Gonski reform: Education Minister Christopher Pyne announces changes to the Coalition's school funding policy. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
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The debate over the Gonski school reforms has caused a serious rift between governments after Premier Barry O'Farrell blasted his federal colleagues for abandoning the funding agreement he struck with the former Labor government.
He accused federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne of ''acting like an opposition''.
"In all my years in politics, I have worked out that it is best to have respectful discussions and consultations in private, not through the media": Premier Barry O'Farrell. Photo: Ben Rushton
Mr O'Farrell warned that Mr Pyne's comments on Tuesday suggested the Commonwealth ''would deliver fewer dollars to NSW''.
Victoria has urged the Commonwealth to honour the deal it reached with Labor. Education Minister Martin Dixon said his state had reached an agreement with the Commonwealth, not the ALP.
Mr Pyne had branded Labor's funding formula ''a shambles'' and announced another revamp of funding to be revealed before the end of next year.
"This is a real body blow for education across the public, Catholic and private systems": NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli. Photo: Quentin Jones
This means Labor's six-year Better Schools model would be replaced after just one year.
Mr Pyne said the government would not be held to its election pledge to ensure all public or private schools would get as much under the Coalition's policy as they would have under Labor. "What one government does, another government can undo," he said.
He said it is time to go back to the drawing board, revealing that he will scrap the Better Schools plan and redesign the system based on the Howard government's socio-economic status principle.
The minister would promise only that the Coalition would retain the overall ''funding envelope'' offered by Labor.
"We will have exactly the same funding envelope available, and we will work through with the states and territories to ensure that is equitably distributed," he said.
This left open the possibility that individual schools could go backwards.
Before the election was called, the Coalition dropped its fundamental objection to the funding deal, declaring the Coalition was now on a ''unity ticket'' with Labor on school funding, albeit for four years rather then Labor's six.
Asked ''are you backing away from this guarantee'', Mr Pyne refused to repeat the pledge.
The backflip has infuriated states that signed up for Labor's package.
''Can I just make this point to the federal Education Minister,'' Mr O'Farrell said. ''In all my years in politics, I have worked out that it is best to have respectful discussions and consultations in private, not through the media. And secondly, when you move into government, you have got to stop behaving like an opposition.''
Mr O'Farrell said the issue had been poorly handled by the Abbott government. He wrote to Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Monday to express his concerns.
NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli condemned Mr Pyne's suggestion of reverting to the Howard government's socio-economic status model. ''This is a real body blow for education across the public, Catholic and private systems,'' he said.
It means the states that signed up under Labor will not get six years of funding but a maximum of four, only the first of which will flow according to the Gonski formula.
Only a fortnight ago Mr Pyne said he would retain Labor's funding and the overall model.
On November 17 he told Sky News: ''I said that we would keep the new school funding model but [only] over the next four years because we don't believe in Labor's claims things can be promised five, six, 10, 15, 20 years down the track. Over the next four years we will maintain the new school funding model, and the budget that went with that in the forward estimates.''
He refused to repeat his pre-election assurance that ''you can vote Liberal or Labor and you'll get exactly the same amount of funding for your school''.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten called on Mr Pyne to ''rule out that any schools will be worse off''.
Earlier Mr Pyne declined to meet members of the Gonski panel to gain a deeper understanding of the needs-based system. Panel member Kathryn Greiner said she was disappointed by this and was concerned the Coalition would not commit to six years of funding.
Mr Dixon told the Victorian State Parliament on Tuesday that he would stand up for education and for funding that was ''rightfully ours''.
Mr Dixon said his government had signed a ''great agreement'' on school funding with the then Labor government in August.
''We look forward to the Commonwealth actually fulfilling its commitment,'' he said. ''We signed the agreement with the federal government, not a political party.''
A Victorian government spokeswoman had insisted on Monday that a $12.2 billion deal had been reached guaranteeing ''record levels of funding and an unprecedented six years of funding certainty'' for schools in Victoria.
with Benjamin Preiss