Funds boost to aid poorer Catholic schools
The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, and the Prime Minister, John Howard, join students of Casimir College, Marrickville, after Sunday’s momentous announcement about Federal funding for Catholic schools. Pictured are college captain Dianna Haggerty and, from left, Anthony Fenlon, Leo Andrews and Peter Cao
The cardinal described the package announced by the Prime Minister, John Howard, as “great news for Catholic schools in Australia and for the Catholic community”.
“It is particularly good news for parents of children in Catholic schools who make considerable sacrifices to ensure their children can have a Catholic education,” he said.
“The extra funding the Government has provided is targeted at the poorest Catholic schools.”
The funding package means the Australian Government will provide $12.5 billion for the nation’s 1610 Catholic systemic schools from 2005 to 2008.
Mr Howard announced the funding deal on Sunday at a press conference at Casimir College, Marrickville.
Also present was the Federal Minister for Education, Dr Brendan Nelson.
Mr Howard said the package, under a new agreement concluded with the Catholic Education Commission, represents a $3 billion or 37 per cent increase on the amount schools will receive during the current quadrennium.
“Importantly, it is $362 million more than they would have received in the new quadrennium if current funding arrangements continued,” Mr Howard said.
Catholic systemic schools have decided to join the Government’s socio-economic status funding model introduced in 2001 as the basis for funding the 1024 independent schools outside the Catholic system.
Funding contributions under this model are determined according to socio-economic status for the communities that the schools service.
Schools that serve the neediest communities attract the most money, while schools that serve the wealthiest attract the least.
At present, Catholic schools systems receive a deemed rate of funding from the Australian Government of 56.2 per cent of the cost of educating a child in government schools.
Under the new model, schools that would attract less money by being funded on the basis of their socio-economic status will have their funding maintained at their current level in real terms.
Cardinal Pell said he deeply appreciates the support of the major political parties for funding non-government schools.
“The primary responsibility for educating children lies with parents,” he said.
“Governments recognise this by supporting the right of parents to choose how their children are educated and by recognising that parents are entitled to this support by virtue of the taxes they pay.
“At the same time, the important financial contribution parents make to the funding of Catholic schools reflect the fact that we do not expect a free ride.”
Cardinal Pell said Catholic parents in NSW alone pay more than $300 million in school fees and building levies and also service loans of more than $360 million on school buildings.
Mr Howard said the Government strongly supports choice for parents in school education – a right to determine the type of education that will shape the upbringing of their children, subject of course to the proper curricula that apply to all of our children.
He also praised the role of the Church in education.
“The Catholic Church has made, and continues to make, an invaluable contribution to the education of many young Australians, consistent with the values that their parents hold dear,” he said.
He reminded “regular critics” of Federal assistance to non-government schools that “although only 68 per cent of Australian children attend government schools, those schools receive 76 per cent of all government funding for schools”.