Just when it seemed the Turnbull Government was there in its bid to pass its school funding package, a retiring Liberal senator is threatening to abstain or cross the floor to protect the Catholic schools sector.
The concession would also be available to any schools within the independent sector that form a system, although most are stand-alones.
Laws to bring in a needs-based funding model, proposed by consultant David Gonski, are to be debated in the Senate on Wednesday, days before the parliament rises for the winter break.
In the Coalition party room outright criticism of the Gonski 2.0 schools package was limited to Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews, who complained Coalition MPs had not seen new departmental data on its impact on Catholic schools, and Chris Back, who accepts it in principle but wants accommodations for the Catholic system. It indicates Catholic schools would lose as much as $705 million over the next four years if the changes are approved.
"This is one of the most crucial potential improvements for funding for public education for decades", the former ACTU vice-president said in a letter to the prime minister, opposition leader, senators and the Australian Education Union.
Sadly, the vocal Catholic School sector appears to have won the day, and they will continue to receive a disproportionate share of taxpayer funding with underfunded public schools the likely losers.
Private school sector will be worse off by $138 million.
Christian Zahra, National Catholic Education Commission executive director, said Minister Birmingham and his Coalition colleagues must think long and hard about "if they want this attack on Catholic education to be their legacy", the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
These include extra funding, a fast-tracked spending timeline and a new independent schools resourcing body as recommended by the Gonski review.
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But there has been some pushback from NSW Greens and unions, who say the Turnbull government's Gonski 2.0 does not properly align with Mr Gonski's original design and does not contain enough money for public schools.
The Greens party room on Tuesday did not resolve a final position despite winning significant concessions from the government, which the education minister, Simon Birmingham, has yet to confirm publicly.
'I hope they haven't done a dirty deal with the Greens because that would be absolutely horrific, ' he said.
"The only proposal that's on the table at the moment is a $22 billion cut to schools, with the hardest cuts hitting public schools", she said.
It still has concerns about how quickly extra money can be given to the neediest schools and a legislative mechanism to ensure states maintain their own funding levels.
The legislation is due to go before Parliament tomorrow and, if passed, would replace individual, state-based funding agreements struck by Labor.
Education Department officials recently confirmed the deals are not legally binding and can be terminated at any time.
"$3.4 billion extra for Catholic education around Australia; 3.5 percent growth per student per annum on average over the decade".