Libs retreat on Abbott's school call

THE Coalition has backed away from suggestions that private schools are hard done by, with opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne denying the current level of funding for independent schools was an injustice.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott created a furore when he contradicted the findings of the Gonski review and said there was ''no question'' of injustice to public schools when it came to the level of government funding - ''if anything the injustice is the other way''.

The Coalition yesterday went into damage control, issuing a statement pledging ''across-the-board increases for schools'' and guaranteeing that no school would be worse off.

''Of course not,'' Mr Pyne said, when asked if the current level of funding for independent schools was an injustice. ''The current level of funding for independent schools and government schools is appropriate.''

He said Mr Abbott had simply been referring to the ''myth'' created by the unions, the left and the Labor Party that ''somehow public schools are short-changed by governments when clearly they are not''.

The Gonski review recommended the bulk of any funding increase flow to state schools, because they educate a disproportionate number of disadvantaged students.

The Coalition has pledged to maintain the existing funding model and 6 per cent annual indexation, which equates to an extra $4.2 billion between 2014 and 2017.

The federal government is expected to commit an extra $3 billion a year over the same period.

Australian Education Union president Angelo Gavrielatos said for the Coalition's commitment that no school would be worse off to mean anything, the Coalition would have to be prepared to significantly increase recurrent funding for public schools.

''It is clear Tony Abbott is in damage control after yesterday railing against the injustice of what he believes is the overfunding of public schools,'' he said.

The Gonski report - the most comprehensive review of school funding in about 40 years - described the current funding model as ''unnecessarily complex'' and lacking in coherence and transparency.

But Mr Pyne said the Gonski report was itself overly complex, and claimed it had been written to please the government. ''The current model is the simplest model that's been devised in spending by the Commonwealth by schools since the Second World War,'' he said.

Independent Schools Victoria chief executive Michelle Green said she supported the retention of the existing funding model for another four years to give schools certainty.

However, she said it did not cater adequately for students with a disability, indigenous students and those from non-English-speaking backgrounds, and she believed additional funding for these students should be built into the funding model over time.

Executive director of Catholic Education Stephen Elder said he welcomed the Coalition's commitment to increase funding to all schools.

The story Libs retreat on Abbott's school call first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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