Yesterday, (3-Dec-08) Federal Education Minister, Julia Gillard, called on the Opposition to pass legislation in the Senate regarding funding for private schools in 2009. As with so much legislation now, from both the former Howard Government, and the current Rudd Government, the legislation is not free-standing. Embedded in much of Howard’s legislation, and now Rudd’s, is the sub-agenda. In this case, the funding is tied to delivery of a “new” national curriculum. The Liberal/National Opposition doesn’t like it, saying it lacks flexibility.
Yet in October 2006, then (Liberal) Education Minister Julie Bishop said: “We need to take school curriculum out of the hands of the ideologues in the state and territory education bureaucracies and give it to a national board of studies”. Again, in February 2007, Ms Bishop used an ACER report to ague for a national curriculum. In 2008, in Opposition as Shadow Treasurer, she opposes it.
Following publicly-reported statements from the head of the Independent Schools Council of Australia, Bill Daniels, and the National Catholic Education Commission’s chief, Bill Griffiths, the Opposition back-flipped, and allowed the Schools Assistance Bill to be passed.
It’s sad, really, that schools have become a political pawn for both sides: Labor to push through requirements for a national curriculum; and for the Opposition to use to try to score cheap political points, even abandoning their previous position to do so.