Above: Fees at Emmaus College in Vermont South will rise 7.5 per cent next year, upsetting Cameron and Catherine McAlpine and their three sons, Leigh, Julian and Aaron. Photo: Eddie Jim
Catholic school parents in Victoria have been hit with large tuition fee rises after their schools were stripped of hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding.
Emmaus College in Vermont South has been forced to increase fees by 7.5 per cent next year, leaving parents scrambling to find an extra $500 for each childOther Victorian Catholic schools that have hiked next year's fees above normal increases include De La Salle (7.5 per cent), Star of the Sea (4.9 per cent) and Santa Maria College in Northcote (6 per cent).
The Catholic Education Commission of Victoria is blaming the situation on the federal government's Gonski 2.0 school funding model, but some parents at Emmaus College are not convinced.Catherine McAlpine, who sits on the school's finance committee, said the commission had failed to explain why it had cut money from the school when overall federal funding to the Catholic sector was increasing next year.
"It seems like the Catholic Education Commission is picking winners and losers in a unequitable way," she said."There's a total lack of transparency."
Mrs McAlpine, whose three sons attend Emmaus, said parents had only been given two months' notice about the fee increases. "You do have to think of it over Christmas and when you do your budgeting," she said.Funding for the school, which is considered to be of medium socioeconomic advantage, will drop by $600,000 next year.
A leaked email from school board chair and parent Paul Allen to federal government MP Julia Banks said the commission had inflicted fee increases in a manner that was " misleading and void of transparency".Federal education minister Simon Birmingham said he was "just as confused" about the fee increases.
He said the commission was set to receive an extra $93 million from the Turnbull government next year, and an additional $1.1 billion over the next decade. He said this funding increase was above wages and inflation growth."Between the Turnbull government's record funding and the increased fees, it begs the question, 'where is all that money going?' " Mr Birmingham said.
He said the commission appeared to be jumping the gun on a review of socioeconomic scores that determine funding.Emmaus principal Antony Hirst said Gonski 2.0 would adversely affect his school's funding.
The commission receives funding from the federal government in a lump sum and then distributes it to its Catholic schools.Catholic Education Commission of Victoria executive director Stephen Elder said the Catholic system had been forced to change the way it allocates funds due to the Turnbull government's new model.
"This means many Catholic schools will experience large cuts in funding from 2018," he said.He said that 180 schools would be affected next year. He said the commission was one of the most transparent school systems, and this was recognised in a recent audit by the Australian National Audit Office.
In a letter to parents last month, Star of the Sea board chairperson Kathleen Donnellon said the college would be "significantly impacted" by a reduction in federal funding."The college continues to work hard to absorb ever-increasing costs and identify saving in the maintenance and delivery of a high-quality education," she said.
Catholic School Parents Victoria executive officer Rachel Saliba said some parents would struggle to afford the fee increases.
"Catholic school parents are now experiencing the full impact of school fee increases due to federal government policy that was rushed through with no consultation or consideration of the impact on families of children in Catholic schools," she said.
By Henrietta Cook, The Age, Dec 13, 2017
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