PARENTS of a child with dyslexia want the prospect of extra funding for Catholic schools to go towards learning support for their son and others like him rather than lowering fees.
Matthew and Eloise Campbell said they had paid thousands of dollars into specialist treatment for their nine-year-old son with dyslexia attending St Joachim’s primary school, Holland Park, because the disability was unverified for funding in Queensland.
“For two years we have been scrambling for him to get to reading age,” Mrs Campbell said.
“To get Patrick to reading age has cost us thousands of dollars, but it is where we want to spent our money because we have decided it was a priority.”
Children with dyslexia as their only impairment are not eligible for individual student funding allocations to schools, whether government or non-government.
“It was fascinating that our son has a learning disability, but because he has no behavioural issues he can’t receive funding,” Mrs Campbell said.
She said she “felt the blow” when one of their other children with a hearing difficultly could receive funding.
Her son with a hearing impairment is in a 30-minute intensive program every day and was responding at a much faster rate because of individualised funded support.
Mr Campbell, who is the Brisbane archdiocesan Parents’ and Friends’ Association chair, said while Catholic schools were well-resourced, there was an “obvious” funding gap between Catholic and state schools.
Despite the lack of funding for individual children with dyslexia, St Joachim’s does offer awareness and support programs funded by the school’s budget.
Principal Christine Ioannides said the school’s budget allowed for school-based reading programs, such as Messy, ELF and PAL, and extra staff “to support children with special needs”.
“We support children with special needs from money within the general school budget,” she said.
“Our programs are all available for children like Patrick, who have no verified funding.”
Ms Ioannides said the school would support any funding from the Federal Government to subsidise the cost of extra support for children with dyslexia.
But funding certainty for Catholic schools has not been confirmed following the recent Council of Australian Governments meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Funding reforms to help manage state schools included a proposal to allow state governments to levy a portion of income tax that was withdrawn at the meeting.
However the governments had agreed to consider income tax sharing and were open to considering state tax reforms.
Mr Turnbull mentioned to media discussions about school funding would not be concluded until early next year.
The National Catholic Education Commission executive director Ross Fox (pictured) said the proposal for governments to share income tax could provide “a potential source of funding” particularly to government schools.
Mr Fox said Catholic school costs rose “twice the rate of the consumer price index”.
“Indexing school funding at CPI is likely, over time, to lead to thousands of dollars less in government funding to support each child’s learning – with parents left to pay the difference in Catholic schools,” he said.
But, for the Campbells, who are putting four of their five children through Catholic schools, the prospect of increasing school fees is less of a concern than the lack of learning support funding for their son with dyslexia.
“If there were any extra funding from the Australian Government, rather than use it to offset fees, it would be better to improve the quality of education for those with learning disabilities,” Mr Campbell said.
Improving education for children with learning disabilities would be an extension of “the mission of the Catholic system” in heralding the importance of social justice, he said.
“There is an opportunity for Catholics schools to build better quality of life in the areas of specialisation and funding education gaps which otherwise wouldn’t be part of the normal funding,” Mr Campbell said.
A Brisbane Catholic Education spokesman said all Catholic schools in the archdiocese had allocated funds for extra learning support to be used at the principals’ discretion.