The spectacle of two MPs from the same party battling it out over the federal government’s new school funding model shows how fractured politics can be. More importantly, the public brawl is emblematic of the disconnect between politicians and the people they are meant to serve.
Here, we have two polar opposite narratives about what the government’s adoption of the so-called Gonski 2.0 funding model means for local schools.
Toeing the party line, federal Liberal Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis says it will mean more money for Shoalhaven’s neediest schools.
That’s absolutely not the case if you listen to her state colleague, Kiama MP and parliamentary secretary for education Gareth Ward. By his reckoning - and he’s backed by data from his own Education Department – some of most disadvantaged schools will miss out on significant funding guaranteed when the NSW government first signed up to the Gonski reforms.
Responding to Mr Ward’s outcry at the prospect of Nowra East Public School, among others, losing funds, Mrs Sudmalis repeats the party line that it’s time to end the school funding wars.
A news outlet that has always championed the less well-off schools in our area, we beg to differ.
We know schools such as Nowra East and Vincentia High face enormous challenges seeing their students get the best opportunities in education. And we back them 100 per cent in their argument for the funds to meet those challenges. We also think the federal government should honour the agreement it reached with NSW when the latter signed up to Gonksi in the first place.
Education is the single most important investment we can make in our community and we believe those who represent us in Canberra and Macquarie Street should vigorously pursue the best deal for our region. If it means stepping out of line with your own party, so be it. You answer to your community in the first instance.
When announcing Gonski 2.0, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he wanted to take the politics out of the school funding issue. Quite the reverse has happened when the alternative sets of numbers have been laid out.
At the end of the day, no amount of rhetoric will convince us that reducing funding to the neediest schools in our community is a good thing.