Means-testing for public education has been suggested in a leaked federal government discussion paper, but is there any merit to the idea?

The discussion paper, obtained by Fairfax, was developed within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and is likely to spark debate about funding for education.

The paper, which has been sent to state and territory governments for consideration, presents a number of alternative reform options for school funding.

One option is for the states and territories to take sole responsibility of all schools.

Another option is for the federal government to abandon funding for public schools, leaving them the sole responsibility of states and territories, while still continuing to fund non-government schools.

Alternatively, the paper suggests reducing Commonwealth involvement in schools without significant structural change.

The most controversial idea suggested by the paper is that the Commonwealth provide funding for all schools, but that this funding would be based on the needs and the ability of families to contribute, essentially means-testing the families of public school students.

The paper follows a recommendation last year by the Centre for Independent Studies, a free-market think tank, to charge high-income families $1,000 a year to send their children to public schools.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne tweeted this morning that he does not support any proposal to charge wealthy parents for the right to send their children to public schools.

“Charging wealthy parents for their children to attend public schools is not the government’s policy,” he tweeted. “I don’t support it.”

However, he left the door open for states and territories to do exactly that.

“If the states and territories want to charge wealthy parents fees for public schools that’s a matter for them,” he tweeted.

In response to the leaked report, Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in Canberra this morning that any change to public school funding will be entirely up to the states and territories.

“We have no role at all in the running of public schools, public schools are absolutely the business of the state and territory governments, and whether state or territory governments choose to change the way schools are funded in their states and territories is absolutely a matter for them,” he said.

“Obviously there is a federation reform white paper process taking place now. I think it’s good that some of the states and territories at least are thinking creatively about how they can responsibly fund their operations. But any question of how you fund public schools in terms of what contribution parents might be expected to make is absolutely a matter for the states and territories.”

Do you think wealthy parents should have to pay to send their kids to public schools? Vote in our poll and have your say in the comments below!

UPDATE: This poll has closed, and the nays have it. 77.34 per cent of you think nobody should have to pay for a public school education. 20.2 per cent of you think rich parents should have to pay if they’ve got the cash, and just 2.46 per cent of you are true opportunists who admitted their opinion would depend on what bracket they’d fall into. We applaud your honesty, guys.