The government is keen to focus on teacher quality rather than how much money is going to schools and how it will be split up.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott wants to shake up the political lesson plan on schools funding and switch focus to teacher and student standards.
The government and opposition argue the latest international test results showing a decline in Australian student performances prove their contrasting cases on funding.
Mr Abbott and Education Minister Christopher Pyne spent Wednesday pointing out Labor spent $20 billion on school halls and laptops between 2009 and 2012, when the testing was done.
“They spent more money and got worse results,” Mr Abbott said.
He called for the schools funding issue to shift away from money to higher standards and a debate on school performances, principal autonomy and parental involvement.
Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results reveal Australian school results in maths and reading continued to slip in international rankings and compared to Australian students over the past decade.
PISA also showed increasing gaps between advantaged students and those from poor or indigenous backgrounds or remote areas.
Poor students are about two and a half years behind their peers.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten defended the former Labor government’s Gonski schools funding system, which offered more federal money to state and territory education systems over six years.
“It’s time (for the government) to get on board and make sure that we have an education system which is not betraying the future capacities of our young children,” he said.
As well, the opposition used question time to try to expose flaws in the prime minister’s knowledge of his latest education policy.
They almost scored a hit when Mr Shorten asked what the student resource standard would be for Cobar High School, and Mr Abbott replied it depended on the level of disadvantage.
The student resource standard is the base per-student funding amount – $9271 for primary students and $12,193 for secondary. Loadings for disadvantage are added on top of this.
The coalition government has agreed to spend an extra $2.8 billion on schools over the next four years, in line with what Labor proposed in its needs-based school funding model.
But only states and territories that signed up to the deal before the election – NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT – will have to guarantee to improve teacher standards and student outcomes and to put up their own extra money.
Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory will share $1.2 billion of Commonwealth cash without having to give the same guarantees.
“We don’t believe in infantilising the states,” Mr Pyne said.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry wants states to set up minimum standards for school leavers to stop students falling behind.
“A commitment to minimum standards ensures that there is a systematic approach from primary school until when they leave to regularly test students and take action,” education director Jenny Lambert said.