The country looks set for another education funding fight, with Education minister Simon Birmingham accused of negotiating through the media when he attacked the Gonski funding model ahead of a meeting with state ministers in SA.
Birmingham, who is meeting with State and Territory education ministers in Adelaide on Friday to negotiate school funding beyond 2017, said on Thursday the 2011 Gonski model had been corrupted and fair distribution distorted, and vowed to replace Labor's "special deals" with a "new, simpler distribution model".
SA Education minister Susan Close described the remarks as "extremely discourteous"', and told ABC's AM program ministers left "trying to glean what the proposition is by listening to programs such as yours".
Close said that under the Gonski model, full parity between states is not expected until 2020.
Birmingham is expected to present the ministers with analysis that the current system is riddled with "gross inequalities" resulting from 27 deals he said were done in the dying days of the Gillard-Rudd government.
"We want to create a new, simpler distribution model where special deals don't distort a fair distribution of federal funds," he said.
- The needs-based funding started in 2014, after the independent Gonski Review warned too many children were missing out due to a lack of resources.
- Led by business leader David Gonski and a panel of experts, the Gonski Review found Australia was investing too little in public schools, with inefficient distribution of money.
- The review recommended changes school funding — all schools, whether public, private or independent would be funded on the basis of need.
- It has been supported by Coalition and Labor State Governments in NSW, Victoria, QLD, SA, the ACT and Tasmania.
Labor has pointed out that three states, Queensland, Western Australia and Northern Territory hadn't signed up to Gonski when it left office in 2013, with opposition leader Bill Shorten telling reporters in Melbourne "the Liberals are telling another lie to justify them stealing money form schools".
The Sydney Morning Herald reports the Federal government analysis shows large differences between how much funding identical low socio-economic public schools in different states, and also gives the example that Tasmania will receive 40 percent more federal funding in 2017 than Western Australia for comparable schools.
NSW Education minister Adrian Piccolli vowed "to fight to the death" if the proposed changes meant disadvantaged schools got more money.
"What he proposed was changing that distribution so the funds go to the schools that need it most, and that's what we've done," he said on Friday.
"To say that's going to be scrapped is a major problem."
Western Australia's Education Minister Peter Collier has applauded Senator Birmingham's comments.
"I'm delighted that at last we've got a [Federal] Education Minister who's talking about equity in the funding distribution," Collier said.
Australian Education Union Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that the Coalition's alternative funding plan would abandon needs-based funding and cost schools $3.9 billion in 2018 and 2019 alone by failing to fund Gonski in full.
"Who is supporting Minister Birmingham's funding model?" Ms Haythorpe said in a statement.
"There has been no consultation with States, no input from experts and no detail around Minister Birmingham's plan. Compare that with the Gonski agreements which were the result of widespread consultation and the most thorough review of schools funding arrangements in a generation."