Schools’ painful wait for Gonski funding commitment

LATROBE Valley school principals have spoken out about the “detrimental” effects axing federal funding for the Gonski program would have on its students.

The State Government released data on Wednesday showing if the Federal Government did not deliver the last two years of the needs-based funding model, on average schools could lose up to $550,000.

Schools in low socio-economic areas could lose as much as $2 million, including those in the Latrobe Valley.

Kurnai College stands to lose $1.8 million.

The college received $880,000 in Gonski funding this year which went towards programs targeting student wellbeing, career pathways and indigenous support.

Kurnai College principal Anthony Rodaughan said he would be devastated if the Federal Government did not “honour its pledge” to continue the funding.

“Certainly several programs would have to be lost and others would be downsized,” Mr Rodaughan said.

“It would have a devastating effect on the most vulnerable students.”

Lowanna College principal Brett Windsor said the impacts of cutting the funding would be widespread.

“From my school’s point of view and across the Valley, we are in a disadvantaged area,” Mr Windsor said.

“The funding is about equality and without that funding we would be in dire straits.”

Mr Windsor said it would be difficult to operate in the future, in particular delivering programs for students at risk.

“A lot of the Gonski money goes into welfare programs for disadvantaged students,” he said.

“Given that Latrobe Valley schools are big schools that need the extra funding I’m sure it would impact the area if the funding was cut.”

Standing to lose up to $1.3 million in funding, Traralgon College principal Paul van Breugel expressed concern about the flow-on impact onto the State Government’s funding.

“(Our school has) benefited through the funding through the State Government and it has certainly made a big difference in what we provide for literacy and numeracy and support for the disadvantaged,” Mr van Breugel said.

“We don’t get anything directly from the Federal Government, the money flows through to the State Government.

“But if the Federal Government is not funding and it impacts the State Government’s ability to fund the program then it would impact us.”

State Member for Eastern Victoria Region Harriet Shing said under the federal cuts, schools in Gippsland would lose up to $45 million every year from 2019.

She said all Gippsland schools would lose at least $100,000 in funding, with secondary schools destined to lose at least $1 million.

“The Andrews Labor Government is investing in Victoria’s disadvantaged schools, has met all its obligations under the Gonski Agreement and, in 2015, delivered the biggest education budget in Victoria’s history. But there’s only so much Victoria can do without Canberra’s support,” Ms Shing said.

“Gippsland children and their families will be enormously disadvantaged by these drastic and unnecessary cuts in federal education funding.”

Federal Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham said the Turnbull Government remained committed to engaging in discussions with the states, territories and non-government sector about post-2017 funding that “is fair, transparent, needs-based, affordable and looks beyond just a two year horizon”.

“The Turnbull Government knows that funding is important but that what you do with it matters even more,” Mr Birmingham said.

“The government’s discussions on future funding will not just be about how more money is spent but will seek to ensure we lift school outcomes too.”

The State Government has allocated full funding to the program until the end of 2017.