CATHOLIC school executives and principals are privately expressing frustration at the Federal Government’s new funding model, because they are unable to accurately plan school finances.
Parents too are approaching Catholic schools concerned that fees could rise under the funding shake-up – known as Gonski 2.0 – even though the budget promise is that it will deliver an $18.2 billion boost to schools during the next decade.
The new funding model has been heavily criticised by Catholic system administrators across Australia since Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Education Minister Simon Birmingham unveiled it on May 2.
“It’s the confusion about what the funding will actually be through the Catholic system,” Federation of Parents and Friends Queensland executive director Carmel Nash said.
“I don’t think there’s panic. My advice to parents would be talk to your school.”
Brisbane’s Iona College tapped in to the prevailing mood by tweeting “Keep Iona affordable @TurnbullMalcolm. Government’s #schoolfunding announcement means Iona unable to plan finance for 2018”.
Senator Birmingham held a closed-door meeting with principals in Brisbane on May 15.
He also spoke to Mrs Nash who raised the funding issue and the difficulty of the Government’s publicly released “estimator tool” which provided a school-by-school breakdown of Commonwealth funding over the next 10 years.
Catholic education bodies have already criticised the minister for sending letters to school principals with funding estimates that contained numerical errors, and they have told principals not to rely on the estimator tool.
Mrs Nash reiterated the confusion caused to schools “because the figures are not what our schools in Queensland are receiving”.
“The conversation was mainly about that and our (Catholic) system weighted average (SES) funding,” she said.
Gonski 2.0 will replace the Catholic schools’ SES funding with “needs-based” funding.
Catholic schools will receive an assured 3.7 per cent funding increase from 2018 for three years. They will then receive a base three per cent increase, indexed to account for wage growth and CPI.
However Catholic schools executives across Australia argue the new funding model will re-shape existing Catholic systems and could trigger fee increases.
Queensland Catholic Education Commission executive director Lee-Anne Perry (pictured) said: “Catholic schools in Queensland will be the losers from the Government’s decision to abandon the system average as a basis for calculating funding”.
“Funding for the Catholic sector will grow, but at a slower rate than in other sectors,” she said.
The Bishops’ Commission for Catholic Education also expressed concern “at some elements“ of the model – namely the decision to abandon SES.
“We are not asking for any ‘special deals’,” the commission said.
“Rather, we are asking for an approach to funding that acknowledges the importance of the Catholic sector as the largest non-government provider of education in this country, that ensures the viability and rightful autonomy of the Catholic sector and that does not disadvantage Catholic schools and the families who choose Catholic schools over the 10-year period of the Government’s funding model.”
Mrs Nash said she was confident of the long-term viability of Catholic schools, despite the uncertainties.
“It’s that well-rounded holistic education that kids get, based on our faith education,” she said.