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States want $7b to soothe schools concerns

The Commonwealth may need to find an extra $7 billion for public schools after the states were left fuming over a $4.6 billion peace deal offered to Catholic and independent educators.

NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes will “very forcefully” argue for the extra state school funding over 10 years when he meets with his federal counterpart on Friday.

“You can’t have some schools that are more equal than others,” Mr Stokes told ABC radio on Thursday.

“We welcome the extra funding for independent and Catholic schools, but we need to make sure that a similar level of funding is provided proportionately to public schools as well.”

The prime minister has argued Mr Stokes doesn’t understand the agreement and will warm to it once he realises how much more NSW schools will receive.

But Mr Stokes says he is the minister for all NSW schools – not just some – and public money must be spread evenly.

He is particularly concerned about an opaque $1.2 billion “choice and affordability” fund being offered exclusively to Catholic and independent schools to spend as they see fit.

The minister believes the funding directly undermines the key principles of the Gonski funding model, and says other state education ministers share his concerns.

“We were all led to believe the deal we were negotiating was to be needs-based and sector-blind,” he said.

“If we don’t provide funding equally, we run the risk of entrenching inequality, and we will see the social impacts of that in 10 and 20 years time.”

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said negotiations with each state and territory had been “conducted in good faith”.

“I want to ensure that continues,” Mr Tehan told AAP.

“At the end of the day the states, territories and the Commonwealth want what is best for every student, and this is to ensure certainty of funding for 2019.”

Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek is urging the states to hold firm against the Catholic and independent schools funding deal.

“It is absolutely impossible to allow this to stand,” Ms Plibersek told reporters in Sydney.

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