The Catholic education sector has come out swinging at Federal Government plans to overhaul education funding, saying they strike at the heart of how Catholic education authorities spread funding to their schools in disadvantaged communities.
Danielle Cronin, acting Executive Director of the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC), said the Catholic schools sector had been unfairly singled out in the Government’s recent announcement of a major review into school funding.
She also slammed the Government for an “unprecedented” and worrying lack of consultation with the Catholic education sector – the second largest provider of school education in the country.
“The Federal Government is forcing Catholic schools to abandon a (funding) mechanism that ensures resources are distributed fairly and according to need among schools that belong to a single Catholic schools authority,” Ms Cronin told media.
“It (also) appears that a majority of the 24 schools targeted by (Education Minister Simon Birmingham) for a cut in funding are independent Catholic schools.”
Dubbed ‘Gonski 2.0,’ the review will be led by Australian businessman David Gonski, who also led the last major review into education funding, which was commissioned by the Gillard Government in 2010.
Announcing the review on 2 May, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his government would increase Federal funding from $17.5 billion in 2017 to $30.6 billion in 2027, and wanted to implement a new, needs-based funding model within a decade.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham said that the resulting funding model would be “sector-blind” and would result in funding cuts for private schools.
Ms Cronin said that the current System Weighted Average mechanism, which enables Catholic schools authorities to spread resources across diverse school communities, was “integral to the efficient and equitable functioning of the Catholic education system”.
“It provides the mechanism through which the Catholic sector supports centrally its 1731 schools and meets locally identified need.
“Fundamentally, Catholic education believes a similar system approach to funding exists for all government school systems and is equally justifiable for Catholic school systems.”
Ms Cronin said Catholic education was also deeply concerned by the Government’s lack of consultation and the lack of detail in their 2 May announcement.
“It is unprecedented for a federal government to announce a 10 year school funding plan without consulting the second largest provider of school education in the country.
“We are concerned that Catholic schools in some states and territories may be forced to raise fees as a result of this Government’s funding changes.
“Today’s announcement has only created immediate uncertainty for principals, teachers and parents, who need to make decisions now about schooling next year.
“We urge the Prime Minister to enter into meaningful negotiations with the Catholic sector.”