CPD in Inside Story: fixing education and financing government in uncertain times

In recent weeks, Inside Story has featured long-form analysis from CPD on two policy issues that are crucial to the election campaign and for the long-term: the future of Australia’s education system, and the outlook for revenue and tax.

On 1 June, CPD fellow Chris Bonnor – co-author of our latest report Uneven playing field: the state of Australia’s schools – argued that without a recommitment to the priorities and principles that underpinned the Gonski Review, the gap between disadvantaged and advantaged schools and students will continue to grow.

“Australia is sleepwalking into a schools disaster. Steepening equity gradients will show even more clearly that differences in wealth, income, power and possessions, to use Gonski’s wording, will continue to pile up challenges for schools. Those who can will go on abandoning lower-SEA schools, further compounding the disadvantage. While changes won’t be dramatic, we can foresee a further widening of the achievement gap.

Increasingly, schools will not resemble their communities; they’ll instead cement a hierarchy that mocks the Australian egalitarian myth. We’ll continue to see disproportionate funding going to where it isn’t needed – rather than to students for whom it can make a difference. State and federal funding will continue to weave its inexplicable path…

A range of possible solutions exists. School choice should be shifted from one that provides a socio-educational advantage to some, at the expense of others, to choice that provides opportunities for all young people, many of whom are abandoning cookie-cutter mainstream schools to find that the others are much the same. The funding of needs has to be increased and far better coordinated to reflect the priorities arising out of the Gonski review. If the money can’t be found, then redistribution of existing public funding of schools will be back on the agenda.”

In April, CPD Policy Director Sam Hurley wrote that if the next government is serious about addressing challenges in education and a range of other key policy issues, we must move beyond a mindset that sees limiting the role and resources of government as a priority in and of itself.

“If Malcolm Turnbull meant what he said last September about respecting the intelligence of the Australian people, now would be a good time to level with them. And a good place to start would be the fact that tax receipts are going up. That’s a good thing, and it would be even better if the next government seized one of the many options to make that happen more efficiently and equitably.

Next, he could try something bolder, and revisit the bipartisan commitment to keeping Australia’s tax-to-GDP ratio at the lower end of OECD tables. Yes, we face tough trade-offs and choices. No, they are not as simple as choosing either higher tax or better spending, either “jobs and growth” or a decent safety net, or either a global economy or a thriving, fair society.

The public investments most threatened by a focus on shrinking government – hospitals, education, disability services and public sector capability – are precisely those requiring more revenue so that Australia can deliver growth and fairness at the same time. A bit more tax would be a small price to pay if higher revenue and better government sustain Australia’s social compact and ensure that the grand globalisation bargain sticks for the long term.”

For a full list of CPD’s most recent articles, opinion pieces and press releases, click here.

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