Pyne

Christopher Pyne: Accused of misleading the public. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The Abbott government's $70 million independent public schools plan has been dealt another blow with the ACT and Tasmanian governments joining NSW in distancing themselves from the scheme.

The federal government wants to turn 1500 public schools into independent public schools, which have greater control over hiring and spending, by 2017.

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne said on Monday that ''every state and territory, including Labor states and territories, have signed on to the initiative with the exception of South Australia''. That claim has now been rejected by three of the seven states Mr Pyne said had signed up.

''While the ACT has indicated an interest in the federal government's independent public schools proposal, we have not signed up to it,'' a spokeswoman for ACT Education Minister Joy Burch said.

''The ACT has sought further information from the Commonwealth on the initiative including its implementation. No response has been received to date.''

The ACT's public schools already operate with a high level of independence, the spokeswoman said.

A spokesman for Tasmanian Education Minister Brian Wightman said the Labor government was opposed to a ''two-tiered'' public education system.

A spokeswoman for the state's opposition spokesman for education, Michael Ferguson, said the Coalition has no plans to establish independent public schools in Tasmania if it wins the March 15 election as expected.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said on Tuesday the O'Farrell government had not signed onto the scheme and did not support two types of public schools in NSW.

Independent public schools have proved popular with parents and principals in Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland, but are opposed by teacher unions, which claim they entrench inequality.

Mr Pyne said: ''New South Wales, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have all indicated a willingness to participate in the independent public school initiative.''

He said he had invited federal MPs to lobby their state governments to join the scheme.

Opposition spokeswoman for education Kate Ellis said: ''The Abbott government has been caught misleading the Australian public on education yet again … State governments are not signing up because they want Tony Abbott to honour his election commitment to match Labor's Gonski reforms and school funding.''

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