Education funding changes announced

Concerns about Catholic school fee hikes and potential closures have been addressed by the Federal Government’s new plan.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Education Minister Dan Tehan today announced the Federal Government’s changes to education funding to provide parents with affordable independent and Catholic schooling options.

The government committed a total of $4.5 billion to independent and Catholic schools in a plan to be phased in over 10 years, and to changing the method for calculating how non-state schools will be funded.

The use of parental income tax records for a fairer assessment of the socio-economic status of schools would be introduced based on a recommendation by the National School Resourcing Board.

The plan includes $1.2 billion in a fund to provide extra support for non-government schools that require it such those as in rural and remote areas, drought-affected areas and under-performing schools, Mr Morrison said.

In his announcement, the Prime Minister said the changes were about ensuring parents had a choice in the education of their children, and teachers certainty of funding.

He acknowledged the co-operation of the National Commission for Catholic Education and the Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher OP in seeking a fairer funding model for schools.

“I am pleased we have been able to come to an arrangement to deal with the issues in education funding that have been a concern to the independent sector and the National Catholic Education Commission,” he said.

“I particularly want to welcome the offer from the National Catholic Education Commission and Archbishop Anthony Fisher to be doing everything they can to provide relief to students from families in drought-affected areas, which has been a key part of our discussions.”

Mr Tehan also thanked the Catholic and independent sectors for their “very good faith” during negotiations with the Federal Government.

“They’ve conducted themselves thoroughly decently.

“What they provide for families and communities throughout Australia is incredibly important,” he said.

Archbishop Fisher, who chairs the Bishops Commission for Catholic Education, welcomed the announcement as “an important step in achieving a more equitable outcome for all students and families”.

“Every child needs a quality education and there is a need for every parent to have a real choice in education, including the option of a faith-based school,” he said.

“The previous funding arrangements put in jeopardy the future of low-fee, low-expenditure faith based schools.

“I’m pleased the Government has affirmed the importance of choice in education.”

Archbishop Fisher said that central to the Government’s package is a fundamental review of the current funding model in order to address the long-term needs of Catholic schools and communities.

“I congratulate the new Minister on his constructive approach to bringing some certainty to future funding arrangements,” he said.

Acting executive director of the National Catholic Education Commission Director Ray Collins said that the new package has his full support and added that the changes will have no impact on funding levels for government schools, as they only affect funding support for non-government schools.

“The 2017 model created unintended consequences that threatened the future of low-fee, faith-based schools in remote and higher SES areas,” Mr Collins said.

“Families can only have school choice if there is an affordable alternative to free, comprehensive government schools. If the only option is a high-fee school, choice is restricted to those parents rich enough to afford high fees.

“We commend the new Education Minister Dan Tehan for recognising that the 2017 changes had jeopardised the future of low-fee, low-expenditure schools in areas where they’ve served families for generations.”

Catholic Schools NSW also welcomed the new education package.

Chief executive officer Dallas McInerney said that Mr Tehan “deserves credit for recognising that the changes made to school funding last year threatened the future of low-fee non-government schools in some parts of the state”.

Mr McInerney said that some technical aspects of the school funding model would still need to resolved but that today’s changes meant substantial fee increases will now be avoided at Catholic primary schools in suburbs such as Castle Hill, Coogee, Oatley, Manly and Leichhardt.

The Council of Catholic School Parents executive director Linda McNeil said the announcement “goes a long way to reassuring parents of the Government’s commitment to supporting parental choice and diversity in the schooling system”.

“CCSP thanks the Federal Education Minister, Dan Tehan, for demonstrating his commitment to choice in education and for valuing the important role that Catholic education plays in all communities,” she said.

Mr Morrison said the government remained committed to state schools.

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