'Schools need to be equal'

NEW Education Minister Brian Wightman appears to have dumped a proposal pushed by his Green predecessor to give public schools more independence.

Mr Wightman will write to federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne expressing his concern that his $70 million plan to create "independent public schools" would create a two-tiered system.

Mr Pyne's idea, announced this week, was first put to state education ministers late November, prompting then-Tasmanian education minister Nick McKim to propose an alternative model.

Mr McKim wrote to Mr Pyne proposing Tasmania's share of the $70 million on offer be spent to transition all 200 Tasmanian public schools gradually to operate more autonomously.

Under the plan, members of school parent associations would be trained and school principals would also be offered professional development aimed at maximising the decision-making role of parents in the running of schools, from deciding what food the canteen stocked to setting the curriculum focus.

Mr McKim yesterday said he was opposed to Mr Pyne's model, which is based on the West Australia system where extra funding was given to some schools that would be governed by boards with the power to hire and fire staff.

Mr McKim said that would pit school against school.

Mr McKim, who is also Greens leader, was dumped as education minister three weeks ago.

His Labor replacement, Mr Wightman, would not comment yesterday on whether or not he supported Mr McKim's alternative, but would not mention it again in his latest letter to Mr Pyne.

"Tasmania's position remains that all public schools across the state need to be on an equal footing," Mr Wightman said yesterday.

Tasmanian Liberal education spokesman Michael Ferguson has ruled out establishing any independent public schools if the Liberals are elected in March.


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