National Catholic Education executive director Jacinta Collins yesterday addressed the Senate select committee hearing on the cost of living, highlighting how Catholic school communities are offering relief for families.
Ms Collins said there are specific challenges for Catholic and other non-government school families who are expected to make a contribution to their children’s education, with families in public schools asked to only make a voluntary contribution.
“Our families are expected to make a contribution towards their children’s education which is income-tested through the Capacity to Contribute measure,” Ms Collins said. “This means non-government schools only receive a portion of the Schooling Resource Standard.
“For Catholic schools, government funding made up 74 per cent of educational costs with around $4 billion in after-tax dollars from parent contributions.
“Catholic school families also contribute nearly 90 per cent of the costs required to support school buildings and other capital works in Catholic schools or around $2 billion.”
With increasing cost-of-living pressures, Ms Collins said Catholic schools and systems are taking a range of measures to relieve the burden on families, with many being long-standing arrangements.
“To combat the financial burden on families, we have a range of measures including sibling discounts, automatic fee reductions for Health Care Card holders, fee relief for financial hardship, scholarships and bursaries,” Ms Collins said.
“While these measures help to relieve some pressure on families, it is carried by the school community, which goes unrecognised in assessments of government funding.”
Other concerns raised to the Senate select committee included the need to maintain appropriate indexation on school funding and taking a sector-neutral approach to funding and support for programs addressing the national teacher shortage crisis and disadvantaged communities.
“Recently the Productivity Commission canvased the removal of the deductible gift recipient (DGR) status for faith-based schools which would have a dire effect on the ability of our school communities to raise funds for school infrastructure,” Ms Collins said.
“This would further impact on the educational opportunities of families who seek a Catholic education in their local area, as well as create increased challenges for Catholic schools to maintain and renew aging infrastructure or facilities to provide a contemporary and fit-for-purpose learning environment for our students.”