A plan by the Turnbull government to ditch the final two years of the Gonski school funding deal has drawn a furious reaction from the Victorian government, with the acting education minister branding it "sneaky and mean and tricky".
Fairfax Media revealed on Tuesday that the Turnbull government had made the decision to cut the funding, and did not plan to compete with Labor in an election-year battle to shower more money on schools.
In response, acting state education minister Jenny Mikakos has said the move by federal minister Simon Birmingham will have terrible consequences for Victoria.
"The Turnbull government has made it clear they are walking away from years five and six of the Gonski education funding [plan]," Ms Mikakos said. "This means that Victorian schools will lose $1 billion in funding."
This would pay for 8000 Victorian teachers, "or 10,000 allied health staff working to support our most disadvantaged students", she said.
And she said it was "particularly disappointing" voters were learning of this federal funding cut in the post-Christmas lull.
"This is sneaky and mean and tricky on the part of the Turnbull government. We were accustomed to Tony Abbott engaging in this kind of mean and tricky behaviour but Victorians expect more of Malcolm Turnbull," Ms Mikakos said.
She urged Canberra to reconsider the planned changes to the funding model.
In an interview with Fairfax Media published on Tuesday, Senator Birmingham said the Coalition would seek to strike fresh funding deals with the states from 2018 - the year two-thirds of the $10 billion Gonski funding was scheduled to start flowing.
Instead of handing out big funding increases, he said his focus will be on creating a simpler funding system that holds state governments accountable for how they spend federal money.
"I don't see much benefit for anyone if we dedicate two more years of funding just to create more uncertainty down the track," Senator Birmingham said.
"I want a school funding system that is genuinely needs-based and is targeting the money where it's most required."
On Tuesday, speaking at a press conference with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews at Wye River in the wake of the Christmas Day bushfires, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull tried to calm concerns about the changes to the funding model.
"We are absolutely committed to all Australian kids getting a great education," he said. "Funding is important but there is a lot more to it. The key element is teacher quality. Our common challenge is that all Australian kids get access to a high-quality education."( Easy to say but actions speak louder than his words)