School cash spat sparked by Shorten letter

Labor education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek is defending her party from public school lobbyists, saying they should know the opposition will treat them fairly.

Federal Labor is defending its school funding policy from its traditional allies after a public school parent body lashed out at what some see as a special deal promised to Catholic schools.

The stoush was sparked by Labor leader Bill Shorten writing to Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart ahead of the weekend's Batman by-election to outline what the party planned to spend on Catholic schools should it win government at the next federal poll.

The measures outlined in the letter are in line with what Labor has promised for nearly a year, with its pledge to restore the level of funding that schools were originally promised under the Gillard government in 2012.

Labor says the difference between what the Turnbull government is giving schools in 2018 and 2019 and its plan is $1.88 billion for public schools, $250 million for Catholic schools and $53.5 million for the independent sector.

Citing these figures, Mr Shorten wrote: "Catholic schools would be more than $250 million better off in our first two years of government alone."

But a public school parents group has taken aim at what it sees as a "spectacular special deal" for the Catholic sector.

"It appears that a small number of Catholic Bishops now hold sway over national party politics and policy," Australian Council of State School Organisations president Phillip Spratt wrote in his monthly newsletter to principals and parents on Friday.

Mr Spratt said the idea that Catholic schools were hard done by and underfunded was outdated, and likened the situation to George Orwell's novel Animal Farm, when some animals came to see themselves as more equal than others.

"For the sake of our public schools, its students, staff and families that support them, I hope this Orwellian dystopia remains a work of fiction."

On Tuesday, Labor education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said parents and teacher should know the biggest threat to public schools comes from the coalition, not the opposition.

"Under Labor, the neediest schools will get the biggest funding increases, in the shortest time," she said.

"Most of the neediest schools are public schools. They will get the most funding by far."

Published 20 March 2018 at 12:26pm
Source: AAP