If you don't like how the table is set, turn over the table.
That's the iron law of politics according to Frank Underwood, the House of Cards protagonist played by Kevin Spacey.
This week Education Minister Simon Birmingham unleashed his inner Underwood by saying on live TV that some private schools are over-funded and may need to take a trim under a new funding deal.
With this plot twist, Australia's school funding debate - usually a predictable and partisan affair - became a lot more interesting.
Conservative Queensland MP George Christensen backed Birmingham in. So did The Greens' Sarah Hanson-Young.
Strange bedfellows doesn't begin to describe that pairing.
Meanwhile Labor's Tanya Plibersek, a proud left-winger, appeared to rush to the defence of wealthy schools by demanding the government release its secret "hit-list".
Birmingham's comments on Q&A even awoke the powerful private schools lobby, which warned him not to treat them as an "easy target".
What on Earth is going on?
Birmingham knows he will never win any funding debate if it's about money alone. With budget repair top of the Coalition's agenda, he'll never have enough money to make state premiers happy or outdo Labor.
So he's working hard to show how the Gonski reforms implemented by Julia Gillard differ from what the Gonski Review actually recommended.
Highlighting the special deals benefiting certain schools over others helps him to do that.
And he's right.
Federal Education Department data shows that more than 150 schools across the country are over-funded, according to the Gonski formula.
There appears to be no logical reason why some schools receive 280 per cent of their entitlements and others just 60 per cent. It's all about special deals, some going back decades.
Thats why experts such as Gonski panelist Ken Boston applauded Birmingham for not repeating Gillard's promise that no school will lose a dollar under any new deal.
As for Labor, many observers found its stance bizarre.
It's important to note Labor's internal politics on schools is a nuanced one.
"Within the Labor Party there have always been tensions between total public school advocates and Catholic systemic advocates - people who are very passionate about funding those schools," a party insider says.
There is also cynicism about what Birmingham is up to. As a Fairfax Media analysis reveals, over $215 million in excess funding flows to private schools each year.
Turning off that tap would free up funding - but not nearly enough to bring the nation's needy schools up to standard.
Those involved at the time also argue Gillard's "no school worse off" promise was made for a reason: to get a deal done.
Yes, funding for private schools would continue to flow. But the biggest funding increases would go to low-income public schools - especially when the last two years of Gonski kicked in from 2018.
The problem is the final two years of Gonski aren't going to happen. The Coalition has no intention of backflipping on its election platform, which offered less generous funding for schools than Labor.
That means redistributing money from over-funded to under-funded schools should be up for debate.
Birmingham deserves praise for starting the conversation, but talk isn't enough. A fairer, simpler needs-based funding is what matters.
Delivering that would be a plot twist worth waiting for.
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