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Ross Fox attacks government on Funding Model for ACT Catholic Schools

Posted on 5 February 2018
Ross Fox attacks government on Funding Model for ACT Catholic Schools

Gonski 2.0 will force Catholic parents to pay even more.

Trevor Cobbold neglects important facts about the reality of funding for Catholic and independent schools in the ACT and across Australia (Canberra Times, January 30).

Claims that Catholic schools are "overfunded" don't reconcile with the facts.

In the ACT Catholic system schools receive more than a thirdless government funding per student - 35 per cent less - than government schools. How can 35 per cent less be "overfunding"?

The 35 per cent lower government funding per student is the biggest funding differential in any state or territory in Australia.

According to the Minister for Education this funding chasm is a "special deal" for parents in Catholic schools in the ACT.

Cobbold, together with the Minister for Education and the Turnbull government, want to drive funding lower, fees for parents higher and open the funding chasm even wider.

To bridge part of the funding chasm parents contribute about 20 per cent of the cost of education in a Catholic school. Even with this substantial contribution from parents Catholic schools operate with lower funding per student than government schools - about 16 per cent lower funding in total.

Parents with children in a Catholic and independent school in the ACT are already making a substantial contribution to their child's school. More than 20 per cent of the cost. The Turnbull government's school policy Gonski 2.0 - will force the parents of the 50 per cent of ACT children in Catholic and independent schools to pay even more.

If families can still afford a Catholic or independent school education the required fee hikes will significantly eat into household budgets.

How can a model be truly needsbased if the government ignores real need? Low-income families in the ACT are further disadvantaged by the Gonski 2.0 so-called needs-based model, which neglects the salt and pepper approach to community design.

ABS data shows almost 40 per cent of families in the ACT have below-average incomes. But using SES scores derived for the ACT the same approach used to determine school SES ratings - the picture is starkly different, showing only 11 per cent of families in the ACT are low-income. In effect, the Gonski 2.0 approach vaporises the reality about low income families in need. Catholic system schools, which enroll many low-income families, don't have these enrolments recognised when their funding need is estimated.

The push to make parents pay more for school education is a historic about-face for the Liberal government. One reason nongovernment schools are represented in such numbers in the ACT is the deliberate policy of Sir Robert Menzies to provide capital grants to non-government schools. Menzies foresight ensured there were schools to educate the children of newly arrived public servants something the government could not easily achieve on its own. One result was the education of these children occurred at much less cost to an already strained government budget.

If - as proposed by government funding is massively cut, fees must increase by the same level to compensate, or low-fee Catholic system schools will become unviable. The Turnbull government funding model expects parents at Catholic and independent schools to pay more.

An extra $4000 per primary school student and $6800 per secondary school student per year in some cases. The Turnbull government has a policy that provides free government schools for all families, even the most advantaged. Is this needs-based?

For generations Catholic system schools have provided a modest, low-fee, holistic education founded in Catholic values and tradition in parish primary schools and regional secondary schools across many Australian communities.

This system of schools are overall efficient and meeting the needs of many families. They welcome students from all faiths and none.

In the ACT Catholic schools educate more than 13,000 children. The flawed Turnbull government school funding policy portrays these families as advantaged and will force fee hikes on these families despite statements from the minister that no fee increases would result.

The government has commissioned a review of an important part of funding for Catholic and independent schools.

What is at stake in the government's latest review is an affordable Catholic and independent school option. This review may make it impossible to provide a modest Catholic or independent school charging modest fees and providing modest facilities, an alternative to local public schools. Funding cuts and fee hikes could make this offering unsustainable, remove the choice from parents and increase the cost of education to governments.

Parents may well ask, what for?

Ross Fox is director of Catholic Education Canberra Goulburn These schools welcome students from all faiths and none.

From:

Canberra Times, Canberra  by Ross Fox
02 Feb 2018

Tags: Government Funding

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