Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard
Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard ALAN PORRITT AAP

The battle over Gonski funding giving Labor a foothold

IT HAS been four-and-a-half years since the Gillard government's release of a report that has characterised the debate over school funding ever since.

That report, led by businessman David Gonski and recommending about $5 billion a year be poured into the nation's schools, has become a key part of Labor's pitch to voters this election campaign.

But more important than the specific figure, the Gonski Report urged government to use new formulas to ensure the money went where it was most needed - extra funding for struggling students, those in rural and regional areas and those with a disability.

Labor pledged that money in 2013, before the Coalition axed $30 billion over a decade from the schools budget in 2014 and then last month promised to return $1.2 billion between 2018 and 2020.

The Opposition, bent on creating a contrast to the Coalition, has pledged $4.5 billion over the same period - meeting the Gonski Report's recommendations.

While Labor argues the case for delivering the full Gonski reforms, the Coalition is yet to produce a detailed policy to achieve a similar outcome. The government must negotiate a deal with the states by 2020.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham has pledged the Coalition to link its extra $1.2 billion to improving students' results, new assessments of Year 1 students' reading and numeracy skills, and annual reports to parents on their child's progress.

"It is completely unacceptable that the performance of our students in fundamental skills like literacy and numeracy continues to slip even while our funding continues to significantly increase," he has said.

"While Bill Shorten has promised more money for schools, Labor is ignoring the decades of significant funding growth yet declining performance."

Labor education spokeswoman Kate Ellis has told voters the Opposition will ensure extra help for students in need and provide better teacher training and more funding for rural students and those with disabilities.

"Educational opportunity should not be determined by the lottery of life - it must be universal. Australia's public education system is absolutely vital to this," she said.


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