It took a while. Too long I think, and let’s face it, they leaked it! For Abbott and Pyne to disown their means-tested public education system pipe-dream……But it has left open the door for the states and territories to impose fees, depending on a review of how the Australian federation can work better.
"The Australian Government does not and will not support a means test for public education, full stop, end of story," Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the parliament…..eventually and I dare say reluctantly.
However, if the states and territories want to charge fees for public schools, that is a matter for them, he said. (there’s always a catch with this ‘tricky’ politician.)
A discussion paper sent to states and territories as part of the federation white paper process has suggested four options for simplifying responsibility for school funding. One is for the Commonwealth to take over funding for all schools. Federal funding would go to schools based on student need and the ability of families to make a contribution. In effect, schools with richer students will get less money.
It will then be left to the states and territories to top up funding so wealthy students can still attend public school for free, the paper prepared by the Prime Minister's department states. It notes that many public schools already ask for voluntary contributions from parents.(Refer to previous posts about the amount of money schools in Victoria need through fundraising and voluntary fees to just keep going)
Education Minister Christopher Pyne says the Commonwealth has no intention of being responsible for charging public school fees. "We have no plans, no policy and no support for hiking fees for public school children, whether their parents are wealthy or not,"NO…he’ll just make it so hard for them they might have too! (Surely Abbott speak and Pyne speak can be deciphered by people now?)
However, earlier on Monday Abbott said it is good that some states and territories are thinking creatively about how they can fund their operations. "We don't have any role at all," he told reporters. The Commonwealth will give states and territories $15.7 billion for schools in 2015-16, more than a third of which is for public schools.
Labor says the discussion paper reveals a secret plan for a schools tax. "This is an appalling piece of public policy which Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne need to walk away from immediately," Education Spokesman Mark Butler told reporters at Parliament House. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says his state will not cop any means testing and he will tell the prime minister as much at a leaders retreat in July. ACT Education Minister Joy Burch also vowed to fight any moves to charge for public education.
Another option canvassed in the discussion paper is for the Commonwealth to withdraw from school funding altogether, leaving the states with a $15 billion annual shortfall. It also suggests the states can become wholly responsible for public school funding while the Commonwealth only gives money to private institutions.(oh they’d love that!)
That would leave the states $2 billion short each year. The final option suggests tweaking the status quo with both levels of government continuing to fund both school sectors, but the Commonwealth interfering less by ending programs such as school chaplains or support for children with autism.
The full discussion paper is expected to be released later in 2015.(after an early election?)