As Labor stepped up its attack on the government, federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said there had been a lot of “exaggeration” about the impact of the plan announced on Tuesday with the support of education reformer David Gonski.
Federal funding will grow from $17.5 billion in 2017 to $22.1 billion by 2021, and $30.6 billion by 2027 under the plan, which will require the support of parliament.
Twenty-seven different school funding agreements entered into by the former Labor government would be replaced with a single, national needs-based funding model that will deliver across government and non-government schools.
Gonski, who led the landmark Labor-initiated 2011 review, has agreed to head a new review into improving the quality of schools.
Visiting a Sydney school on Wednesday with the prime minister, Birmingham said the government would release a funding calculator in coming days.
“That will enable anybody, a parent, a school leader or others to go online and take a look at what our funding model means for each and every school,” Birmingham said.
The 24 wealthy schools set to see a funding cut would only received a modest reduction of $1 or $2 per student in some cases, while another 300 would experience lower rates of funding growth.
Responding to concerns some Catholic schools may close, he said the Catholic sector would receive $1.2 billion in growth funding over the next four years or 3.7 per cent for each student.
“There is no reason why Catholic parish schools should face any penalty under a model where funding is growing by 3.7 per cent,” Birmingham said.
Also visiting a Sydney school on Wednesday, Labor leader Bill Shorten said the “snake oil” package represented a $22 billion cut over 10 years compared with what his party had proposed.
“You can’t trust the Liberals and, indeed, the Catholic education sector has been in touch with us and they are very concerned that the Catholic education system is being specifically targeted by Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to school funding,” Shorten said.
Turnbull refused to say what would happen to the plan if it was blocked in the Senate.
“We are confident that the merits of this proposal will be appealing to a majority of senators,” he said.
“This is delivering on that great vision of David Gonski’s.”
To stop cost shifting, states will need to maintain real per student funding levels or face receiving less commonwealth funding.
In 10 years, the Federal Government will provide 20 per cent of the minimum recommended “school resourcing standard” for government schools – up from 17 per cent – and 80 per cent for non-government schools.
NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes welcomed the extra funding, but warned Canberra it was moving away from existing agreements with the states.
NSW was considering “all the options available to us”, suggesting the possibility of court action.
The Greens are not ruling out backing the new package.
“People are sick of the argy-bargy between the states and the federal government, they’re sick of the hyper-partisan fights between the government and the opposition, we’ve got to get the politics out of this,” the party’s education spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said.
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