Victorian Premier Denis Napthine has said that without amendments, the federal government’s reforms under the Gonski legislation would mean ”bureaucrats in Canberra dictating the day-to-day running of Victorian schools”.
The Premier, speaking in parliament this week, said he will not sign up to the Gonski reforms unless the Commonwealth amends its legislation and commits $7 billion over the next six years.
Canberra has proposed a $4.2 billion fund for Victorian schools over this period, with the Commonwealth contributing $2.8 billion and the state paying the remaining third.
The roll-out of the Gonski reforms is likely to be revised under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who has been critical of Labor’s inability to project what the reforms mean to Australian parents.
The federal government has reiterated that the terms of an agreement with Victoria would be the same as those signed with NSW, South Australia and the ACT.
Victoria has formally until this weekend to sign on to the plan but it is now likely that Kevin Rudd will enter into negotiations with Victoria, Queensland and WA to bring them into the fold.
Dr Napthine told reporters that he did not know Mr Rudd’s view on the school funding changes and that uncertainty around the deal was concerning.
“It should concern all Australians that we’ve got such paralysis and uncertainty at a federal level,” he said.
“We want to negotiate a positive better outcome for education.”
The proposal currently on the table requires Victoria to commit to 3 per cent annual indexation and sign up to school improvement reforms, including national standards for teachers, the national curriculum and annual performance reviews for teachers.
Dr Napthine has made a counter-proposal of $10.5 billion over six years with Victoria contributing an extra $3.5 billion, if the Commonwealth gives $7 billion.
The Premier called for amendments to the Gonski legislation shortly after it passed through the Senate this week, saying that he rejected “the centralised management approach proposed” in the legislation.
The Premier said Victoria had calculated that the state government would contribute the extra $3.5 billion regardless of any federal deal. ”That $3.5 billion over the next six years will not jeopardise our AAA credit rating. It is sustainable, it is sensible, indeed it could be described as fiscally conservative,” he said.
Under the Gonski reforms, a base level of funding of $9271 would be allocated for every primary student and $12,193 for every secondary school student.
Extra loadings also come into play for students with disabilities, low socio-economic backgrounds, indigenous students and small schools. Levels of resourcing within the Gonski reforms are defined by the introduction of a school resource standard.
Dr Napthine said Victoria would not accept the school resource standard as the benchmark for determining allocations because it relied on inferior data to that used in Victoria’s own needs-based model.
Under Victoria’s funding proposal the Premier has pledged that independent and Catholic school sectors will also benefit.
Meanwhile Labor MP John Pandazopoulos told Neos Kosmos that Premier Napthine was “seeking the cheap way out on education reforms”.
“If its good enough for NSW, SA and the ACT, it should be good enough for Victoria,” said the member for Dandenong.
“They should stop playing politics on the issue. Gonski was put together by education professionals and we should accept their advice.”