The experts agree: the ambition and scope of vision in the Gonski review, the first real attempt at a major overhaul of school funding in 40 years, is pretty breathtaking. Whether the government implements any of it is another matter, but this review has a clear and concise premise: look at the best-performing schools and use them as the basis for a per-student funding model applied across all sectors, load funding to reflect the needs of different schools (particularly around disabilities), then determine what’s fair for schools already receiving private contributions whether large or small, and the Commonwealth pays 30%.

As Bernard Keane writes today: “If, by some remote possibility, the Gonski funding formula or something like it ever gets up, the Gillard government would, in its brief life, have been responsible for two key reforms to the core of Commonwealth-state relations, on health and education funding.”

The health funding model didn’t go far enough, but it was a significant step toward a more coherent, logical and efficient funding mechanism across jurisdictional lines.

Tomorrow, our health writer and head of Croakey Melissa Sweet will detail the parallels between Gonski’s findings regarding education and our current health system. Issues with quality, equity and lack of transparency are all echoed within the health system and yet, as Sweet puts it, the policy silos continue.

So too with education. Cost aside, the Gonski report faces major hurdles — and a rather large wall — getting the federal and state governments to agree to the new funding model.

The policy debate around both education and health should not be about rich versus poor. It should focus on the fact the most important elements of our public polity — health and education — are caught between two levels of government in a way that seems purpose-designed to create inefficiency. That’s the real problem — not the public-private divide.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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