Principals: Where did the funding go?

A LABOR-led investigation into the ‘Gonski’ fund shows Latrobe Valley schools may have missed out on vital support.

The investigation showed $50 million of Gonski funding was not allocated to Victoria in the 2014 and 2015 school year budgets.

Education Minister James Merlino accused the former Coalition state government on Wednesday of not honouring its role in the Gonski agreement.

Mr Merlino said in many cases, tight budgets had forced schools to compel parents to pay voluntary fees.

Australian Education Union Gippsland organiser Jeff Gray told The Express if asked, most state school principals would say there had been no increases to their budgets since Gonski’s inception.

“The previous government promised to pass on the funding, we’re not at all surprised, but it is certainly extremely disappointing and dishonest for the previous government to pretend the money was there,” Mr Gray said.

When The Express talked to Latrobe Valley principals, including Kurnai College’s Anthony Rodaughan, they said there had been no increases in budgets across the board, nor was there a clear-cut way to determine if Gonski funding was included as it was not itemised.

Mr Rodaughan said the disadvantaged socio-economic status of the region meant it was not possible to request voluntary contributions from parents.

“What really happened to us was that our budget took a big hit for the first couple of years with the previous government,” Mr Rodaughan said.

“The biggest problems were a lack of transparency in our budgets and the way it was delivered to us.

“There certainly is a feeling among state school principals that in disadvantaged schools it was particularly hard to identify any additional funding under the previous government which is what Gonski promised.”

With the education maintenance allowance also cut this year, Mr Rodaughan said the former State Government had made it much harder on schools with disadvantaged students who had relied on funding from the program.

He said the new system for funding disadvantaged students was too generalised because it worked school ratios, rather than providing funding for specific underprivileged families.

Opposition spokesperson for education Nick Wakeling said the Coalition state government spent significantly more on education than Labor’s last term.

“Under the Coalition, spending on schools was a record $9.2 billion which was $1 billion more than Labor’s last budget,” Mr Wakeling said.

“The Coalition supports increased transparency and accountability around school parent payments.”