The following article was published by Stephen Elder, Director of CECV on 9 March 2018:
Funding for the future
Catholic education's battle for fair funding has received a major boost this week with a formal commitment from the Australian Labor Party to offer Catholic schools more than $250 million in additional funds in its first two years of office, should a Labor government be elected, and further billions of dollars over a decade.
In a letter to the chair of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten pledged Labor would stand 'shoulder to shoulder' with the Catholic school system.
'When it comes to school funding, my party stands shoulder to shoulder with the Church,' Mr Shorten said in his letter. 'We are committed to funding all schools based on a proper assessment of their need, while also supporting parental choice.
'Based on the information we have from the Parliamentary Budget Office and the National Catholic Education Commission, our current calculations confirm Catholic schools would be more than $250 million better off in our first two years of government alone, and billions of dollars better off over the decade as we restore the whole of the $17bn cut by the Turnbull Government from schools.'
The letter puts the issue of fair funding for education front and centre in the lead-up to the next election which some observers believe could be held as early as this coming spring with major policy differences between the Government and the Opposition.
Federal funding for Catholic schools has been bipartisan policy in this nation for half a century. Malcolm Turnbull and Simon Birmingham have undermined this bipartisanship and trashed one of the greatest legacies of their party's founder, Sir Robert Menzies.
Their new arrangements have already cut the amount of funding attracted by over 600 Catholic schools nationally and some 180 here in Victoria between this year and 2017 and threatened to make low-fee, inclusive, non-government schools unviable in many parts of Australia.
Secret Education Department modelling leaked during the Gonski debate last year showed the Turnbull/Birmingham package will leave Catholic schools $4.6 billion worse off over a decade.
As you are more than aware, Catholic schools operate from a sense of mission, not to make a profit, and seek to provide a quality, low-fee, open and inclusive faith- and values-based education to all who want one.
In Mr Shorten's letter, Labor has not only re-committed to ensuring the type of education parents chose for their children is supported by government, but acknowledged the importance of the future survival of low-fee, inclusive non-government school systems in Australia.
Labor has recognised that Catholic education has legitimate concerns over the fairness of the Turnbull Government's funding arrangements with Mr Shorten's statements that his party is 'concerned about the impact of the existing SES score methodology on Catholic parish primary schools' and that Labor supports 'the Catholic education sector in advocating for alternative arrangements to better support these schools'.
The Opposition Leader's further remark, 'in government, we will implement changes to the role of "capacity to contribute" in school funding, including the SES scoring methodology' along with his pledge to work with Catholic education 'to respond to the findings of the SES review currently underway' again acknowledges our deep concerns about both the policy and the process followed by Prime Minister Turnbull and Senator Birmingham.
I am awaiting the Government's detailed response with great interest.