AN OVERHAUL of education funding is coming with the Gonski review having accepted that the case has been made for ''fundamental change in the way we fund schooling at all levels of government''.
But while the panel headed by the Sydney businessman David Gonski is ''well on its way'' to developing new funding arrangements - which appear likely to include a benchmark funding entitlement for every student and entrenched, targeted measures to tackle educational disadvantage and disability - clear answers are still months away.
Four big independent reports, commissioned by the panel, were released yesterday but neither Mr Gonski nor the federal Education Minister, Peter Garrett, offered a word of endorsement for their findings. Rather, they invited more contributions from the public - to sit beside the 7000 already received - and the 616 pages of documents released yesterday.
More submissions will be accepted this month and the panel will give its final advice to the government by the end of the year.
The sternest criticism of the present funding arrangements was made in a report by the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, which questioned the extent to which public funds should continue to subsidise already well-resourced schools that are able to choose which students they enrol.
Those schools - public selectives and independents - should be pressed to take more under-performing students. At present that role is left to government comprehensive schools.
The report endorses long-term commitments to invest in under-performing schools, improve the quality of teachers and teaching, ensure the right external standards are in place, promote regional co-operation among schools, direct support for disadvantaged students and develop strong in-school leadership.
Mark Diamond, the principal of Lansvale Public School, which has many disadvantaged students, complained that independent high schools cherry-picked the best students from the public sector then trumpeted the results of those students as part of the school's success.
''They advertise their year 12 results as being their own, yet they've picked kids up from year 9 on scholarship from the local public school. They've had nine years in the public system and been really well taught and … they become the banner statement for that Christian or independent school.''
As a school of 680 with 94 per cent from non-English speaking backgrounds, Lansvale falls into the lowest socio-economic stratum, which qualifies it for government funding under the national partnerships program.
Mr Diamond said the school was better resourced than some others in the region that were just above the cutoff.
''They're the really disadvantaged schools at the moment.''
Year 6 students Lainny Keathesun, Austin Ung and Boaz Djumapili are studying government and believe funding should be equitable among the sectors.
Boaz, a refugee from Congo, said a start would be fixing the school's leaking demountable buildings. Lainny said government schools needed more funds. Private schools had better facilities ''while public schools are stuck with old buildings that have major problems. They have stuff like swimming pools and a laptop each, while public schools have to share or don't have the technology necessary for learning.''