Numbers don’t add up on Gonski grandstanding

SO, who really does give a Gonksi?

Well, just like the longest campaign in electoral history, I think the whole debate about education funding is starting to wear on a few people and maybe NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell thought he would do us all a favour by crossing to the “dark side” and taking a few more billion off the taxpayers of Australia to help fix the education system.

There’s a few things about this campaign that just don’t stack up.

First and foremost, I am sick and tired of the Prime Minister and the Pop Star (Minister for Education Peter Garrett) turning up with their posse of kids dressed in green declaring they give a Gonksi.

Please, pollies – stick to kissing babies on polling day and don’t use children as political pawns – it’s both inappropriate and reeks of desperation.

Secondly, we are still all waiting to find out how these billions are going to improve education.

Not unlike the Building the Education Revolution (BER) and the National Broadband Network (NBN), the federal government has signed the cheque before declaring how the money is going to be spent.

While we can see school halls and libraries, and a limited amount of cabling rolling out across the nation’s marginal or independent-held electorates, how is the additional education money going to be spent?

Here’s the reality – every year for the past decade we have spent more on education but standards continue to slip. Shouldn’t that tell us something?

Under the cut-down Gonski plan adopted by the ALP, we’re going to throw a lot more money but, it seems, the only measure will be through the myschools website i.e. Naplan testing.

Surely a program of reforms spelling out exactly how and where the money needs to be spent would give a little more confidence to the public tired of watching good money (their money) being thrown after bad.

And lastly, but by no means least, how is it that the NSW government can miraculously find the $1.7 billion necessary to claim the $5 billion of additional taxpayer funds?

If you were a betting person, it seems like good odds – a 

$5 billion return for a $1.7 billion outlay – but this has come from a premier who not so long ago signed off on cuts of a similar amount claiming education had to shoulder its share of the budget pain. Hard to fathom, really.

And while the federal government was criticised for finding some of its Gonksi money by cutting university funds, the O’Farrell government has decided to return to the TAFE funding well to retrieve some more cash to stump up its share of the reform cash.

So while primary and secondary education benefits, TAFE and uni students suffer.

More money may well be needed, but before we commit to billions of taxpayer funds for eternity, let’s have a plan and a way to effectively measure if we are truly making inroads into our inconsistent educational outcomes.

It would otherwise be a hefty price to pay for what might otherwise amount to little more than a brief moment of political grandstanding.

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