Govt Has a Massive Potential Revenue Pool to Fund Gonski

The Federal Government claims that the Budget deficit precludes fully funding the last two years of the Gonski plan. Labor is dithering on Gonski because it fears being seen as spendthrift when there is a large deficit.

However, full implementation of Gonski could be easily financed. The Federal Government has a potential savings pool of at least $34 billion a year to fund the $7 billion originally planned for the last two years of Gonski.

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Closed for Learning: The Impact of School Closures on Students and Communities

Closing public schools not only has a negative impact on student performance but also creates hardship for communities already struggling with disinvestment. The Stanford Centre for Opportunity Policy in Education, the Journey for Justice Alliance, and the Advancement Project sponsored a forum in December entitled “Closed for Learning: The Impact of School Closures” to brief members of the US Congress on the impact of community school closures in low-income neighbourhoods. The following is a brief prepared for the forum.

From the onset, the U.S. public education system has been wrought with challenges. It has never been a perfect system. Yet, for the past 15 years, the education reform movement has exploded – backed by investors and philanthropists that have sought to privatize education by capitalizing on our flawed accountability system and its over-reliance on high-stakes testing, high-stakes teacher evaluations, and high-stakes grading of schools.

Today, the interests of children of colour are being sidelined by the interests of philanthropists, hedge fund owners, and venture capitalists with their sights set on public education dollars and investments in inner-city neighbourhoods. The result has been massive takeovers of school districts and school closures across the country, particularly in Black and Brown neighbourhoods, which studies have found do not actually improve the academic futures of the displaced students they propose to help.

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The De-Professionalization of Teaching

Competition and choice policies in education are leading to the de-professionalization of teaching. A policy brief published by the US National Education Policy Centre titled Reversing the Deprofessionalization of Teaching says that it is being driven by fast-track teacher preparation, teacher evaluation based on student test scores and the use of scripted, narrow curricula.

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Well-off Private Schools Are Over-Funded by $3 Billion a Year

In general, there is no case for governments to fund private schools to a level beyond what they are prepared to fund public schools. However, government funding enables some 1,400 private schools to have more resources than public schools. It costs the taxpayer about $3 billion a year that would be far better spent on supporting disadvantaged public and private schools.

There are two aspects of government over-funding of private schools. The first is that privately-sourced income from fees and donations of wealthy private schools exceeds the total income per student in public schools. Government funding for these schools extends their resource advantage.

The second is that there are many private schools whose income from private sources is less than total income per student in public schools, but whose government funding is more than that which would provide them with the same average total income per student as public schools. The extra government funding also gives these schools a resource advantage over public schools.

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Wealthy Private School Parents Evading Taxes

One of the arguments used by the wealthy to justify government subsidization of their fees at elite private schools is that they pay taxes and there should receive government funding for whatever school their child attends. Apart from being a spurious argument, it appears that many of the wealthy are not paying taxes anyway.

Last month, the Australian Taxation Office announced that it has contacted more than 100 Australian parents with children at 60 elite private schools who paid school fees of $100,000 a year from overseas bank accounts. The ATO obtained information from the schools and matched it against parents’ tax returns. It is part of the ATO’s crackdown on tax evasion by wealthy individuals with hidden income and assets offshore.

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Technology is No Game-Changer in the Classroom

Technology will revolutionize the classroom! I have been hearing these promises for most of my 20 year physics teaching career and yet there is scant high quality evidence for it. Cyber schools show little learning. The OECD found “no appreciable improvement in student achievement” with large scale investments in computer technology. Computer technology seems like such a natural fit in the classroom. Why has it not been the game changer that it should be?

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More Evidence That Better School Results Increases Economic Growth

A study published by the US National Bureau of Economic Research this week shows that bringing all students up to a basic level of education increases work force skills and economic growth. It adds to the substantial weight of international and Australian evidence that increasing student achievement increases economic growth.

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Turnbull Govt Fails on Improving Maths and Science

Given that Australia’s international test results in mathematics and science have fallen in recent years, it is somewhat bewildering that the Turnbull Government’s innovation statement released on Monday virtually ignores school education.

The statement says that ensuring students have the skills to equip them for the workforce of the 21st century is critical to maximising Australia’s productivity, and ensuring economic and social well-being in an increasingly STEM-based and digital economy. However, it proposes spending a miserly extra $100 million on school education over five years from 2016-17, comprising $48 million on prizes and competitions in science and mathematics and $51 million on digital literacy programs.

The proposed increase is farcical. It amounts to only $20 million a year or $54 per student a year. It represents only one per cent of the increase in Gonski funding planned by the Gillard/Rudd governments over the three years from 2016-17 to 2018-19. It will do little to reverse Australia’s declining maths and science results.

Trevor Cobbold

The ACT’s Underperfoming School System Warrants Independent Review

The latest national report on the NAPLAN results published last week indicates that the ACT school system (public and private) is underperforming. It appears to be underperforming on average student results, student progress and equity. The apparent under-performance warrants an independent public review.

The ACT has many advantages over other jurisdictions in factors that influence school results. It has higher average income and parent education levels than elsewhere. It has fewer disadvantaged students and less extreme poverty. The average socio-economic status of students and schools in the ACT is much higher than in other states. All its schools are in the metropolitan area; it has no remote area students. Average school (public and private) income per student is higher than any other jurisdiction except Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Despite these advantages, average NAPLAN results for the ACT are no better than for Australia and several states. The report’s statistical analysis of state relativities shows that the ACT results in writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and numeracy for Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 are not statistically different from the Australian average or those in several states.

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Top Public Service Mandarin Badly Bungled School Funding Figures

In an extraordinary move earlier this month, the head of the Prime Minister’s Department, Michael Thawley, criticised increased funding for education within days of the Prime Minister suggesting that the Government would consider fully funding the Gonski school plan. Only a week after Malcolm Turnbull floated the idea of restoring the last two years of the Gonski plan that was abandoned by Abbott, Thawley used flawed figures to warn against increasing school funding.

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