"The emotional commitment within the federal
government is to continue to have a direct relationship with the
non-government schools sector": Education Minister Christopher Pyne. Photo: Andrew Meares

Education Minister Christopher Pyne has told Christian school
leaders that his government has an ''emotional commitment'' to private
schools, prompting fears the Abbott government will abandon public

Speaking at a Christian Schools Australia national policy dinner in
Canberra this week, Mr Pyne assured the school leaders he did not want
to sever long-held ties with Christian and independent schools.

''I want to have a direct relationship with the non-government sector,
as I believe we have had since 1963,'' Mr Pyne said. ''Having talked to
the Prime Minister about this matter many times, it is his view that we
have a particular responsibility for non-government schooling that we
don't have for [state] government schooling.''

Mr Pyne assured the Christian schools he could not ''see those circumstances changing''.


Mr Pyne made the comments after fears were raised by the National
Commission of Audit, which recommended funding and control of the
non-government school sector should be handed to the states.

Commonwealth funding for state and independent schools will be provided
under the Gonski formula designed to give funding to schools most in
need. The government has committed to four years of ''Gonski'' funding,
but there are fears independent schools would be favoured over state
schools in a new deal for 2018 onwards.

Mr Pyne's comments follow his statements - quickly quashed by the Prime
Minister - that higher education fees for university students would
still need to be paid even if the student died.

''The emotional commitment within the federal government is
to continue to have a direct relationship with the non-government
schools sector. I think the states and territories would prefer that as
well,'' Mr Pyne said.

The president of the NSW Secondary Principals' Council, Lila Mularczyk,
warned that Mr Pyne's comments signalled a commitment to directly fund
non-government schools at the expense of public schools.

''Students most in need of additional learning support have seen Minister Pyne turn his back on them again,'' Ms Mularczyk said.

''We cannot rest easy when the educational gaps between schools, and
often schooling systems, are entrenched and will grow because of a
dismissive, dangerous budget and an Education Minister who openly claims
to be emotionally driven in maintaining a relationship with the
non-government sector.''

The Australian Education Union deputy federal president, Correna
Haythorpe, said Mr Pyne's ''divisive view of schools'' was contrary to
the needs-based principles of the Gonski funding model. Ms Haythorpe
said federal funding of government schools was crucial to the quality
and equity of the schools system.

''Federal governments have funded government schools for over 40 years,
recognising the need to support state governments who do not have the
same revenue base,'' Ms Haythorpe said.