Opposition Leader Tony Abbott
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott Chris Ison

Education key for Coalition as they support funding plan

THE Coalition gave the strongest indication yet of how important the issue of education would be to the election platform with the announcement yesterday that they would, in fact, now support the Federal Government's school funding plan.

In a giant turnaround, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said that if the Coalition won government he would match Labor's funding of the Gonski reforms dollar-for-dollar over the next four years adding that it would help schools plan for the future.

"As far as school funding is concerned, Kevin Rudd and I are on a unity ticket," Mr Abbott said.

"There is no difference between Kevin Rudd and myself when it comes to school funding."

But reaction to the Coalition's pledge has been mixed with calls for Mr Abbott to commit to the funding arrangements over the full six years which is the period it will take for any improvements to be seen.

"If Mr Abbott is serious about his 'unity ticket' with Kevin Rudd on Gonski, then the Coalition must commit a further $7 billion in Commonwealth funds to take the Gonski funding agreements out to 2019," said Angelo Gavrielatos, president of the Australian Education Union.

"It's clear that it's an election fix when they're thinking about the election much more than the kids."

The Coalition had opposed the reforms when they were first released saying they would repeal them if elected. Their stance seemed to soften on the back of public opinion last week with Christopher Pyne, the Opposition's education spokesman, announcing they would fund the reforms for a year and then renegotiate with the states.

But yesterday Mr Abbott was adamant education was a priority for Coalition adding that they would commit funding to all states and territories irrespective of whether they had signed on to a deal with the Federal government.

The Coalition will also amend the Australian Education Act ensuring the states, territories and non-government sectors willmaintain responsibility for their schools.

"The essential difference between Labor and the Coalition going into the coming election is not over funding, it's over the amount of control that the Commonwealth government should have," Mr Abbott said.

"Under the coalition, you'll get the funding, but you won't get the strings attached."

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