A Catholic response to school funding fallacies

36 Comments

 

I'm closing in on my first anniversary in Catholic education, and I've learned many things. Moving from a sector driven by profit (banking) to one driven by purpose has been an unexpected delight in the transition. Colleagues and professionals motivated to improve the lives of those around them.

Students and teacher at Loyola Senior High School, Mount DruittAnother lesson has been how public school advocates rely on the fallacy that government schools are full of children from poor families while any school that charges fees must be educating 'the rich' and should therefore receive no public funding.

Of course, government and low-fee Catholic schools in the same suburbs and regional areas serve families from similar socioeconomic communities. Both have quality schools with dedicated teachers doing their best to create Australia's next generation of citizens.

I've also learnt how very few people seem to understand the average cost of a school education in Australia is more than $13,000 per student per year. This is something many of these advocates need to recognise before expressing their disgust at last week's news that low-fee non-government schools will receive a modest increase in funding (about $600 per Catholic school student per year) under a new funding formula that more accurately estimates need. High-fee schools educating students from high-income families are set to lose government funding.

Government and non-government schools all receive some public funding because most families could not afford to pay more than $13,000 a year to educate each of their children from kindergarten to year 10 or 12.

Government schools are fully funded by taxpayers. It doesn't matter if their students are from rich or poor families — whether you live in Mosman or Mt Druitt, if you send your child to a government school, the total cost is funded by taxpayers. You don't have to pay a cent. That's not the case with non-government schools.

All non-government schools (except some highly disadvantaged schools) must rely on fees because they only receive a portion of their funding from government, based on a means-test of the school's parents. Non-government schools educating children from wealthier areas attract less government funding than those from lower-income areas.

 

"It's so much easier to describe it as 'a special deal for the Catholic sector' despite the fact that all low-fee schools will benefit including Lutheran, Anglican, Seventh Day Adventist and Muslim schools."

 

For some time, however, the Catholic education sector was concerned that assessing parents' capacity to pay fees using geography was flawed because it was based on an average socioeconomic (SES) score for all families in a particular area. Those families below the average tended to send their children to low-fee non-government schools while those above the average often educated their children in high-fee schools. Yet both schools would attract the same government funding.

This concern was shared by the Grattan Institute, the Centre for Independent Studies and the original 2011 Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling, which — at Recommendation 20 — called for a new methodology that more accurately measured parents' income at each school to better target government funding.

A review of the SES-based methodology was finalised this year by the National School Resourcing Board and it vindicated what the Catholic sector had been telling governments for years — that the methodology delivered too much funding to high-fee schools while low-fee schools (including the vast majority of Catholic schools) were being short-changed. This was the reason for the new funding arrangements announced on 20 September by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Education Minister Dan Tehan.

Predictably, the media focused on the increased funding rather than the reason for the increase. It's so much easier to describe it as 'a special deal for the Catholic sector' despite the fact that all low-fee schools will benefit including Lutheran, Anglican, Seventh Day Adventist and Muslim schools. Our sector just happens to have the most non-government schools.

From 2020, there will be a new, more accurate formula to measure parents' ability to pay fees based on personal income tax data, rather than the neighbourhood you live in. As a result, schools serving students from high income families are going to lose government funding and those serving low and middle income families will receive a top-up. The reason for the overall increase in funding? There are hundreds more low-fee schools than high-fee schools.

Predictably, there were howls of outrage that this funding announcement contained nothing extra for government schools. That's because parents who send their children to government schools do not have their incomes means tested for funding purposes. All government schools will continue to be fully funded by taxpayers, irrespective of family wealth or advantage.

Some people charged into the media demanding 'equal treatment for all schools, public and private'. Do those people realise they are calling for government schools to be means-tested? Because that's what equal treatment would look like.

Those people should also be aware that government schools are better off than non-government schools because the former can raise private income without losing a dollar in government funding.

In NSW, some 2200 government schools raised $450 million in private income in 2016. Fifty of those schools raised almost $100 million between them, which they do not have to share with any other school (unlike Catholic systemic schools, who pool and redistribute their fees according to need).

The Catholic sector supports a strong, properly funded government school sector. It is the foundation of Australia's education system, educating two thirds of students including some 40 per cent of children from Catholic families.

Some argue that governments have no place funding non-government activities such as 'private' schools. Those people should be reminded that governments already fund private GPs and specialists (through Medicare), pharmacies (the PBS), aged care, child care and transport services.

Another perennial argument is that non-government schools deprive government schools of funding. Public funding for government schools has increased every year — at least in line with enrolments and indexation (sometimes more) — since government funding was extended to all school sectors. Some are now claiming that Australia is the third lowest spender on public schools in the OECD, when in fact we spend more than the OECD and EU averages.  

Catholic parents are also taxpayers. It is only fair that their taxes contribute to the education of their own children as well as those in government schools. These parents already pay $3 billion a year from their after-tax income to educate their children in a Catholic school and fund 90 per cent of our capital works. This represents a massive saving to the taxpayer.

If governments stopped supporting low-fee non-government schools, fees would rise to cover the gap. This would force many parents to move their children to the free government school in the same suburb — many of which are already at capacity — and the non-government school would become unviable and close. Families would be denied their school of choice, and the bill for taxpayers would be greater.

That would not be a good outcome for the community and is the reason both sides of politics support non-government schools in Australia.  

 

 

Dallas McInerneyDallas McInerney is the Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Schools NSW, which represents 595 Catholic schools and their 255,000 students.

 

 

Main image: Students and teacher at Loyola Senior High School, Mount Druitt.

Topic tags: Dallas McInerney, Catholic Schools, school funding

 

 

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Existing comments

Thanks Dallas, a much needed article. Can you tell us how much money in total Catholic parents spend each year on the education of their children. And taking all government state and federal, what do both government and Catholic sectors receive per student on average? I hope that is clear
Michael Gill | 27 September 2018


Dallas McInerney, I have read that "if" argument many times over the years. If Catholic schools closed, the government schools would be swamped, goes the argument. Here is an alternative "if". What if, when state governments first began to fund public schools, the Catholics had decided to attend them. At the time, in NSW at least, clergy were allowed to enter public schools for one hour a day to instruct children of their denomination in their faith. So, we would have had Catholic priests involved in public education from the start. "If" that had occurred, perhaps public education would not have become so determinedly a-religious as it has done. It used not to be so. When I was a child at public school we said prayers, read bible stories and generally acknowledged Christian festivals (in addition to military ones, the honouring of war being the other great religion in Australia. So, "if" we had not developed these separate systems of schooling, what would be the arrangements for school funding, and taxation to pay for it?
Janet | 27 September 2018


Thank you for this very clear and informative article, I feel in a better position now to assesss questions of funding in a non-partisan way.
Johanna Blows | 27 September 2018


Great article and well articulated. Maybe you could send this to the bishops and other clergy so they can tell their parishioners in a down to earth way. Then you could send it to the ABC in Melbourne to their morning show host who last week went on ridiculing the Catholic sector. Then maybe you could pass it on to the ABC political editor Andrew Probyn who has been so critical of everything the government does. And so on and so on. Then there is the funding issue. The Catholics Church in Melbourne is building more schools than the government at half the price and in half the time. That suggests the government, which has much more money, cannot account for its expenditure and practices. And who would want to send their child to a government school anyway when it teaches such rubbish as gender theory, ''safe'' schools, where there are no mums and dad's because they are all partners. I thought partnerships were a business thing, not a marriage. So thank goodness for Catholic schools.
PHIL ROWAN | 27 September 2018


Thank you for giving us the benefit of your one year’s experience in the Catholic schools sector. As someone with decades of experience in the public school sector - including as a teacher, a principal, a parent, and latterly as a school council president - I can inform you and your readers that the reason that there is such outrage in that sector is that many state schools are grossly impoverished and desperately in need of better resourcing. It’s simply wrong to write as you do that “if you send your child to a government school, the total cost is funded by taxpayers. You don’t have to pay a cent.” I’m shocked that you don’t know that all government schools charge fees. They have to because government grants don’t cover their operating costs. I know schools where children cannot participate in some activities because their families can’t afford the composite fees for certain activities, where senior secondary children choose cheap subjects because they can’t afford to buy the books and materials for some subjects, where they stay home sick on excursion days because they can’t afford the bus fare, where they buy second-hand uniforms, where the toilets are closed on a regular basis because there’s not enough funds for maintenance. I could go on. It’s galling to have you tell us that “government schools are better off than non-government schools because the former can raise private income from without losing a dollar in government funding.” Your argument is cute, but thoroughly unconvincing. Your Catholic systemic schools are obliged to “pool and redistribute their fees according to need”. Exactly! According to need. During your next year in your role with your Christian system, given that “The Catholic sector supports a strong, properly funded government school sector”, you might be able to make time to visit some of the government schools to do some fact checking.
Frank Golding | 27 September 2018


It is good to read the words forwarded by Dallas outlining his arguments for the recent decision of the federal government. I look forward to a counter argument in Eureka Street that questions some of his arguments. As someone who worked in Catholic Education for most of my teaching career I simply think it is a shame the education in Australia has come to this. Catholic education was set up to teach Catholic students about their faith in a government and community situation that favoured other Christian denominations above Catholics. That is no longer the case and now Catholic schools are more or less private schools. Then there is the rise of fundamentalist christian schools who receive government funding to argue their narrow agenda on the back of the original government decisions. Then there is the ecclesiastical leadership that, at best, is currently attempting to turn back the clock and take all Catholics back to the 50's. And, despite all of Dallas's arguments is receiving support from us tax payers to do this.
Tom Kingston | 27 September 2018


Goodness, there is an exemplary article for students of special pleading. Thank you to all Catholic and Independant schools for not overloading the local public school thereby making it able to operate at its highest level. You certainly deserve the special funding that is only available to you and not public schools.
Michael Walsh | 27 September 2018


Thank you Dallas. There is nothing as good as the provision of some hard data to kill sensationalist headlines. Your description of the need for changing the school funding model is also instructive and its support by Gonski and other independent bodies surely dismisses arguments about bias. Finally, the reasons why both sides of politics support funding to the private sector in education - that it is cheaper than fully funding every student attending a school in Australia - is poorly understood by the general public. So thank you once more.
Ern Azzopardi | 27 September 2018


I sympathise with the point made by Janet regarding an alternative "if" in the history of school funding in Australia. Regrettably we cannot rewrite history. Nor can we conduct a laboratory-like experiment to see what would happen if the federal government declared all education funding was a federal responsibility; that all schools would provide a well-rounded education from Kindergarten to Year 12: that all funding was student based, ie, that all schools would get a fixed amount for each individual student; if parents wanted to send their children to a school which charged higher fees, it was up to the school to explain why to the parents; if some students had special needs they would be assessed by a system similar to NDIS. However Mr McInerney is writing about an existential situation, not a hypothetical, for the most part. I would have like read his views on the part played by Australia's awkward Commonwealth/States shenanigans. If "the first casualty when war comes is truth", I'm inclined to believe that when it comes to education funding the first casualties are honesty, open-mindedness and a willingness to be tolerant.
Uncle Pat | 27 September 2018


Thank you for a most welcome article. Even though some things have changed since I retired some twenty five years ago, many things remain the same. They are not usually articulated in such a factual manner. I spent many years making pleas for funding education for deaf students and was across some of the details of the comparative costs at that time. No article ever divided up the capital and recurrent costs in either system and then described the contribution of state and federal governments. It was a fact that no child in a non-government school received as much as a child in a government school. When the education act was passed in the 1880s it prescribed education as having to be "free, secular and compulsory". If parents cannot afford education for their children the law could come down on them with heavy penalties and so States came into the picture to assist and later the federal government, since parents in non government schools were enrolling their children in state schools because they could not afford the upkeep demanded by the government who gave these schools nothing at the start of this period when funding had to be found. Thank you again for what you have revealed in a very clear and accurate article.
Joan Winter OP | 27 September 2018


Does this argument also deal with what is apparently a second, special 1.2 Bn fund for contingencies. Apparently not. Apart from showing a lack of knowledge of the state school systems, the author makes good points about the shift from the old system of measuring SE Status (as a proxy for need), but that still leaves the issue in the air, because it doesn't seem to tell us whether or how the Commonwealth has changed its approach to needs-based funding for State schooling to reflect a similar reassessment of SES and needs. Weasel words from federal ministers about government school funding from the Commonwealth 'increasing' (as all funding was 'increasing' before this change) does not help us to see if the measure of needs in that sector has also been updated to be fairer. How about some response to that question, or are you only interested in fairness when it is 'Catholic' rather than catholic (i.e. universal)?
Inigo Rey | 27 September 2018


If half the Catholic schools were forced to shut their doors the state system would not be able to cope with the sudden influx of students
nick | 27 September 2018


While the change in the method of determining schools’ SES scores shows how badly low-fee schools had been penalised by the previous “postcode” method, the Catholic education authorities are exactly where they were 14 years ago when they signed up to the Howard government’s SES model. Then the sheer injustice of that model meant that any school punished by it was allowed to remain on Labor’s ERI model. The consequence was that they, even though correctly funded on a needs basis, were called “overfunded” because the non-needs-based model said they were. The failure of the new method of allocating SES scores has led to the choice and affordability fund because the government will not amend the Australian Education Act to introduce a truly needs-based funding model. Schools funded by it will also be called “overfunded” for precisely the same reason that schools on the ERI model were from 2004 to 2018. The funding of non-government schools is standard practice throughout the OECD, even in Finland, but not by the strange Australia method. Instead of fixing the problem, we now have yet another CaAFkaesque “fix”, with the usual media misrepresentation.
Chris Curtis | 27 September 2018


Michael Gill, I have some relevant information that I looked up today for someone elsewhere. Catholic schools averaged $11,118 per student in public funding ($8,505 from the federal government and $2,613 from the state or territory government) and $4,535 in private income, giving a total income of $15,652 per student. Independent schools averaged $9,145 per student in public funding ($6,881 from the federal government and $2,264 from the state or territory government) and $12,071 in private income, giving a total income of $21,207 per student. (1.19 Table Non-government school per capita incomes, by source, Australia, 2016 calendar year, ACARA, National Report on Schooling in Australia 2016) The table does not give separate primary and secondary school private income, but another table suggests primary school fees are a lot lower than secondary school ones. Catholic primary schools averaged $12,574 per student in expenditure; secondary schools, $17,968; combined schools, $19,223. Independent primary schools averaged $16,578 per student in expenditure; secondary schools, $24,025; combined schools, $21,370. (Table 1.20 Non-government school per capita expenditure, by school sector and school type, Australia, 2016 (calendar year), ACARA, National Report on Schooling in Australia 2016)
Chris Curtis | 27 September 2018


Michael Gill, For comparison, government primary schools averaged $15,964 per student in expenditure; secondary schools, $19,350, giving an overall average of $17,275. (Table 1.7 Per capita expenditure on government schools, by school level, by state and territory, 2015–16 financial year ($ per student), ACARA, National Report on Schooling in Australia 2016)
Chris Curtis | 27 September 2018


This article is fill of false argument and is illustrative of the 'unchristian' way that the Catholic and other religious schools have engaged in rent seeking at the expense of public schools. The Catholic schools SYSTEM is worse because it received government dunning in bulk as a system and, by its own admission, does NOT distribute to schools according to need. Second, all government schools charge fees - low but still fees. Third, the private school system is advantaged by the tax system: they all have foundations to which donations are tax deductible. Another piece of support from the government that is never acknowledged. Anybody who donates to a public school cannot receive a tax deduction. To argue that government schools are better off than non-government schools "because the former can raise private income without losing a dollar" is grossly dishonest. And how precisely would even the Catholic advocacy groups justify the $1.3 billion 'slush fund'? The slitty if that ver the last decade the catholic and independent school system has had a far higher percentage annual increase in funds than the government sector. How can this be justified? It is no coincidence that countries with the best education systems fund government schools properly and do not fund private schools.
John Ingleson | 27 September 2018


Inigo Rey, The Commonwealth has not changed its approach to funding government schools. The whole system is a mess and has bene since at least 2001, when the Howard government brought in the SES/“capacity to contribute” model. The Coalition government aims to pay 20 per cent of the schooling resource standard for each government school student and 80 per cent of the amount it says each non-government school student should receive. This latter amount is not 80 per cent of the schooling resource standard as the media keeps reporting but 80 per cent of a figure currently discounted by the SES level of the students’ neighbours and in future to be discounted by the average income of the students’ parents. The SRS is $10,953 for each primary student and $13,764 for each secondary student. A non-government school student can get 80 per cent of a figure that could be as low as $2,191 (i.e., 20 per cent of the SRS), or $1,752. A rational model would have the Commonwealth fund e30 per cent each student’s entitlement and the states 70 per cent, irrespective if sector. But looking for rationality is to find despair.
Chris Curtis | 27 September 2018


Janet - regarding your alternative "if". There was a time before Federation when the colony of NSW was the country's administrator. In the Parliament, one Sir Henry Parkes, waved his Education bill above his head and declared to the assembled, pro-British Tories indulging their right to rule, 'In my hand I hold the death knell of the Irish Catholic Church in this country". In response, the lower class Catholic citizens (predominantly Irish) built the largest education system in the country and one of the biggest in the world on a per capita basis with their scant earned money and labour-in-kind with not a poor man's penny contributed from government. Today they still pay for the education system in fees and labour-in-kind as well as paying taxes to support both their own and the government systems as do all other taxpayers. Had your alternative "if" applied, perhaps Sir Henry's vision would have become reality. It's a moot point as to whether or not that would have been a good thing in the light of much of what passes as Catholic Education today.
john frawley | 27 September 2018


As a Christian I just found this article so sad. Nothing about the gospel, nothing about what the real priorities of the Church are. No acknowledgment of the straightforward fact that the overwhelming majority of disadvantaged children are educated in govt schools and in terms of meeting their need, these schools are grossly underfunded and need more Commonwealth support because states lack sufficient funds. Why cant the Church advocate for ALL disadvantaged children and their families? Why still this narrow minded tribalism and 'looking after our own' attitude? The Church is not first and foremost an institution but a counter-cultural community of faith that should NOT act out of self interest or as if it was an ASX listed company
james boyce | 27 September 2018


Thanks Dallas for an exemplary discussion of proposed school funding issues. This has been extremely badly covered in the press both by journalists and letter writers, and even in ES some of the correspondents still don`t seem to get the changes coming through under "Gonski". Even worse, Labour spokespersons have been deliberately stirring the pot by spreading false facts. However, my enthusiasm for the Catholic argument over school funding and choice, is that they seem to be largely if not overwhelmingly failing to produce new generations of practicing Catholics! I suspect that those parents ignoring their responsibility to bring their children up in the practice of "the faith" are merely choosing Catholic schools for subsidised social and educational advantage.
Eugene | 27 September 2018


Why should religious schools exist at all, let alone be subsidised? Why should some kids be denied a neutral education, where they get provided with information without some religious body or other seeking to indoctrinate them with their religion? Religious education is important, since religion is an enormous social phenomenon and it is important to understand it to understand the world. But that is completely different to what religious schools call "religious education", by which they mean "imposing our religious views on kids in the hope it'll stick, whilst ignoring or minimising other religions or the idea of no religion". Let alone the harm done to kids by imposing religious views of things like sexuality on them. Pity the poor LGBTI kids sent to Catholic schools. Yes, I'm sure it would cost taxpayers more to abolish the non-government education system and have all kids given the same high-quality public education. It should be funded by properly taxing the people who can currently afford private school fees. (Oh, and removing the tax exemption for religion. Keep the exemption for charities, which would cover religious charities, but why should religion get a tax exemption otherwise?) It is flat-out bonkers that parents are left with a choice of "well, we could send our kids to the well-resourced catholic school, and hopefully they won't be too badly affected by the religious indoctrination? Or we could send them to the local public school, starved for funds, not being subsidised by an enormously wealthy tax-free institution. Also school chaplains in public schools are an abomination, let alone making taxpayers fund their proselytising activities.
Jeremy | 27 September 2018


James Boyce, Loadings for disadvantage and loadings for concentration of disadvantage are paid to all schools on the same basis, so the fact that government schools have higher concentrations of such students means they are getting more money for that fact already. The Gonski panel wanted to discount even these loadings, except the one for disability, for the “capacity to contribute” of the school community, but the Gillard government had the good sense not to accept that recommendation and to ensure loadings were paid on a just basis for all students needing one. Government schools are underfunded, but that is down to the AEU, which caves in in EBA after EBA, such that the average Victorian secondary school today has seven teachers fewer than the same-sized school had way back in 1981. States do not lack the funds. They were given payroll tax 40 years ago, and ever since they have been cutting the rate and lifting the threshold. A truly needs-based funding model would take account of the fees and income each school has, as the Catholic education authorities wanted. The Morrison government refused to amend the Australian Education Act to do this.
Chris Curtis | 28 September 2018


Yesterday I posted a link to my lengthy factual comments at The Guardian. It has not appeared, so perhaps links aren’t allowed. The article was “States seek public education deal after Coalition's Catholic school handout”. Be warned that The Guardian’s comments can be particularly nasty.
Chris Curtis | 28 September 2018


John Ingleson, Finland is often given as one of the best countries for education in the world. It funds non-government schools at $US9,266 per student, compared with Australia’s $US6,137 (OECD Education at a Glance 2015, Table B3.3). As the table shows, 25 of the 28 countries for which data is given fund non-government schools, 11 of them more generously than Australia. The difference between Australia and the rest of the world is not the fact of funding but the method. The non-government sector has had a bigger percentage increase in public funding over the last decade than the government sector because it was so far behind to start with; e.g., in part of that time, the Victorian funding per student of non-government schools went from c17 per cent of government school funding to 25 per cent. In 2015-16, government expenditure per student was $17,275 in government schools and $10,147 in a non-government school (National Report on Schooling in Australia 2018). There is no reason they should be the same, but the extra spending on non-government schools has left a big gap still.
Chris Curtis | 28 September 2018


Thank heavens someone has enough knowledge to put this clearly. We get sick and tired of the biased media accounts on the subject. All you've got to do now is to get your account published in the Sydney Morning Herald! And as for the suggestion of sending priests into government schools - first of all find them and then educate them to current standards of theology and Papal thinking and understanding the scriptures in an up-to-date way. It would do the person who wrote that observation a lot of good to realise that very well educated lay teachers carry the burden of teaching RE in Catholic schools today.
Tony Butler | 28 September 2018


The difference between Catholic education and the world beyond doesn't rest upon contrasting working in the now discredited banking-sector, from which the author comes, and a purpose-driven organisation like Catholic Schools NSW. CSNW is also responsible for promoting the philosophy of Catholic education, which, in its entirety rests upon Catholic Social Teaching - something that citing the Grattan Institute, the Centre for Independent Studies and the Gonski Review, including other bodies associated with Mr McInerney, such as the Sydney Institute and the Liberal Party, don't endorse. Apart from Chris Curtis's stats, somewhat mangled by the decision to break his posts up in ways never imposed on Frank Brennan and others, no coherent argument is here offered for why external pressure brought on the Commonwealth to reconsider schools funding can backfire and is doomed for perpetual revisitation. It happens that The Bishops have surrounded themselves with salaried personnel and advisors, whose backgrounds ensure but one thing, viz. that they will not countenance new ways of healing the intensely destructive state-aid debate that will also better honour the principles of Catholic Social Teaching. That this solution has been successfully achieved in almost all other parts of the OECD falls on deaf ears!
Dr Michael Furtado | 29 September 2018


I have got to intervene a little to explain what it means to send your children to a Public School. I have sat on the school Governing Committee and it's Innovation Committee for several years. It's a reasonably large Primary School that struggles constantly to maintain facilities and to have enough classroom space at all. For a start it is not free. Each Public School is allowed to legally charge a fee level as maintained by the GC. Each school holds fundraisers and some revert to selling advertising space just to maintain basic services. We're talking things like drinking fountains, appropriate fencing and sports equipment to name a few. As a parent my ability to pay is heavily pro-rated. If I am very low income, I can apply for the government to cover my fees. However, if I am self employed as now, it is near impossible. It is also a very complex process that excludes many people especially those of a non-english speaking background. Our school enforces a strict uniform policy, both for sports, winter uniforms and summer uniforms. School camps, swimming lessons, excursions etc are all paid for by parents. All sports are coached by volunteers. It stands out a bit when my 8 year old plays netball against a private school that obviously has a full time coach. The standards are stark, as is the obvious time put in to these kids training. The school directly competes for students from the local Catholic schools and it's funding level is directly tied to how many students it can attract at differing year levels. If it drops below a certain level, then the school loses as much as 80k each level a year until that level rises again. When the school does gain funding for certain things, it is tied to that thing only. The school need to resurface the netball and basketball courts. The money for re-surfacing was supplied but it could not be spent on actually marking out the courts! The private sector is not held to the constraints of the public sector in this, and many other areas, and to not acknowledge the advantages and freedom afforded private schools is disingenuous to say the least. Perhaps having a closer look, even a conversation with people in the public school sector might allow rather than indignation in the face of others indignation, (as in this article), but the formulation of a useful dialogue.
simon Tait | 30 September 2018


Dear Jeremy, It is a long-established and fundamental Human Right , enshrined in the UN HR-Declaration, for parents to bring up their children in the knowledge and practice of their religious faith. Indeed, for committed Catholic, this is an obligation of this status. For those non-Catholic parents who choose a Catholic school, I presume that logically there has at least to be a commitment that they accept the same educational package
Eugene | 30 September 2018


It helps if an editorial board is prepared to do its homework, or alternatively allows its readership to do their's. Any enterprising researcher of this topic and the background of its author would find it hard not to reach the conclusion that the former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, owes his sudden eviction from public office to an internal coup within the Right Wing of the Liberal Party, primarily on account of his refusal to cave into a special funding deal for Catholic schools. While I have gone on the public record as being critical of his decision, backing Gonski's Review, to wipe out any distinction between the Catholic and independent school sectors, all the evidence points to remnants of the DLP, in NSW formerly manipulated by the episcopate to be co-opted into the Right Wing of the ALP, and now comfortably ensconced within the conservative wing of the Liberal Party, my fear is that this will come back to bite the Church, alienate sections of the Church who are primarily drawn to its social justice message, and result, not just in yet another four years of in-fighting on school-funding distribution but, God Forbid!, yet another split in the Australian Church.
Dr Michael Furtado | 01 October 2018


To all those people saying government schools also charge fees, please go back and read Dallas' statement. He said "You don't have to pay a cent." This is true. School fees are not compulsory in government schools and there is no policy to make them compulsory.
Jim | 01 October 2018


The point surely is, Jim, that state schoolies would do without fringe benefits, now regarded as essential aspects of the curriculum, if their parents couldn't afford it. As a education academic I am able to contrast the curriculum on offer in rural & remote schools with inner-city schools. The former rely on essential service delivery; the latter, both state and Catholic, on the largesse of parents suffused with cultural and other capital. As a former social justice consultant to Catholic schools I enrolled our child in one located in a well-heeled catchment, but which offered no music education other than optional access to external music educators, who required private payment for their services. My wife, a French chef, contributed to school funding-raising that year by preparing in excess of 3000 French chocolate eclairs, which together raised in excess of $3000 for the school budget. When we asked if the $30,000 raised by the school fete could be used to engage the part-time services of a music educator, who could be accessed to all students, the Principal, ignorant of access and equity issues in education, told us that pressing our case would jeopardise the future of our child at the school.
Dr Michael Furtado | 02 October 2018


Michael, I could reply by citing dozens of anecdotal examples where principals have done things you would applaud, but we are talking about macro funding policy. We can argue about whether government schools have enough funding, but the point is that all school students are funded according to the same benchmark - the Schooling Resource Standard - which comprises a base amount ($10,953 for primary students and $13,764 for secondary students) plus loadings for six types of disadvantage. The difference between government and non-government schools is how this SRS is funded. For government schools, it is 100% funded by taxpayers. For non-government schools, taxpayers provide only 20-90% of the base amount (plus all disadvantage loadings) based on a means test of the school's parents. So non-government school students will always attract less funding than government school students. That's the point of this piece. As I said, you can argue whether the SRS should be higher (if so, it would be higher for all students), but you need to remember that we have a system that says if you're a student at Mosman High (1054 students), taxpayers will fully fund your education ($11.65m in 2016) despite the fact that your school raised $1.77m privately for a total of $13.42m... while the much needier Jamison High in South Penrith (998 students) receives $12.76m in government funding and could only raise $183,109 privately for a total of $12.94m. The government schools that need it least are in the best position to raise additional funding privately, and they do not have to share it with needier government schools, nor do they lose any of their government funding entitlement.
Jim | 03 October 2018


Jim, I am no apologist for the ways in which those who favour the case for state schools and who regard the latest deal with Catholic schools as jeopardising the position of state schools state their case, as I have already inferred in my first post against this article. Indeed, I have been published on this topic as critical of the stranglehold that the current model of school funding has on state schools, which undoubtedly get the overwhelming share of our public purse, over and above the inequity that you point out. My concern is that those, like you, who appear to argue for a better deal for Catholic school funding because, as you imply, the Catholic systems redistribute their funds on a needs basis, don't pursue the logic of their argument by campaigning for a new deal for all those seeking to offer choice within a diversified public education system. This would result in both a much more comprehensive fee-free Catholic school provision, as well as require those state schools that subtly select their students, as well as hang onto funding in excess of their needs, to forego it in the interests of sharing it with poorer state schools.
Michael Furtado | 03 October 2018


I understand your point Michael. I am just trying to explain the background to last month's school funding announcement. The Catholic schools sector must work within the parameters of the legislated funding model.
Jim | 08 October 2018


No, it doesn't, Jim. The parameters of the legislated funding model can be changed, which indeed they will eventually have to be before the next quadrennial budgetary allocations, when this issue will arise again as it has done for the past 50 years.
Michael Furtado | 15 October 2018


Hi there I am a retired (2010) catholic primary school principal (25 years) - Campbelltown and Wollongong regions. Basically I am fed up with the lies and half truths being told re education funding. My understanding is that catholic schools receive around 80% of the funding from all governments that public schools receive, the difference needing to made up, if possible, from school fees and other fund raising activities. I wish to make the media and the general public aware via TV and radio talk back of the inequalities that REALLY exist and the cost to the public purse if catholic and independent schools collapsed. Thus, I require up-to-date $'s/%'s of the amounts that State and Federal Governments supply to all sectors of education to support my argument(s). Thank you in anticipation of your support. Yours sincerely Chris Miller Ph: 0417 477 170
Chris(topher) Miller | 07 November 2018


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