State arms for Gonski reform battle

VICTORIA is braced for a show-down over school funding reform, with the federal government expected to employ similar political tactics as it did over the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The federal government is likely to contribute about $3 billion - far more than the $1.5 billion the Gonski review suggested was its share of the $5 billion - and then accuse the states of wilfully blocking important reform if they refuse to sign up.

Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon said modelling done by the state showed some schools - public and private - would be worse off under the reforms proposed in the Gonski review. ''We are not going to sign up to anything that is not going to be of benefit,'' he said.

Catholic Education executive director Stephen Elder said the state government's modelling showed more than 50 per cent of Victorian Catholic schools would lose funding if the Gonski reforms were adopted.

''This is not inconsistent with our own modelling on Gonski, which showed for every one school that gets more money, two lose.'' He said this could result in school fees rising between $800 and $6000, with the biggest impact on primary schools.

''It is fair to say the Commonwealth government is aware of these issues and is trying to work through them but it does create a major problem,'' Mr Elder said.

School Education Minister Peter Garrett said at the weekend that he was open to a transition period for phasing in the reforms.

''As we have always said, no school will lose funding as a result of any changes,'' a spokeswoman for Mr Garrett said.

Mr Dixon accused Canberra of playing ''wedge politics'' after it warned states would be ''missing out'' if they didn't recognise the opportunity to improve schools.

''The biggest danger to Gonski at the moment is the federal government themselves - they are more interested in playing politics, being tricky and wedging the jurisdictions than sitting down and discussing what their response is going to be and how it's going to affect the states,'' Mr Dixon said.

Wedge politics is a tactic used to try to embarrass opponents into behaving in a certain way to avoid alienating the electorate.

The federal government will announce its reforms this month, but it is already understood it will make school funding conditional on the states agreeing to reforms to improve teacher quality.

But Mr Dixon said teacher performance, while important, was ''totally divorced'' from funding policy and there was no suggestion in the Gonski review the two should be linked.

''They are trying to blackmail us into running their agenda for money - it shows how shallow their approach to Gonski and funding policy is.'' He said he was annoyed Victoria had been left out of the loop, with Canberra speaking to some jurisdictions and not others.

Mr Garrett's spokeswoman said all states and territories, including Victoria, had been actively involved in work to advance school funding reform.

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