THE most unusual takeaway from Treasurer Dominic Perrottet's state budget on Tuesday was not the requirement that government departments must deliver "concrete outcomes" to justify their funding.
There will be widespread support for Mr Perrottet's insistence that government departments are held closely to account for their performance and the for treasurer demanding they prove standards are lifting before money is handed over.
What was unusual, though, and even quite alarming, was the government's starting point for implementing its "concrete outcomes" strategy - education.
It appears a high-risk play from the government to try to improve the state's education outcomes by placing further pressure on schools to provide real evidence that their students are benefiting.
If it's successful, it might yet prove a winning gamble.
But, if it's not, it will be a disaster. And the biggest losers if the gamble goes badly will be some of the state's most vulnerable - young students at the state's most disadvantaged schools.
Mr Perrottet may be right when he says that no state can match NSW's commitment to the Gonski principles of education funding but this latest ultimatum threatens to undo any good work that has been done.
As opposition education spokesman Jihad Dib pointed out on Tuesday, in one fell swoop the treasurer has shifted the philosophy of education funding from a needs-based model to an outcomes-based model.
The change might be welcomed by public schools in some of the state's more affluent suburbs because they are already the schools that attract the more advantaged students and more experienced teachers.
But it will place unfair pressure on the state's most disadvantaged schools, the schools that can least afford the extra strain.
And if those disadvantaged schools fail the government's "concrete outcomes" test, then what next? Will the government cut their funding, simply adding to the spiral of disadvantage? It's a dangerous strategy and, you would think, an unnecessary one.
The government had the option of starting its "concrete outcomes" philosophy in any number of government departments where the public would have welcomed a war on waste. But it chose education, putting vulnerable children and disadvantaged schools in the crosshairs.
Very unusual, indeed.
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