STOP PRESS: a muppet called Dan Tehan is the new education minister.
A "fix" to the school funding wars will be unveiled by new Prime Minister Scott Morrison as one of his first acts to heal the political wounds that divided Coalition MPs and helped trigger the demise of Malcolm Turnbull.
Fairfax Media understands a proposal to address the concerns of the Catholic sector and guarantee interim funding for next year is very close to being finalised and is likely to proceed whether or not Education Minister Simon Birmingham remains in the role in Mr Morrison's new-look cabinet.
The policy would act on the recommendations of a recent review by businessman Michael Chaney which proposed a new method of evaluating a private school's socio-economic status using parents' income tax data.
The schism over school funding was a factor in some of the unrest leading to this week's upheaval. Liberal MP Tony Pasin, who supported Peter Dutton, told Fairfax Media on Saturday: "We need to resolve it as soon as practicable."
It is understood Senator Birmingham is keen to remain in the portfolio and will tell Mr Morrison he is best placed to quickly strike a deal with the various school sectors and sign agreements with the states - which were due to be finalised at an Education Council meeting in a few weeks.
He is also open to a change of role, and a new minister would have a clean slate with Catholic sector administrators in Victoria, who have waged a bitter and personal war against the South Australian.
But the National Catholic Education Commission, whose negotiators met with Senator Birmingham as recently as Monday to nail down data related to the Chaney review, gave him the tick of approval.
"We've been working with him and we're going to continue working with him," said spokesman Jim Hanna on Saturday. "It's not about personalities. We just want to get the best outcome with whoever is the minister on the day."
Geoff Newcombe, chief executive of the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, said Senator Birmingham had "shown great determination and integrity in trying to put in place a fair funding model that applies consistently to all non-government schools. We look forward to continuing to work with him on this important issue."
Christian Schools Australia, which earlier this month lobbied Mr Turnbull against a "special deal" for the Catholic sector, represents about 140 schools around Australia. About a third are Pentecostal, the church attended by Mr Morrison.
Its national executive officer Mark Spencer said he was "fairly happy" with Senator Birmingham's work on the Gonski 2.0 funding model. "He has played a straight bat," Mr Spencer said. "No one in the sector wants a massive change."
But keeping Senator Birmingham in the role would be a significant rebuke to conservatives MPs who fought for Peter Dutton's elevation this week. One backer said the school funding debate "really got out of control and started to really hurt us", and Senator Birmingham remaining as minister "won't necessarily be helpful".
Public school representatives were hesitant about a change in policy direction. Agreements set for discussion at September's meeting of education ministers are intended to lock in funding as well as commitments from the states to David Gonski's package of curriculum and teaching reforms.
But at least one state expected this week's chaos to upend or delay those talks. Victorian Education Minister James Merlino told Fairfax Media "a lot needs to change" if there was to be a deal this year.
"Simon Birmingham has spent the last few months focused on fighting with Catholic and independent schools rather than negotiating with states and territories," he said.
His cuts hurt Catholic schools, but it’s public schools that are hardest hit – they cop 85 per cent of the cuts.
Mr Morrison’s own colleagues have described the Liberals’ school funding policy as a “toxic” “omnishambles”, and a “festering sore”.
Australians will never forget that Scott Morrison was the Treasurer who cut $17 billion from schools to give the big banks a $17 billion tax handout.