THE lines of battle for the election over schools policy are being sharply drawn. Tony Abbott is presenting himself as champion of the independent sector. Julia Gillard, while not yet revealing her blueprint, is throwing her weight behind the changes recommended by the Gonski review, which will advantage, in relative terms, the government school sector.
Don't be deceived by Gillard's declaration - speaking to an independent schools audience yesterday - that all those schools will see their funding increased. Labor, with bitter memories of the political cost of Mark Latham's hit list, is anxious to reassure that there will be something for everyone.
Gonski said that while all sectors should get more, the largest increase is required for the government schools, where there was the most need. This fits Labor philosophy and is the direction in which Prime Minister Gillard is going.
The Opposition Leader defends the Howard government funding formula. Though Abbott did not say - as the government sought to claim - that he wanted to cut funds for government schools, he did insist that what injustice there was in the present system disadvantaged the independent schools, not government ones.
He led with his chin and Gillard rolled out the scare campaign, declaring he would be like ''Jack the Ripper'' wielding his knife against the public schools.
In standing against a funding formula change, Abbott is tapping into his core constituency. He is also mindful of the money, as the Coalition needs to find dollars for its promises. He says he supports ''reasonable steps'' to boost education spending but is ''deeply sceptical'' that Gonski is ''doable at this time.''
Despite her confidence that education will work for her, Gillard will have trouble with the states and those schools and parents who will gain the least. Abbott will have little to offer families who want more from the government sector. It's a policy area where voters will be presented with a real choice.