Labor commits to fully funding Gonski as part of election year education reform plan

Public education advocates have been pushing for the major parties to fully fund the Gonski reforms. Photo: Adam McLean

Public education advocates have been pushing for the major parties to fully fund the Gonski reforms. Photo: Adam McLean

Labor will pump $4.5 billion into the nation's schools by fully funding the Gonski funding agreements it struck when last in office, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will say today in his first election-year policy announcement.

With Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull soaring in the polls, Labor is attempting to shift the focus to education - one of the party's traditional strengths.

When the Coalition came to power in 2013 it announced it would only fund the first four years of Labor's six-year school funding deals. State governments have lobbied hard against the reduction given the biggest increases in spending, around two thirds, were contained in years five and six.

Mr Shorten will announce on Thursday that Labor will honour the full six years of funding deals with NSW, Victoria, the ACT, South Australia and Tasmania - giving the states funding certainty until 2020.

The policy is expected to cost an extra $4.5 billion over school years 2018 and 2019, with the total package expected to cost $37.3 billion over the decade.

Agreements with the other states which did not sign on to Gonski would be negotiated if Labor wins government, a spokesman said.

Labor will also reverse $30 billion in planned reductions in school funding over a decade by not linking indexation to inflation.

Labor leader Bill Shorten with his late mother, Ann Shorten. Photo: Simon Schluter

Labor leader Bill Shorten with his late mother, Ann Shorten. Photo: Simon Schluter

Labor will also provide $320 million in additional funding for students with disability for three years from 2017 while working with the states to fully implement a new disability loading.

The spending will be paid for through previously-announced increases in tobacco excise, tightening superannuation concessions, a crackdown on multinational tax avoidance, ditching the direct action climate policy and scrapping a new $1000 baby bonus for couples with a stay-at-home parent.

By 2020, Labor wants to have 95 per cent of students completing Year 12 and by 2025, the party wants to return Australia to the top five countries in reading, maths and science.

"Australian schooling is going backwards internationally and this presents an immense threat to Australia's future economic and social prosperity," Mr Shorten said.

"Talk about innovation without a commitment to quality education is just talk.

"As most mothers do, my mum drummed in the importance of education into me from a very young age.

"Every Australian child should have the same chance of succeeding at school as any other child in the country – no matter what their background, no matter where they live, and no matter what type of school they go to."

Former education minister Christopher Pyne said Labor had left the school funding system in a "shambles" when it came to office and the government had delivered a national model by providing $1.2 billion to Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

His successor, Simon Birmingham, told Fairfax Media recently the government will seek to negotiate new funding agreements with the states from 2018.

"I don't see much benefit for anyone if we dedicate two more years of funding just to create more uncertainty down the track," Senator Birmingham said.

"The previous [Labor] government's approach showed great largesse in tipping additional funding into the system, but they created a complicated model that lacks fairness and transparency.

"I want a school funding system that is genuinely needs-based and is targeting the money where it's most required."

- SMH.com.au

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