Padre Pio Glenmore Park

School cuts a massive broken promise to parents, teachers, students


Released Monday 10 September 2012

From Bishop Anthony Fisher OP

Chairman, Catholic Education Commission of New South Wales

State MPs, Church and education offices, have all been inundated with expressions of alarm at the news that the NSW Government will be slashing Catholic school funding – according to Bishop Anthony Fisher OP, Chair of the Catholic Education Commission NSW.

The Bishop understands that the Cabinet is soon to meet in the face of this reminder from constituents that the Coalition was elected last year on a promise that if it won government it would not cut funding to Catholic schools.

“At the last election the Coalition guaranteed it would continue existing support to Catholic schools,” Bishop Fisher observed. “The Catholic Bishops of NSW urge Premier O’Farrell to keep his promise, listen to the voice of concerned parents, teachers and parishioners all across NSW and reverse the planned slashing of $67m per annum from non-government schools.

“This is not about non-government versus government schools: we don’t want cuts to any schools at this crucial time.”

Parents and teachers agree. The Council of Catholic School Parents described this as an attack on “the right of parents to choose a Catholic school for their children that is high quality and affordable.”

Independent Education Union Secretary John Quessy, speaking on behalf of teachers, said, “It represents an unprecedented attack on the funding of non-government schools and an almighty breach of trust with the electorate.”

Bishop Fisher said that only last week, Premier O’Farrell was criticising the Commonwealth for failing to consult with the states on education reform and funding. “But it seems he didn’t think it necessary to consult on education funding cuts with major stakeholders in his own state.

“Meanwhile, Education Minister Piccoli has been talking up the Gonski Report – the main recommendation of which is that all sectors invest more in the education of Australia’s children. When I met the Minister recently there was no hint of slashing grants to schools. This leaves us feeling betrayed.

“Drastic cuts at such short notice could force significant fee increases, staff cuts, curriculum cuts or worse.”

Last week it was revealed that the NSW Government plans to slash recurrent funding to non-government schools by $67m a year from the beginning of 2013. Two-thirds of the schools affected by the cuts are Catholic systemic schools, city and country.

There has also been talk of changing the formula that presently pegs per capita state grants to Catholic and independent schools to 25% of the cost of educating a state school student. “If legislation to allow this were introduced we would vigorously oppose it,” Bishop Fisher said. “It would prove that this is no emergency measure affecting everyone, but rather a retreat from state government responsibility to Catholic and other children.

“The Catholic Bishops recognise that in tough economic times governments need to be fiscally responsible but we believe it is false economy to compromise our children’s education and therefore their life opportunities.

“Struggling families cannot afford this cut to education. The Church does all it can to keep Catholic education affordable so that no child is ever denied enrolment because of an inability to pay fees. But justice requires funding continuity for all children in all Australian schools. We ask our state government to reconsider this disastrous decision.”

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