DR MICHAEL SLATTERY: Funding of Catholic schools

It is imperative that the Catholic education sector be engaged with the National Government and Mr Birmingham in the decision making process around the Gonski 2.0 Funding Package.

Mr Turnbull and Mr Birmingham need to listen to the voice of catholic parents and educators in Australia to determine an affordable alternative to government schools, particularly those in low fee paying regions of the nation.

Catholic schools exist to provide a stimulating and affordable learning choice that links faith and culture for Australian families.  Mr Turnbull and his ministers must determine a funding model that ensures access to low fee paying schooling in all of its communities. The current SES model is completely unreliable in determining capacity to pay school fess.

The Commonwealth Government under Mr Turnbull must recognise that 2.5% indexation will not keep abreast of rising costs in teacher salaries (3% ), nor costs such as school maintenance, technology updates, insurance and utilities. The National Cabinet need to commit to a fairer and more appropriate indexation model which reflects the reality of rising costs in Australia.

For about 200 years Catholic schooling has been provided in Australia out of a sense of mission, and from a desire to make a faith-based education as accessible and affordable as possible to the community, that is not for profit.

Our school system distributes funds across schools to meet the special, individual needs of each school community – including funding for VET students, additional support for new or small schools, refugee and new arrival and other disadvantaged students, and professional development for teachers and school leaders. The Maitland Newcastle catholic system of schools smooths out the costs across the system, thus minimising fees.

The Turnbull Government proposes to focus on individual schools. Funding will be based on school socioeconomic status scores, which paint broad-brush pictures about the ability of parents to afford fees and do not reflect the true circumstances of local communities. This is despite the Gonski Review’s call for these scores to be replaced as soon as possible.

The Turnbull government basically threw up its hands in the last funding round and found the Schooling resource Standard and Socio economic methodology too hard to fix.

This time Mr Turnbull and Mr Birmingham have the opportunity to listen to the advice of Catholic educators and catholic parents, to ensure the funding distribution is fair and equitable to all Australians, including low fee paying Catholic families.

Under the current funding model a single income family with four children renting a house is deemed to have the same ability to pay fees as a two income family with one child that owns the house next door. How can this be considered fair and equitable.

Australians deserve a fair go. 

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Dr Michael Slattery Image
Dr Michael Slattery

Dr Michael Slattery is the Director of Catholic Schools, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.