Gonski uncertainty lingers

Significant discrepancies in Gonski funding projections for some Latrobe Valley schools remain un-addressed, with the Federal leadership changeover casting a further cloud of uncertainty over Victoria’s inclusion in the reforms.

The State Government raised the Gonski negotiation stakes on Wednesday, stating it would only sign up to the reform if the Commonwealth provided $7 billion to Victorian schools over six years, to which the state would add an additional $3.5 billion – up from the $4.2 billion combined funding model currently on the table.

The counter offer also has also rejected a “centralised management approach” proposed within the Federal Gonski model, which Premier Dennis Napthine said would allow the Commonwealth to “dictate the day to day running of Victorian classrooms”.

With a replacement for former Federal Education Minister Peter Garrett (who resigned amid last week’s leadership changeover) not due to be announced until late today, The Express was unable to clarify the Federal Government’s stance on the counter offer.

Although Mr Rudd signalled late last week the previously announced sign-up deadline of 30 June had been extended two weeks, he indicated there was “very narrow” scope for negotiation with the states yet to sign up.

While Latrobe Valley schools would receive tens of millions of dollars under the Federal Government’s current offer, projecting funding growths (on a per-student basis) of up to 51.2 per cent for some schools from 2013 to 2019, State Government modelling showed Narracan, Liddiard Road, Cowwarr, Yinnar South and Albert Street primary schools, along with Latrobe Special Development School, would lose out.

Liddiard Road Primary School principal Bill Mullan said while the Federal modelling projected his school would get an extra $400,000 per year under Gonski, the State modelling, by contrast, predicted his school would be $159,000 worse off – per year – until 2019.

“But to be honest, we have got no idea what (Gonski) would mean for us – obviously we would prefer the Federal projections to be right – but beyond that we are not really sure what it all means,” Mr Mullan said.

“We are the sort of school that has quite a big Education Maintenance Allowance – 80 per cent of our students qualify of a low socioeconomic status, so we already have national funding to facilitate that, but the if State Government is right, we would have to look a lot harder at how we can run things here.”

Mr Mullan said the school currently focused a large portion of its funding in the lower year levels, to build up a strong “early kick start base” from which the students could develop.

“That’s the area which we would boost with any extra Gonski funding, however the extra language and math support programs and reading recovery initiatives that we run now – those are the sorts of things that would have to go if the State Government is right.”

Lavalla Catholic College principal Erica Pergorer said despite keeping informed on the Gonksi reforms via various schooling networks, it was still largely unclear how Gonski would affect her school under either of the funding proposals discussed.

“The uncertainty creates lots of impacts for next year’s budget and planning – everyone is just waiting what our future budget will look like- the sooner we get answers on this the better,’ Ms Pergorer said.