The Gonski ‘failure’: why did it happen and who is to blame for the ‘defrauding’ of public schools?

Gonski was just a well-connected businessman.  He knew little about education.  His ideas were accordingly just conventional dreams.  "Spend more money" was the core of his profoundly unoriginal contribution

And he seems to have had no clear idea of how and why educational inequalities come about.  That they are unfair and wicked seems to have been the depth of his thinking.  No wonder his recommendations went nowhere 

The commenter below is similarly uninteresting

When the Gonski review was released a decade ago, it was hailed as the answer to Australia’s educational woes – a roadmap to creating an equitable school funding system, and boosting the performance of Australian students on the global stage.

But rather than celebrating its success, its 10-year anniversary last month sparked critique of the failure of successive governments to implement the report’s recommendations.

Despite record levels of funding flowing to Australia’s schools, education results have suffered a 20-year decline on international benchmarks. 

Meanwhile, a new analysis paints a bleak picture of a widening gap between advantaged and disadvantaged schools, with commonwealth and state funding for private schools increasing at nearly five times the rate of public school funding over the decade to 2019-20.

Education experts now warn that the vision enshrined in the review will only be realised if the commonwealth and states unite to end the “defrauding” of public schools and fully fund them to their needs-based benchmark.

Ahead of next year’s expiry of the current state-federal funding deal, the National School Reform Agreement, experts say there must be a coordinated effort to ensure Gonski’s vision is realised.

What did Gonski recommend?

In 2010, businessman David Gonski was engaged by the Rudd government to lead a review into Australia’s school funding, with the aim of reducing the impact of social disadvantage on educational outcomes, and ending inequities in the distribution of public money. The report was released in February 2012, during Julia Gillard’s prime ministership.

The reforms recommended that governments reduce payments to overfunded schools that didn’t need them and redirect funds on a needs-based model. Its key recommendation was the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) – a base rate of funding per student with additional loading for disadvantage factors such as Indigenous heritage. The SRS would determine the required funding needed for each school. But a decade on, most public schools are yet to reach their full funding according to their SRS and more funding has gone to the less needy schools, with non-government schools well above their benchmark.

Gonski said the system would “ensure that differences in educational outcomes are not the result of differences in wealth, income, power or possessions” when he delivered his findings to government in 2011.

Why did it fail?

Trevor Cobbold, an economist and national convenor for public school advocacy group Save Our Schools, says the failure to achieve the review’s goals was a result of failures by the Gillard government and those that followed to implement the report’s recommendations.

“Gonski didn’t fail. It is governments that failed Gonski, and thereby failed disadvantaged students,” he says.

“You have to construct a system that recognises both the commonwealth and state roles, and Gonski did this by designing a nationally integrated model on a needs-basis.”

Tom Greenwell, a Canberra-based teacher and co-author of Waiting for Gonski – How Australia Failed its Schools, says a “huge problem” is that the “real work of additional funding has always been delayed beyond the forward estimates, to the next funding agreement”.

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