About 70 people -- a great crowd given the ferocious weather -- came out to hear Steve Bracks, Maxine McKew and Dave Faulkner talk at Open Labor's event on school education and the federal election at the Celtic Club, Thursday night.
It was a very lively discussion. Former Premier Steve Bracks, who has just chaired a review of education funding in Victoria, said there has not been a more stark difference between Labor and the Coalition on education policy since 1972. Labor is promising to fully fund the Gonski reform package -- especially the critical years of 2018 and 2019, when the focus of funding is on disadvantaged schools. The Coalition has not only said it will not fund these last two years, it is talking of the Commonwealth getting out of funding state schools altogether. The difference between the parties funding promises over the period of the Gonski package amounts to $940 million in Victoria alone.
Yet the speakers agreed that money was not enough. An effective package needs to ensure that schools are accountable for their spending, and that schools that collaborate with others and invest in their teachers should be rewarded financially, while penalties might be imposed on those that do not. Dave Faulkner and Maxine McKew provided a strong on-the-ground account of what works in schools and classrooms -- and how government can support schools that are moving in the right direction.
Steve Bracks and Maxine McKew said that given Labor's policy strengths in this area, the party should be doing much more to push school education in the last week of the campaign, just as it has pushed the threat to Medicare from the Coalition. Come on Bill -- it's time to make the case for our schools. In a time of rising concern about inequality, it might just make a difference.
Thanks to everyone who came, listened and asked great questions. See you at more Open Labor forums in the second half of the year.
Just in case you missed out, you can listen to the audio from the event here.