Schools crusade sparks State row
Schools crusade sparks State row

Another major row is brewing between Julia Gillard and Colin Barnett after the Prime Minister flagged WA would have to stump up $450 million a year to pay for her school education reforms.

Declaring the reforms her 2013 election "crusade", Ms Gillard put a $6.5 billion a year price tag on extra school funding and demanding the States contribute their "fair share".

The PM, who arrives in Perth today ahead of a community Cabinet meeting in Orelia tomorrow, refused to spell out exactly what contributions she expected from the premiers. But businessman David Gonski recommended a 70:30 split between the States and the Commonwealth.

Mr Barnett said WA had already increased education funding by an average of 8.5 per cent over the past four years.

He said WA was now spending an average $14,211 per primary student and $19,518 per high school student, almost double the Gonski benchmarks.

"It's disappointing that there is very little substance in the Prime Minister's response," the Premier said. "States provide 80 per cent of funding to government schools in this country, and in WA, that figure is about 90 per cent.

"If there's one thing that can't be run from Canberra, it's a school.

"A bureaucrat in Canberra will have no idea how best to spend money at One Arm Point or Kalumburu."

Ms Gillard said Canberra's increased share would be funded by a new assault on the rich and deep spending cuts on top of a current freeze on Federal grants. She indicated there would be more means-testing of welfare benefits, citing Labor's "tough" clampdown on private health insurance.

The PM said she wanted to strike a deal with the premiers before the first Council of Australian Governments Meeting early next year.

"I am prepared to make those choices but I want the Australian people to understand that today I am asking them to support, not just our goals for school improvement, but the tough budget choices that go with that," she told the National Press Club yesterday.

"Everyone in our schools and State and Territory governments must be prepared to play their part for change. There should be no blank cheques.

"State governments must put in their fair share.

"No sleight of hand, no fiddling of the books to substitute Federal funding for cuts by the States."

An extra $450 million would be an 11 per cent increase on the $4 billion WA currently spends annually on public schools.

Under the funding model, every student would get the same base funding no matter what school they attended and those from disadvantaged backgrounds would get extra cash to help them lift their results.

The plan would see teachers subjected to greater scrutiny and higher standards.

The original model put forward by Mr Gonski would have seen 3200 schools - a third in total - worse off but the Government opted for a more politically palatable approach that guaranteed more money for all schools.

To achieve this, the Government will treat children from the poorest 50 per cent of families as disadvantaged, entitling 1.7 million students to extra funding for their schools.

The changes will be phased in over six years from 2014.

Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne said the PM's response to Gonski was "all feathers and no meat" by failing to reveal how much money would be need to implement the changes or how funding would be indexed.

"There are children who haven't even been born yet that the PM is expecting us to believe they will benefit from a policy that has been announced today that won't have its full effect until 2020 and won't be tested until 2025," he said.

He would not say whether a future coalition government would overturn a new funding deal and claimed increased spending in recent years had not led to better student results.

The Independent Schools Council of Australia was generally supportive, but executive director Bill Daniels said the six-year transition period was not ideal.

The National Catholic Education Commission said it was "frustrated" at the lack of detail'

The West Australian

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