Victorian private schools have taken the unprecedented step of complaining to the state's most senior Catholic about "vitriolic" attacks on their schools.
In a move that will intensify the fight within Victoria's non-government school sectors, Independent Schools Victoria chief executive Michelle Green wrote to Archbishop Denis Hart to raise concerns about the Catholic sector's "unseemly" campaign against school funding changes.
Victorian Independent schools have written to Archbishop Denis Hart to raise concerns about the Catholic sector's school funding campaign.
She took particular aim at Catholic Education Commission of Victoria executive director Stephen Elder, who she accused of denigrating schools in other sectors.
"After considerable thought, I am writing to you to express profound disappointment at the public commentary about independent schools by the executive director of the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria, Mr Stephen Elder," she wrote in the May 3 letter.
"In campaigning against the Australian government’s school funding reforms, he has, unfortunately, repeatedly impugned the integrity of independent schools and those who work in them."
Ms Green said Mr Elder had accused independent schools of making fraudulent claims for students with a disability, being privy to "special deals" with the government, and misusing capital works funding from the government.
She said there was no substance to these allegations.
"It is a matter of great regret that the common interests that we share with Catholic education have been called into question by Mr Elder’s vitriolic commentary," she said.
In October, Mr Elder accused wealthy independent schools of "gaming the system" to get more funding for students with a disability.
"Education Minister Simon Birmingham is letting wealthy independent schools – the biggest backers of his funding policies – game the system," he told at the time.
But Mr Elder hit back on Wednesday, saying he made no apology for doing his job in the face of the Turnbull government's "unprecedented attack on the Catholic education system".
He said Catholic schools expected him to be a robust advocate for their interests, and he was proud of the sector's school funding research.
"Senator Birmingham has responded with bureaucratic boilerplate while the independent school sector has only offered rhetoric in response," he said. "They have been unable to rebut our research or produce anything substantial to contradict our conclusions."
He also pointed out that Colette Colman, the head of the Independent Schools Council of Australia, had previously accused the Catholic sector of having "special deals" for 40 years.
The Catholic Education Commission of Victoria has run a relentless campaign against the Turnbull government's Gonski 2.0 package, saying it will benefit wealthy independent schools at the expense of Catholic schools, hike up school fees and force poor families to leave the sector.
But Ms Green said while the changes weren't perfect, they were an attempt to ensure consistency, fairness and predictability.
"We welcome the prospect of a sector-blind funding model," she said.
"Some independent schools will lose, while others will gain, based on the needs of the students they enrol."
Traditionally, the non-government sector has worked together to advocate for their schools.