Education bill not legally binding

THE Federal Government will not be legally bound to action by its bill to reform school education funding, which was introduced in parliament on Wednesday.

Among the aims for the bill was to enshrine education as a citizens' right; improve the funding formula for school students and deliver the government's National Plan for School Improvement.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the Australian Education Bill 2012 would commit the government to reforming the school funding formula.

But a clause in the bill said it would "not create any legally enforceable rights or duties", instead relying on tense negotiations between the Federal Government and the states to ensure change is actually delivered.

The bill was unusual in that it did not outline any funding for the reform itself or the education system; did not create any legally enforceable rules or regulations and did not technically create any new laws.

Despite the bill not legally ensuring the government does take action, it does create a legal framework to ensure the negotiations that were already under way between the federal and state government were completed by the end of next year.

The framework centres on a number of "principles" that any reform of school funding should take, but also does not say exactly what the reforms should be.

Ms Gillard said the bill would also lead Australia to be among the top five countries in the world for reading, writing and mathematics by 2025.

The government's own deadline for that target comes despite no funds being allocated in the Federal Budget to the reforms until 2020 - leaving just five years to deliver the full suite of changes.

Ms Gillard said the bill was a "truly national plan" for a matter of the greatest national import.

"No matter how rich or poor your parents are, the school you attend or the circumstances of your birth, our nation should provide a core level of support to your education," she said.

"There should be Australian Government support to educate every Australian child - in the poorest and most remote school - at the best known and best resourced school."

But Opposition Education spokesman Christopher Pyne said the bill was "spin over substance", labelling it a "Labor hoax".

"There is no detail of what the states will pay, no structure and no information about the new stringent requirements the Federal Government intends to impose on schools," he said.

"Labor has introduced an empty shell this morning as a desperate distraction.

"No one in the schools sector will have any clearer picture of what the Government is proposing."

Topics:  bill education

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