School funding concerns for Catholic education

Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 19-May-2017

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By Paul Desmond
Director of Catholic Education Sandhurst 

It is with genuine concern that I write regarding some recent reporting in the media on the topic of the recently announced new funding arrangements for schools. 

Some of the reporting has been biased and very divisive. 

At the heart of the media reports has been evidence provided to the public via the Australian government’s school funding estimator. 

This online resource has been a shambles for the government since its release.

The government has provided all schools with an estimate of their school funding in 2017, yet the very day the estimator went live we understand schools were being contacted by the government to tell them that their estimates are wrong.

The Catholic Education Commission of Victoria’s analysis of the government’s own data would suggest that it has assumed that its proposed funding parameters from the Quality Schools package would currently apply.

However, 2017 funding for schools should be calculated based on the existing funding model. 

The funding arrangements in Quality Schools, if they become law, will only begin to apply from next year.

As the estimates of 2017 funding are wrong, the Australian Government is acknowledging that it has inadvertently misled schools, and the Australian public, on the funding increases schools might expect under the new school funding model from 2017 to 2018.

The differences between those dollar amounts quoted on the funding calculator website and the funding schools are expecting varies significantly.

The CECV believes Catholic schools in Victoria would lose a total of $16 million in 2017 if the proposed model applied. 

This confirms the CECVs suspicions that the Commonwealth Government plans to cut funding to the Catholic sector.

At this point in time the final implications of the Australian government’s plans are unclear. 

It has been our hope that media reporting on the matter would be done with clarity and transparency and the provision of comprehensive information so that properly informed debate can take place. 

Sadly, in several instances, this has not been the case. Inaccuracies and selective examples have been evident.

Several newspaper articles have only reported on Australian government funding of local schools, the contribution of the respective state governments to these schools was totally overlooked. 

A quick study of the MySchool website (www.myschool.edu.au) paints a completely different picture. 

In the same articles, no mention is made of the fact that three new Enterprise Bargaining Agreements covering the salaries of schools will be negotiated in the 10-year period of Minister Birmingham’s plan. 

Each will require funds to cover the increased costs of running schools.

Whether you agree with non-government schooling or not, the simple, unavoidable fact is that almost 34 per cent of Australian students are enrolled in non-government schools. 

Across Victoria, close to one quarter of all students attend Catholic schools – hence our concern.

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