Catholic school funding freeze

By John Mclaurin

CATHOLIC school funding in the Archdiocese and throughout Australia is being passionately fought for, following the Federal Government Gonski 2.0 decision to freeze the funds at the next budget, potentially affecting the next decade of Catholic education.

The freezing of the funds means that teachers will struggle to receive any pay rises over the next decade unless schools significantly increase their fees.

Canberra Times (May 9) reports that Daramalan College will be among the hardest hit. In 2017, the school receives $7998 per student. In 2027 it will receive just $5719 for each student.

Upon learning of the decision early in May, Archdiocesan Catholic Education Director Ross Fox appeared on SKY News television voicing his concerns at the move, sighting that it was “not fair” that teachers would not be able to receive a pay rise which he says they are “entitled” to.

He described the situation as “dire” and said that some schools will potentially be forced to close, due to the financial strain which it will place on them.

Currently there are 22000 students in 56 Catholic schools across the Archdiocese. In Australia, Catholic education makes up approximately 30 per cent of the education sector.

Catholic Education along with Catholic Schools Parents called for a public meeting at St Clare’s College on May 8 where politicians and a panel of Catholic education experts discussed the current situation in a public forum in front of principals, teachers, staff, students and parents.

This public school meeting was held in the St Clare’s hall where over 500 people attended, while a live stream went nation-wide on the night, broadcast to approximately 500 people.

Mr Fox gave an address as did Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Pilbersek, Liberal Senator for the ACT Zed Seselja, Shadow Minister for Education and Training Andrew Wall (Member for Brinabella) and Chair of the Catholic Education Commission Dr Patrick McArdle.

In his talk, Senator Seselja said that he had been in discussion with Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham regarding Gonski 2.0 and vowed to fight for the best possible outcome for the Archdiocesan Catholic schools.

Paul Compton, chair of Catholic School Parents in the Archdiocese, chaired the forum, while Archdiocesan Vicar for Education Mgr John Woods spoke about the seriousness of the matter before leading the community in prayer.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse was an apology due to him being at the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Plenary Meeting currently being held in Sydney.

Others attending the forum in their official capacity were Federal Member for Canberra Gai Brodmann, ACT Senator Katy Gallagher, Victorian Senator Jacinta Collins, Federal Member for Eden-Monaro Mike Kelly, Acting Executive Director National Catholic Education Commission Danielle Cronan, Secretary Independent Education Union John Quessy, Executive Director Council for Catholic School Parents ACT/NSW Linda McNeill and ACT Chair of Catholic School Parents Australia Carmel Nash.

A question time took place at the end of the forum with Archdiocesan principals Michael Lee (Mary MacKillop College Canberra) and Frances Robertson (St Patrick’s Cooma) voicing their concerns alongside other members of the Catholic school community including a mother of two children in Catholic schools.

Mrs Robertson said that the term “funding” should be removed from the discussion and replaced with the word “investment”.

Those with concerns are encouraged to talk to their local members of Parliament.

Mr Fox will speak more about Gonski 2.0 in his Catholic Voice column in the June edition.