School teachers urged to maintain pressure

RELATED COVERAGE: Funding milestone welcomed

Gippsland teachers are being urged to maintain pressure on the State Government to sign up for education funding reforms, before the announcement of a federal election date terminates the negotiation period.

Australian Education Union Gippsland organiser Jeff Gray said while the ongoing discussions for the Better Schools plan, formerly referred to as the ‘Gonski’ reforms, were fuelling hopes a deal would be reached, there was still no concrete indication of a Victorian sign up.

“From our point of view, if they don’t sign up before an election is called, we will be in this horrible situation where only private and Catholic schools will get the extra benefits, and the public sector misses out, so signing up to this is absolutely urgent,” Mr Gray said.

Last week the Catholic school sector signed up to the reforms, following the lead of independent schools earlier in the month.

Victoria raised the negotiation stakes last month, 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.

“If they believe they can leverage more funding we would applaud that, but this is a highwire act they are playing at the moment, so we are still undertaking some pretty intensive lobbying, after meeting up with principals and teachers who are worried that they might not be able to land the deal,” Mr Gray said.

It remains unclear to what extent a Coalition Government would honour the reform if a deal is reached; the coalition has publicly fielded a number of possible responses over the past weeks, the latest from shadow education spokesperson Christopher Pyne who stated the coalition would repeal the reforms after one year of operation.

“Who knows what they would do frankly, but regardless of who looks like they are coming to power, if a deal is signed, we will be making school funding a core election campaign issue,” Mr Gray said.

“We will not go out and tell people how to vote, but we will be keeping a very close eye on all election promises through the campaign, and making sure voters are clear on what their vote will mean for school funding.”