Thursday, August 1, 2013

Tony Abbott backflips on school funding as Coalition says it will match Labor - The Australian

TONY Abbott has vowed to match federal Labor's Gonski school funding boost in an attempt to neutralise education as an election issue.

The Opposition Leader today walked away from his longstanding objection to Labor's Better Schools Plan,  guaranteeing payments to all states for the next four years, even for jurisdictions that have so far refused to sign on to the deal.

But, in an important divergence from Labor's plan, the Coalition will dismantle the powers of the federal minister to interfere in the management of individual schools.

Mr Abbott said he and Kevin Rudd were now on a "unity ticket" on the issue of school funding.

"The essential difference between Labor and the Coalition is not over funding," he said.

"It is over the amount of control that the commonwealth government should have. Under the Coalition, you'll get the funding but you won't get the strings attached."

The announcement does not require the states to contribute the additional funds they were required to under the Gonski plan, but Mr Abbott said the Coalition would work with the states to come up with an appropriate joint-funding deal.

"This will provide schools and parents with the funding certainty they deserve. It means that the Coalition will match Labor dollar-for-dollar over the next four years," Mr Abbott said.

"We will work cooperatively and constructively with all states and territories to negotiate a fair and sustainable national funding model.

"This will not be Labor's Canberra takeover of state schools, but a fair national funding model that delivers better outcomes for students."

Labor is yet to secure the agreement of Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory for its Gonski plan.

Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne said the announcement would allow schools and parents to plan for the coming school year knowing their funding would be the same regardless of who won the election.

However, he said the Coalition believed, unlike Labor, that it should not run the nation's schools from Canberra.

"The states and territories, the non-government schools, can do what they do best, which is to teach students, run their schools, manage their own budgets and funds," he said.
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