WA schools will receive an extra $120 million in Federal funding after Tony Abbott caved in to pressure from east coast premiers.
But unlike States that signed up to Julia Gillard's Gonski school reforms, WA will not have to put more money into public schools to get the extra funding from the Commonwealth.
Just days after describing Labor's schools funding model as a shambles, the Prime Minister yesterday joined Education Minister Christopher Pyne in a remarkable about-face.
Mr Abbott said not only would his Government find $1.2 billion to match Labor's original funding offer but that the coalition would apply Labor's funding model for the next four years.
After claiming during the election campaign it was on a "unity ticket" with the ALP on schools funding, Mr Pyne last week abandoned the commitment and promised to come up with his own funding for 2015 and beyond.
The uncertainty over schools funding and the coalition's on-again, off-again support for a needs-based resourcing infuriated States that had signed up to the Gonski reforms, prompting widespread accusations that Mr Abbott had broken a major election promise.
But the Prime Minister yesterday indicated the cost of keeping his pledge on schools funding may lead to other education programs being axed or trimmed.
"We have identified what we think are perfectly suitable savings that won't involve particular difficulties for parents, teachers, students and we'll be announcing those in the (mid-year economic) statement in a week or so's time," Mr Abbott said.
WA Education Minister Peter Collier said the Barnett Government had agreed to the new funding model in principle, but the amount was still to be finalised, although Mr Pyne said WA would get $120 million, Queensland $794 million and the Northern Territory $272 million.
Mr Collier said Labor's original schools funding offer was "insulting" when compared with what other States would get, so he was glad the coalition's model reflected Julia Gillard's second offer in June, which he described as "quite attractive".
"There are no strings attached, there is no 'like' funding or conditional funding based on that model," Mr Collier said.
He said the Barnett Government had been proved right for standing firm. "In WA, we stood our ground, we didn't go weak at the knees," he said. "We stood for what was right in terms of education throughout the nation."
WA had previously been penalised for having the nation's best-resourced schools. States that contributed less to their schools were offered more funding by the Federal Government.
"We had our detractors, our critics, when we decided not to sign up to Gonski, but our reasons were quite profoundly legitimate," Mr Collier said.