This article problematises contemporary debates in favour of ‘policy alignment’ by considering the complexities emerging from attempts to forge greater alignment of policies and processes across state schooling systems in the Australian federation. We begin by articulating our conceptual approach to policy alignment, after which we examine Australian and international debates relating to alignment in schooling policy. We then consider how policy actors are engaging with debates and challenges relating to alignment, drawing upon interviews with senior bureaucrats in Australian state education departments and agencies. Our findings suggest policy actors see misalignment as a problem but do not necessarily see alignment as the solution. This raises complex questions about the logic and value of pursuing alignment in federations.