Catholic Education South Australia (CESA) has warned that the Turnbull Government’s new education funding model threatens the sector’s ability to ensure that all families can access a Catholic school.
CESA acting director Bruno Vieceli said the plan titled ‘Quality Schools’ was an attempt to introduce a funding model based on need, but said the methodology used to calculate what individual schools would receive was “distorting the funding picture”.
The proposed changes have met strong opposition from the National Catholic Education Commission, the Catholic Secondary Principals Australia and the Australian Catholic Primary Principals Association, as well as the Federal Opposition.
While the Government had promised a guaranteed increase in SA Catholic school funding through indexation of 8.86 per cent for the next three years, Mr Vieceli said the reality was that SA was operating from a “very low funding base”.
“We simply need a funding methodology that is fair and based on need,” he said.
“The government has moved from a funding model based on a system weighted average SES (social economic status) to a new calculation based on individual school SES. We are still trying to unpack the detail of this new funding model and what it really means for individual schools.
“The move away from the system weighted average model potentially threatens our capacity as a system of Catholic schools to redirect funding internally to ensure that all families can access a Catholic education regardless of their economic circumstance and that the different needs of students can be met.”
Mr Vieceli said CESA was also concerned with the way the ‘capacity to contribute’ had been calculated, particularly in relation to primary schools and the number of Catholic school parents who could afford to pay.
He flagged the possible adverse effect on students with disability due to changes to the way the funding is calculated for this purpose. “Inclusion is core to our mission,” he said.
The Government has developed a funding calculator detailing the impact of the reforms on individual schools, but Mr Vieceli said this gave schools “unrealistic expectations of future funding” and he looked forward to the opportunity to meet with the Government to bring about a fairer process.
CESA is preparing an information kit for schools and will continue to work with the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) to address how the proposed changes impact Catholic schools across Australia.
Since the announcement of the Quality Schools reforms, the NCEC has been vocal in its criticism over lack of consultation and the impact on Catholic schools, claiming many will be forced to increase fees.
“There has not been a clear rationale provided for why that system has to change,” said NCEC acting executive director Danielle Cronin.
“This principle has evolved over many years and exemplifies how Catholic education has been a long-term proponent and deliverer of needs-based school funding.”
Education Minister Simon Birmingham (pictured), who visited Nazareth Catholic College last month to promote the plan, said it ensured every school was supported based on its need regardless of background, sector or faith while ensuring that investment was tied to initiatives in schools proven to boost outcomes.
“We are delivering on what David Gonski and his expert panel recommended,” he said.
“Australian schools will get an additional $18.6 billion that is distributed according to need and tied to real reforms in schools which are proven to boost student results.
“Our plan will see all schools reach a consistent share of funding within a decade, unlike the 150 years of inequity that current arrangements would entail.”