe there are many other more sustainable ways to fund all of the nation’s schools to achieve great academic outcomes and prioritise education, the way it so clearly needs.
There is something particularly redundant and strange, in its simplest terms, to talk of cutting education funding to pay for education funding. I just hope that by the time the children of this generation have benefited from the proposed reforms there will be a strong and world-class higher education system waiting for them. No-one will argue about the importance of schools’ funding needs, but it is indeed a shame that it may come from another education sector instead of, for example, the mining industry super profits tax. But I digress.
Today’s motion is not explicitly aimed at the commonwealth negotiations, nor at the many substantive issues relating to school autonomy, teaching, learning or areas of identified disadvantage. These issues will no doubt be discussed when the outcomes of the negotiations are clear. The motion before the Assembly is instead a call for the apparent financial consideration of the ACT government’s negotiations to date and asks further for commitments and guarantees of what impact this will have on the ACT budget and the schools community.
As I said earlier, I do understand the intense interest that a discussion of this nature can create. This is one of the most complex and important areas of reform facing us at the moment. Many stakeholders are justifiably keen to explore what this will mean for