3 January 2014

With a few weeks still to go until school returns for term one, it's not too late for the Abbott Government to perform another policy backflip and commit to properly funding and reforming our education system, Shadow Education Minister Kate Ellis said today.

If the government honours their election commitment - to be on an "absolute unity ticket" (1) with Labor on school funding - 2014 will mark the beginning of a new school funding model to improve student outcomes and address inequality.

In light of the independent Gonski report - the most comprehensive review of our school system in 40 years - Labor put in place school reforms and a new funding model to improve educational standards, and make sure that no child misses out on an individualised, quality education.

"We should be starting 2014 confident that our school results will improve, and that every child will get a great education - no matter where they live, or where they go to school," Ms Ellis said.

"That's what the Prime Minister promised students, parents and teachers last year, before he broke that promise. It's not too late to admit he was wrong and properly fund our schools."

Before the election, Tony Abbott said there was "no difference" (2) between Liberal and Labor on school funding. The Coalition also told Australians they supported the new needs-based Gonski funding model put in place by Labor, and promised parents and teachers that "you'll get exactly the same amount of funding for your school" (3).

However, the Government has walked away from these commitments.

"Tony Abbott has been forced into embarrassing backflips, blamed the Australian people for not keeping his election commitments, and let states off the hook by promising new 'no strings' funding deals," Ms Ellis said.

"This means a fraction of the money and none of the reform. It means our kids won't get the very best education they deserve, and our nation will fall further behind."

Tony Abbott will only commit to $2.8 billion over four years, compared to $14.45 billion over six years under Labor. He has also refused to repeat the Coalition's promise that no school will be worse off.

"'No strings deals for states and territories - even those who signed up to the Gonski school funding model - mean they can make even more cuts to their education budgets, and there is no guarantee additional funding will actually reach schools at all.

"The difference between Labor's Gonski reforms and the Government's proposals could not be more stark.

"The bottom line is that Labor's reforms would have made sure all schools were better off. Money was guaranteed to reach those schools that need it most, and every child would get more individual attention.

"The Government is not keeping their election commitments, and no matter how they try and spin it, they are intent on dumping the recommendations of the expert Gonski panel.

"We are starting 2014 with secrecy and confusion surrounding school funding. Just four weeks out from the new school year, Tony Abbott's promised new funding agreements with the states still haven't been released."

(1) Tony Abbott, Press Conference, 4 August 2013
(2) Tony Abbott, Doorstop, 2 August 2013
(3) Christopher Pyne, Press Conference, 29 August, 2013