A co-author of the Gonski report has labelled the new Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne “a minister on L-plates” amid confusion over school funding.
Mr Pyne has not yet announced a new funding model for schools after scrapping the Gonski plan that was introduced under the previous Labor government.
Several education ministers have being fighting to maintain the funding agreed to under Gonski, but Mr Pyne insists it is time to go back to the drawing board.
In the meantime, it remains unclear where schools funding will come from after 2014.
The former head of the New South Wales Education Department and co-author of the Gonski report, Dr Ken Boston, says the situation could bring public education to its knees.
“Gonski was a done deal. This had been signed up. Mr Abbott had talked of a unity ticket,” he said.
“Now we’ve not only backed away, apparently, from the unity ticket, we’ve potentially backed away from Commonwealth support for public education.
“It’s extraordinary. It’s almost unbelievable that a Commonwealth minister would be silly enough to take such a position.”
Dr Boston says public schools would struggle to survive if the current funding formula continued.
“Assuming there’s no increase in enrolments by 2016/2017, the government sector would’ve received an additional six per cent, a little over $300m in funding,” he said.
“The non-government sector would receive an increase in funding of about $2.4 billion, which is a little over 30 per cent of their current funding.
“Mr Pyne could say it’s up to the states to pick up public school funding, but no state government is in a position to find an additional 30 per cent for public schools.
“He will bring public education to its knees.”
‘Shorten left a complete shambles’
Mr Pyne denies that public schools will bear the brunt of any future funding cuts and maintains he has not broken an election promise.
“Next year every state gets what they would have got, whether they signed the agreement with Labor or not, before the election,” he said.
“So we’ve gone further than Labor would have.”
He says speculation about future school funding is unhelpful but he has refused to reveal any information until next year.
“Labor’s promise was to remove $1.2 billion of the $2.8 funding that was planned over the forward estimates,” said Mr Pyne.
“[Opposition Leader and former Federal Education Minister] Bill Shorten left me a complete shambles. Victoria and Tasmania hadn’t really signed up, the Catholics hadn’t signed up, the model itself is quite incomprehensible.
“My job is to fix that and I intend to do it.
“More importantly we need to focus on teacher quality, robust curriculum, principal autonomy and parental engagement because funding is only one element of school outcomes.”
NSW urged to divert private school funding
The New South Wales Greens are urging the State Government to re-direct private school funding into public schools, in response to the Commonwealth’s education policy about-face.
NSW Greens MP John Kaye says the state’s Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, should protect public schools by pulling state funding from independent schools.
“We can not afford to let public education to be impoverished by Christopher Pyne’s refusal to live up to his deal,” he said.
“The O’Farrell Government has no choice but to protect public schools from Christopher Pyne’s behaviour.”
‘Not much point behaving like children’
Meanwhile, the Queensland Government says there’s no point complaining about the plan to scrap the Gonski education funding model.
Queensland Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek says the political landscape has changed and the other states aren’t being realistic.
“What the other states should understand is that they can’t deal with a situation that is now different before the election,” he said.
“The world has changed, and there is not much point behaving like children and complaining about something and that this new federal coalition government should just find money as if it were found in a suitcase on the bus stop and that is the way you are going to give equity to the other states.”