The Productivity Commission draft report on the national education evidence base certainly caused a stir yesterday. NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, a strong Gonski education funding reform supporter, immediately attacked it, saying it was out of date and told us nothing we didn't already know. Commentator Jane Caro, a staunch advocate for shifting funding from private to public schools, also criticised it on social media. The Australian, which during the election campaign ran a perverse and absurd campaign claiming there were no economic benefits to education funding, seized on the report to gleefully claim "$10bn in school funding fails to lift student results". Education Minister Simon Birmingham, chuffed at the apparent support it provided for the Liberals' "no point in increasing education funding", gleefully backed it. Far-right Centre for Independent Studies researcher Jennifer Buckingham used it to attack what she calls "the education establishment".
Problem is, everyone was either seeing in the draft report what they wanted to see, or seeing what wasn't there at all, because the Productivity Commission wasn't making any judgement about the efficacy of education funding of any kind. How do we know that? Well, it's tricky, and the evidence is very subtle ... it's the bit in the report that says: