Commission identifies $1.1bn gap in Catholic school funding

Commission executive director Christian Zahra

The National Catholic Education Commission is pushing for an extra $1.1 billion in funding over the next decade to correct what it argues is a major flaw in the government’s legislated school funding reforms, The Australian reports.

Commission executive director Christian Zahra has urged the government to make urgent changes to fix what he says is a major inequity between the treatment of Catholic and independent schools.

Mr Zahra argues that Catholic schools deemed to be overfunded will experience steep and immediate cuts when compared with independent schools deemed to be overfunded.

Under the reforms, schools will be moved to a funding benchmark known as the schooling resource standard (SRS). This reflects an estimate of how much total public funding a school should have to best meet the educational needs of its students. Non-government schools are to have 80 per cent of their SRS met by the federal government by 2027.

“Almost 500 Catholic systemic schools will see their funding cut drastically on January 1, 2018 — by 50 per cent or more in some cases,” Mr Zahra said. “If they were independent schools, funding decreases would happen gradually, over a 10-year period.”

Mr Zahra used a Catholic school in western Sydney to illustrate his point, arguing the school would have received $20 million more over the decade if it was treated similarly to an independent school.

“That vastly different treatment isn’t fair. It isn’t equitable,” he said. “Catholic schools considered to be above the SRS — by being treated as part of a system — will have current commonwealth funding levels cut immediately from the beginning of next year.”

“If schools were treated as individual schools transitioning like stand-alone non-government schools, they would collectively receive an extra $1.1bn over the next decade.”

The government is sceptical of Mr Zahra’s $1.1bn figure, noting that under its funding shake-up the Catholic sector will receive an extra $3.4bn over the decade. The government also says it is up to the Catholic Education Commissions in each state and territory to decide how best to carve-up the extra money.

FULL STORY

Catholics want $1bn to fill gap in education funding (The Australian)

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