Taxation Reform to Fund Growth and Social Spending

SOS does not normally write on taxation policy. However, in view of the failure of the National Commission of Audit report to consider the revenue side of the Budget and the abandonment of the Gonski funding plan by the Federal Government because it says it cannot be afforded, discussion of taxation policy is necessary if Australia is ever going to be able to address disadvantage in education (and other social issues). A good start for this discussion is a White Paper on taxation reform published last week by Nobel prize winner in economics and former chief economist of the World Bank, Professor Joe Stiglitz. Although the context is the US tax system, it has several points of relevance for raising taxation revenue in Australia to fund education and social programs. The following is an edited summary of the paper. Continue reading “Taxation Reform to Fund Growth and Social Spending”

Gonski on Gonski

The chairman of the Gonski school funding review, David Gonski, has criticized the Commission of Audit recommendation to Government that his funding plan be abandoned. The following is an extract from his seminal Inaugural Jean Blackburn Oration given to the Australian College of Educators in Melbourne on 21 May 2014. The full speech is available below.

The recommendations of the National Commission of Audit are disappointing in so far as they apply to school funding. While I am happy the commission specifically notes support for government investment in schooling, I am disappointed with their general commentary. Continue reading “Gonski on Gonski”

Review of Class Size Research

Many policymakers and political commentators suggest that funding isn’t the problem in Australian education. They point money spent on reducing class sizes, arguing that this extra funding does not lead to better academic results.

Politicians and their advisers seem to agree, as they claim that much of Australia’s increased expenditure on education in the last 20 to 30 years has been ‘wasted’ on efforts to reduce class sizes. The class size issue also directs attention to the learning environment, while pupil/teacher ratio is typically an economic category illustrating the amount of money spent.

Most of this policy advice and commentary relies heavily on Jensen’s report (2010) on Australian education and teacher quality. Jensen suggests that the majority of studies around the world have shown that class size reductions do not significantly improve student outcomes, and that the funds should have been redirected toward enhancing teacher quality.

Although the results of individual studies are always questionable, a range of newer peer reviewed studies on the effects of small classes have now emerged, and they throw into doubt this advice being offered to policymakers in Australia. Continue reading “Review of Class Size Research”

The Culture Wars of Kevin Donnelly

The new Commonwealth Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, unleashed a storm when he appointed Kevin Donnelly (and Ken Wiltshire) to review the national curriculum. Both have been strident critics of the national curriculum, and at least in Donnelly’s case a long-term critic of the role of the “cultural left” in Australia. Continue reading “The Culture Wars of Kevin Donnelly”

More on the Storm of Protest in the US Against Testing

It’s testing season in America, and regardless of how the students do, it’s clear who is already flunking the exams.

Last week in New York, new standardized tests began rolling out across the state, and tens of thousands of families said “no dice.”

Continue reading “More on the Storm of Protest in the US Against Testing”

What is Happening with NAPLAN in Your School?

The 2014 NAPLAN tests are on in just four weeks. Save Our Schools is again collecting information on the impact of NAPLAN on students, teachers and schools.

Tell us your stories and information about the effects of NAPLAN in your school. Use the “Contact Us” facility on the Save Our Schools website. If you would like to provide more detailed information and stories please contact us to arrange another address to send your information. Continue reading “What is Happening with NAPLAN in Your School?”

Why We Opted Our Child Out of State Testing

The NAPLAN tests are on again next month. The standardised testing season in the United States is also underway. While many parents in Australia are only just finding out that their children do not have to sit the NAPLAN tests, a huge opt-out movement has developed in the United States against tests. Newspapers across the country have carried many stories about the growing resistance to testing which are available on The National Centre for Fair Testing website. The Centre also has a website devoted to helping the resistance to testing. It has resources on why and how to opt out of tests and how to organise against tesing. Continue reading “Why We Opted Our Child Out of State Testing”

Your Child Does Not Have to Do NAPLAN

Wednesday April 16, 2014

The NAPLAN tests take place on May 13-15. The Say No To NAPLAN group has produced a flyer for parents about the harm done by NAPLAN and including a form parents can use to withdraw their child from the tests. Please download and circulate to parents.


  • does NOT measure individual student achievement accurately or reliably;
  • is NOT diagnostic (it does not identify your child’s strengths or needs);
  • narrows the curriculum and encourages low-level thinking;
  • is harming some children;
  • is NOT being used to identify those schools needing extra funding.The flyer calls on parents to write to their principal refusing permission for their child to do the NAPLAN tests.
Your Child Does Not Have to Do NAPLAN

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Questioning The Role of Philanthropy in Education

One of the lesser known recommendations of the Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling was that the Australian Government should create a fund to provide national leadership in philanthropy in schooling and to support schools in need of assistance to develop philanthropic partnerships. It said that greater use should be made of philanthropy to support schools.

A survey by the Australian Council for Educational Research found that philanthropic organisations provided $23.6 million in donations to school education in Australia in 2013 out of a total of $391 million distributed by philanthropic organisations responding to the survey.

In contrast to Australia, philanthropic organisations are heavily involved in school education in the United States and distribute billions to schools. The Gates, Walton and Broad foundations have come to exercise vast influence over American education policy through their strategic investments in education. The grants are used to support charter performance pay, vouchers and other market-based policies in education.

The influence of these foundations has been heavily criticised by advocates of public education. As Diane Ravitch, author of the Death and Life of the Great American School System and Reign of Error, has said: “There is something fundamentally anti-democratic about relinquishing control of the public education policy agenda to private foundations run by society’s wealthiest people.”

The experience with these wealthy philanthropic foundations in the United States is a warning about increasing the role of philanthropy in public schools in Australia.

The following is an address by Joanne Barken to the Network for Public Education conference in Austin on March 1-2 about the role of big philanthropies in education policy. Continue reading “Questioning The Role of Philanthropy in Education”

Northern Territory Review of Indigenous Education

I have just finished reading Bruce Wilson’s Draft Independent Review of Indigenous Education in the Northern Territory and I am impressed and dismayed.

I am impressed because this is the first time I have seen a report on the NT Department of Education (DoE) website that notes the systemic failure of ‘bush schools’ in the NT and the devastating consequences of this. This report has placed the urgency of this situation squarely on the public agenda and this is important. I am impressed because he has been willing to question the business-as-usual assumption that the answer must be to keep doing what we do, but to do it better.

His recommendations about centralising all remote indigenous secondary education into urban and regional centres took me completely by surprise and I am still considering my response to this.

But I am also dismayed. Wilson has plenty to say about funding and resourcing but at no time in this report does he raise the underfunding of NT remote schools. Continue reading “Northern Territory Review of Indigenous Education”