School chaplaincy program returns to the High Court. This is good and unsurprising

This week we learnt that Ron Williams, the parent from Queensland who objected to federal government funding for school chaplaincy programs at his kids' school and other public schools, is returning to the High Court. He is challenging the Financial Framework Legislative Amendment that the federal government brazenly rushed through (in just a hours with support of all political parties) in response to the High Court's judgment on this matter last year. In a victory for federalism, the High Court had vehemently rebuked the federal government for exceeding its executive powers under the Constitution and for its unwarranted intrusion into state domains. This verdict put into question not only the chaplaincy program, but hundreds of other federal spending programs as well and was a major driver of the recently dumped "local government" referendum to extend Commonwealth spending powers.

As I argued last year in a paper (pp. 4-5) to the Australian Political Studies Association Conference, it was only a matter of time before this legislation was taken to the High Court, and if the Pape verdict and previous Williams verdict are anything to go by, it will most likely be struck down as unconstitutional. If this occurs, the federal government will be chastised and forced to reformulate the Chaplaincy program, among others, as tied grants with the states.

School autonomy - sorting myth from fact

More autonomy for schools is an education policy being championed by both Labor and the Coalition in the lead-up to the federal election. But does it result in a better education system?

In an extended election piece for The Age, education editor Jewel Topsfield takes a look at increased school autonomy. In doing so, she draws on an analytical piece I wrote on independent public schools published on Election Watch, in which I reassured folks on twitter that the Coalition is not planning to privatise public schools but rather grant them extra autonomy. I also explain that increased school autonomy, while controversial, has been on reform agenda since the Whitlam government days and all states have introduced elements of it to varying degrees. Topsfield's piece also refers to the Grattan Institute's recent and excellent report The myth of markets in school education. Interestingly, a fact she cites from this report - that the Kennett government devolved 93 per cent of Victoria's school education budget to individual public schools (on page 25 if you're interested) contains a footnote linking to my earlier research on these 'Schools of the Future' reforms and their ongoing relevance! (NB Once you click this link on Election Watch you'll need to scroll down a page or so to read my material education policies.)

Policy made on the fly is likely to flop

Click here to read my latest article, published by The Conversation. It's on best practice policy making and discusses some recent duds. Here's a peek:

"The exacting set of processes suggested by the policy cycle does not guarantee perfect governing, but as Bridgman and Davis state, it does reduce the chance of “howling errors”, such as a revenue raising tax that fails to raise revenue and destabilises a government already under attack."

Latest academic papers: flexiblity, stability and innovation in Australian federalism

It's academic conference season and I have two offerings, both co-authored with Professor Brian Galligan. 'Australia’s federal system: Flexibility, change and schooling' was presented in a panel titled ‘Beyond stability: flexibility and innovation in federal systems’ at the International Political Science Association World Congress in Madrid. The second, on which I'm the lead author, will be presented in Hobart at the Australian Political Studies Association's annual conference and is called 'Schooling federalism. Gonski, Williams and reform prospects'. My speaking notes are here. Refereed paper available upon request.

Intergovernmental relation on television

The Council of Australian Governments met on July 25th to discuss the establishment of a National Disability Insurance Scheme and education reform. I had pleasure of chatting to news program hosts about likelihood of intergovernmental reform on these contentious and costly proposals on both ABC  News24 and SkyNews. You can watch a clip from my ABC television interview here.

UPDATE: On September 2nd I spoke on ABC News24 about the Gillard Government's response to the Gonski Review. In short, the prime minister is caught between a rock and a hard place.

Malcolm Fraser launches my book!

The evening was a roaring success, with over 300 guests and wonderful speeches by  former PM Malcolm Fraser, Lindsay Tanner (Federal Minister for Finance and Deregulation), James Merlino (Victorian Minister for Multicultural Affairs), Nick Kotsiras (Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs), George Lekakis (Chairperson of the Victorian Multicultural Commission), Sam Afra (ECCV Chairperson) and, of course, myself.

My book, Many Hopes One Dream, uncovers the untold story of Australian multiculturalism – how it was shaped from the ground up by grassroots associations of migrants and refugees.

Based entirely on original research, including interviews with key players and unexplored government, organisational and media archives, Many Hopes One Dream is the first comprehensive study of the united ethnic movement, concentrating on the history and influence of the Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria – the oldest federation of migrant, ethnic, refugee and multicultural associations in Australia.

It is a story of the birth, development and evolution of the united ethnic movement. The story of its trials and triumphs, and how, despite formidable obstacles, it was able to shape the reality and institutions of multicultural Australia. It is published by Australian Scholarly Publishing.

Buy your copy of the book here.  For a foretaste, read my guest column in MUSSE: Melbourne University Staff/Student E-news.

Want more?  Here’s Lindsay’s speech, James’s speech, my speech from the launch.

Is the Education Revolution finally here?

Here’s a piece of mine on the University of Melbourne’s 2010 Federal election blog, which gathers commentary and analysis from academics and postgraduate students.

This week Prime Minister Gillard announced a suite of radical policies that will do far more to improve student learning than any school hall or national curriculum ever could.  Performance bonuses for teachers and schools; Teach Next, which moves passionate professionals into teaching careers; and an Australian Baccalaureate to complement state high school certificates. Combined with earlier initiatives such as the MySchool website which compares school performance and profiles across the country; and last week’s promise to hand more power back to principals and parents, we have a real revolution.  Not just of schooling policy, but Labor policy….

Read the rest of this piece here, or my commentary in earlier education policies here.

Unleashed opinion on Labor’s school empowerment policy

My contribution to the election policy debate was published on the ABC’s Drum Unleashed website.

I show that the Prime Minister’s proposal is a good one, giving schools around the country a taste of Victorian schools have had for almost a decade – the power to govern themselves.  I argue that the ability to innovate and transfer successful policies such as this is a virtue of federalism that we should enhance.

New perspectives on Australian federalism and school funding

With major reforms and reviews of Australia’s intergovernmental relations and school funding currently underway, the need to understand these complex areas and re-examine common assumptions has never been greater.

I’ll be presenting my recent findings on these contested and interrelated subjects at the upcoming Australian Political Science Association’s Annual Conference: “Connected Globe: Conflicting Worlds”.  My first paper “The evolution of school funding settlements in Australian and the United States: Intergovernmental perspectives” is the first academic paper comparing the two countries’ school finance from this perspective, and is based upon fieldwork and interviews undertaken during my Visiting Scholar position at Columbia University in New York.  My second paper, “Australian federalism and school funding: Exploring the nexus in Victoria’s devolution reforms”, presents a critique of common perceptions and normative models of federalism and policy reform.  Both papers are based on extensive original research and offer insights for policymakers and academics alike.

The APSA conference is being held 27-29 September at the University of Melbourne.  Click here for more information.   Don’t forget that you can access my earlier work by clicking on the ‘Publications, presentations and media’ link found in the bottom-right corner of this screen

A (funding) revolution has started?

Fancy an opinion article on school funding that moves beyond the old debates?

Then click here to read this piece of mine published by the ABC’s ‘Drum Unleashed’.

UPDATE: It’s midnight and I’ve just finished an interview with ABC Radio (Newcastle) for their Drive program. It will be aired in a few hours, which is 9 June in the afternoon for east coast Australians. Gotta love those time differences!

Live, national radio interview on my book this week!

I’ve been invited on SBS’s French radio program on Friday 11 September to discuss my new book: Many Hopes, One Dream: the Story of the Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria. Tune in at 11am to listen live or download the podcast here.

Don’t forget that ticket sales to book launch will close 11 September.  Don’t miss out! $38 gets you a seat at the formal, celebratory dinner with an impressive line up of speakers, including James Merlino, Victorian Minister for Multicultural Affairs and George Lekakis, Victoria’s Multicultural Commissioner. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser will also be appearing. Call the ECCV on (03) 9349 4122 or email eccv@eccv.org.au More info here.