If Julia Gillard’s “national crusade” on education has a familiar ring to it, that is because as a political concept it is not exactly new.
US president Bill Clinton in 1997, in a State of the Union speech, used the very same “national crusade” to promise better education standards in the US by the turn of the last century.
Clinton, however, was also using a recycled theme.
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Who wants to earn a million dollars? Forget TV game shows or get rich quick schemes, studies reveal the true path to riches in this country lies in education.
Over her lifetime, a woman with a bachelor’s degree will earn about $800,000 more than a woman who does no study after year 12, according to a report by economist Andrew Norton, released last month by the Grattan Institute.
For men, this lifetime earnings gap between university grads and school leavers is even bigger at $1.1 million. But it’s not just uni degrees. The returns from investments in education are evident at a secondary level too. A person who completes year 12 will enjoy a 30 per cent higher annual pre-tax income than a person who left school after year 10, figures compiled by economist-turned-federal Labor MP, Andrew Leigh, for the Ken Henry tax review show.
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Amidst news of the tragic death of Australian servicemen, worries about the economy and concerns about firearms in Sydney, it has to be a great day when our national government calls a halt to bad news and focuses attention upon a positive goal: improving our children’s education.
The old Australian value of the “fair go” is at the root of many of the recommendations of the Gonski review. The basic idea is that every child should have the opportunity to develop according to their abilities and not their parents’ financial circumstances.
The Prime Minister’s response deserves praise for strongly supporting that value. She recalled some less successful students at her old high school, some no doubt from disadvantaged backgrounds being called “vegies”.
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Announcing a government program scheduled to happen at least three elections, seven Budgets and almost eight years away is not really a locked-in commitment. It’s an item on a wish list merely masquerading as a program of done and dusted certainty.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard today is expected to attempt the masquerade option with her government’s official response to the Gonski review of school funding systems.
Ms Gillard will give the National Press Club lunch address in which she will outline assistance for all categories of schools and special help for classes for the disadvantaged. But the scheme would not be in full-throated operation until 2020, and before then the Federal Government would have negotiate with the states for money which the premiers say they just don’t have.
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We are all now awaiting the Gillard Government’s response to the Gonski Review of School Funding that was commissioned by Gillard herself in 2010 when Education Minister and which was released some six months ago.
For the Gillard Government, responding to Gonski is important for its survival. It is another policy box to be ticked that shows the government is delivering on policy in contrast to the Opposition’s negative approach.
Also, spending more money on education aligns with Labor’s caring brand, even if some of this goes to the non-government sector. And how the Government responds will also affect its relations with Labor-aligned trade unions like the Australian Education Union (AEU) which represents public school teachers.
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Instead of fixing a struggling education system, Gillard and Swan have ignored Australian schools and decided to hand out cash to parents, proving that votes are more important than a school system that is out-dated and falling behind in relation to world standards.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan have announced that one million Australian families will receive a cash bonus for each school-aged child that they have.
This bonus is set to replace the existing education tax refund. Families will receive $820 for child that they have attending secondary school and $410 for each child in primary school. The government will also issue back payments for the past financial year in a one-off bonus.
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The Opposition’s fights with Government bills to wind back health insurance subsidies and family payments have been friendly skirmishes compared to the all-out war it would launch if private school funding is cut.
The Government will be tempted to do that to feed a much-promised Budget surplus in 2012-13.
A report on school funding, to be released today by David Gonski after 18 months in preparation, could give the Government the excuses and mechanisms for the task.
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