The incoming federal government - whoever it might be - should scrap a fund set up as a sweetener for private schools as part of a bid to make a final fix to education funding.
Leading think tank the Grattan Institute says the biggest thing the winner of the federal election could do for Australia's four million school students is to get funding right, then get out of the way.
In the institute's "orange book" of policy recommendations for the election victor, school program director Peter Goss writes that while school funding is in better shape than ever, a consistent and truly needs-based approach should be locked in.
"Australia's long and toxic school-funding wars must end so the nation can move on to other much-needed education reforms," he writes.
The institute says the next government should review the per-student funding amount to make sure it's right and implement the new income-based estimates of parents' capacity to contribute.
And it should scrap the $1.2 billion fund that subsidises low-fee private schools, a "backward step" that the government set up in a deal with the sector when it reviewed the 'capacity to contribute' model.
Mr Goss notes Australia spends less per student as a proportion of GDP than most similar countries. On average, other governments spend a fifth more per student than here.
And while both Labor and the coalition say they support a needs-based funding model, over the past decade funding disparities between school sectors have widened.
"If Australia is to get better educational outcomes from the dollars we are spending on schools, a good place to start is to genuinely align funding with need," he writes, noting the most equitable school systems around the world are often the best performers too.
But once it's fixed the funding, Mr Goss says the federal government should avoid further reform unless there's evidence from a new national research body showing it is a good idea and an area where commonwealth interference won't hinder outcomes.
One area the commonwealth could have an impact is in further changes to initial teacher education to attract more high achievers and provide better training, the report says.
Australian Associated Press