As the implications of the Federal Government’s proposed schools funding model were laid bare at forums held by the Archdiocese of Sydney across 17 electorates, Sydney catholic school parents attended in force.
About 300 people attended each of the 14 parent forums, held at Sydney catholic schools in Sydney’s south, inner west and eastern regions to discuss the impact of the ‘Gonski 2.0’ proposed funding model. At each, parents raised concerns that school fees would increase leaving education at a low-fee Catholic school financially out of reach. More than 14,200 parents have since signed an online petition calling on the federal government to reconsider their funding model.
Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools Dr Dan White said the proposed 3.56 per cent indexation rate would not equate to any additional funds for the system’s 152 schools over the next 10 years as this was barely enough to cover increasing education costs and teachers’ wages, which increase at 2.5 per cent each year.
He said while parents and schools welcomed the government’s assurances that the Catholic sector could continue to work as a system which supports the needs of its individual school communities, they needed to see these worded into the legislation.
“By the prudent management of education funds from both parents and the government, Catholic schools are saving the State Government the cost of building about 20 per cent of the 7,200 classrooms Sydney needs over the next 15 years,” Dr White said.
“Parents at the forums were reassured that if Catholic schools could continue to work as a low-fee system, without restrictions to the manner in which they currently share resources, then catastrophic fee increases could be avoided.
“The wording of the actual legislation with respect to needs-based funding for the next 10 years, and misleading information from the School Funding Estimator on how schools will be funded, continues to cause real concern.”
Sydney Catholic Schools is on record as supportive of a needs-based funding model that provides additional support to students who most need it, regardless of whether they attend a government, independent or Catholic school.
In a follow-up letter to parents, Dr White said: “In this context, an increase in funding to disadvantaged state schools is both welcomed and supported. However, this should not be at the expense of low-fee Catholic schools.”
Data from the Sydney Catholic Schools Office clearly shows that 98 of our 152 schools will be worse off. – John Riordan, Principal
In a June letter to parents, Marist College Kogarah Principal John Riordan also noted the legislation does not allow Catholic education authorities allocate funds according to the needs and specific requirements of the schools in their respective school systems.
“The government claims that Catholic schools will be better off, yet data from the Sydney Catholic Schools Office clearly shows that 98 of our 152 schools will be worse off,” he said.
“The Government uses an outdated SES model to calculate the wealth of different parts of Sydney and therefore parents capacity to pay. To simply clump our families in certain suburbs with those who can afford the many thousands of dollars charged by elite private schools is simplistic at best. “There are very few of our young families, many with large mortgages, who can afford a massive increase in their school fees.”
Mr Riordan also urged parents to email their federal MP or sign the petition. “To ensure our system of schools can continue to offer affordable, quality catholic education into the future, the government must come to the negotiating table. The more emails our elected representatives receive condemning this funding model the more chance they will enter meaningful discussion.”
Find the petition at ceosyd.catholic.edu.au, or join the conversation: #gonski2.0fairdeal
Catholic school funding – the numbers
20% The approximate number of Australian school students who attend Catholic schools.
$2300 The approximate amount, per student, the government saves through students attending a low-fee Catholic school.
80% of funds Catholic schools operate on is contributed by government.
As a system, Sydney Catholic Schools support the education of students from diverse backgrounds including:
49,000 from language backgrounds other than English
1,200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
404 recently enrolled refugee students with minimal English language skills
4,500 students with special needs
3,900 bursary recipients