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Government Policy leads to School Fee Increases

Posted on 14 November 2017
Government Policy leads to School Fee Increases

Catholic schools along the nation's east coast are warning families that fees will rise by as much as 12 per cent next year, with many principals attributing the steep hikes to federal funding changes.

In Brisbane, elite Stuartholme School, Marist College, Mt St Michael's College and All Hallows' School have announced tuition fees will increase next year, blaming government-mandated changes to the way funding is distributed that will see some schools lose income over coming years.

In Melbourne, Genazzano College has recently written to parents to advise that fees would rise up 6 per cent next year, with the middle school - Years 9 and 10 hit the hardest. It is understood that De La Salle College, in Malvern, is considering increasing fees by up to 7.5 per cent, while Loyola College, in Watsonia, will be forced to increase fees above its typical annual rise.

Loyola principal Joseph Favrin said it was a result of the new Gonski 2.0 model of funding, "which will reduce our funding considerably for 2018 and beyond". The school's board will meet shortly to set next year's fees.

Catholic Education Melbourne, which oversees more than 150,000 students across 330 schools, is expecting primaryschool fee rises of up to 5 per cent and secondary-school fee increases of up to 10 per cent.

Mater Christi College principal Mary Fitz-Gerald said the school's fees would climb by 6 per cent next year as a result of the school's government funding allocation dropping by more than $300,000, or 3 per cent. She said the school, in Belgrave in Melbourne's east, had lowered fees a few years ago to allow more parents access to the college and a Catholic education, but that would have to change.

"We know parents require predictability ... but we can't provide predictability," Ms FitzGerald said.

Catholic Education Commission NSW, which oversees 545 schools, has said it would absorb any funding anomalies across the system, keeping fee increases to 3 to 5 per cent next year.

However, there are 46 independent Catholic schools that are funded directly from the government that could be exposed. Many of those, including Kincoppal, which is run by the same religious order as Stuartholme, and Loreto Kirribilli, were recently identified as being "over-funded". Those schools did not return calls from The Weekend Australian.

Amid anger among parents over the rises, some Coalition MPs, particularly those in vulnerable seats, are understood to be rattled by the ferocity of the Catholic sector's campaign against the Continued on Page 6

RISING COSTS Stuartholme School, Toowong Qld: 6-12% All Hallows' School, Brisbane Qld: 8% Mt St Michael's College, Ashgrove Qld: 9.5% De La Salle, Malvern Vic: up to 7.5% Genazzano College, Kew Vic: 6% NSW Catholic system schools: up to 5% As you will be aware, Stuartholme School has been adversely impacted by the federal changes to school funding. After thorough consideration and to ensure we can continue to be one of Australia's leading schools for girls, the board has made the decision to increase fees.

There will be 6 per cent increase in fees for Years 7, 8, 9, 2018. And a 7 per cent increase in fees for Years 10 and 12 ... Year 11 fees will increase by 12 per cent Extract of a letter Stuartholme School sent to parents on October 24 Fee hikes a lesson in school funding Continued from Page 1 funding changes and have asked Education Minister Simon Birmingham to meet directly with affected schools. Several MPs have described the issue privately as "political poison".

The Catholic sector says the changes amount to a $1.1 billion disadvantage compared with the independent private schools sector. Senator Birmingham is standing by the government's Gonski 2.0 package, which he insists amounted to a boost of funding to the Catholic sector of $282.5 million next year and $3.4bn over the coming decade.

He said state and territory systems running Catholic schools had autonomy over how they distributed increasing funding and it was up to authorities to decide which schools should benefit from additional support.

"We pay lump sums to Catholic school systems. We don't actually determine which of their schools should get what amount of funding; they do," he said. "If those systems are increasing fees for these schools, logic says that the extra funding flowing from the Turnbull government means that fees are decreasing by equal amounts at other schools.

"Given Catholic system funding is projected to increase by 3.8 per cent on average per student over the next four years ... the question many will ask in response to stories like this is 'where is the money going?" Senator Birmingham is expected to travel to Melbourne next week for meetings set up by Liberal MPs Julia Banks and Sarah Henderson. It is understood those meetings are not exclusively with Catholic schools.

The government believes the funding issue is most sensitive in Victoria because of the activism of Catholic Education Commission of Victoria's executive director Stephen Elder. He told The Weekend Australian that Catholic systems had been put under unprecedented pressure to align their fee expectations to the government's funding model, which would have the impact of large fee increases in many schools.

National Catholic Education Commission executive director Christian Zahra warned there would be political ramifications, with Coalition MPs required to justify their education policy to constituents at the next election.


From: Weekend Australian, Australia  by Rebecca Urban John Ferguson

04 Nov 2017
Tags: Government Funding

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