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School funding issue ‘far from over’: Bishop Anthony


Mother Teresa Primary Westmead
“I am cautiously optimistic that Catholic schools funding will be more secure in future. But we will need to continue to apply pressure if this is to happen” - Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP

On 11 September, the NSW Government announced a four-year freeze of the total funding pool for non-government schools commencing in financial year 2013-14, along with comparable reductions in spending on NSW government schools

The Chairman of the Catholic Education Commission of NSW, Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, said this was a significantly smaller cut than that originally planned, would allow more lead time and was more fairly shared across all education sectors.

“While this is much better than what we first faced, the Church continues to campaign, both in public and via meetings with government leaders, MPs and departmental officials, against these cuts,” Bishop Anthony said.

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth and States have begun negotiating the new national funding model following on the Gonski Report.

Ensuring continuity and predictability

Mother Teresa Primary Westmead
Mother Teresa Primary Westmead.
On 19 September, Bishop Anthony met with the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the federal Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett, in Canberra.

“They expressed the Commonwealth’s concern that the NSW cuts threaten the integrity of the new model which presumes increased contributions by both levels of Government,” Bishop Anthony said.

“They also recognised our peril while ever Commonwealth funding is pegged to state expenditure on education: we face a double whammy of state cuts followed by even greater consequential reductions in Commonwealth grants.”

The Bishop said the Prime Minister had agreed to work on breaking that nexus and ensuring continuity and predictability in Commonwealth funding to Catholic and independent schools.

“At this stage it is not possible to forecast grant levels for Catholic schools from 2014 to 2017 with any certainty. We are engaged in the technical analysis required to produce reliable advice to dioceses and schools as soon as possible.

“At the same time, I have indicated to government and opposition leaders at both State and Commonwealth levels that the Catholic school community and wider Church in NSW will continue to press the NSW Government:

  •  to reconsider the freeze on the per capita grants pool
  •  to ameliorate that freeze in various ways (e.g. maintaining indexation for special schools and allowing equal per capita grants for new enrolments in new and growing schools) and
  •  to bring the freeze to an end as soon as economically possible.

“As the Commonwealth Government moves closer to announcing the details of the new funding model for all Australian schools from 2014, I am cautiously optimistic about their willingness to ensure, through appropriate indexation and other means, that Catholic schools funding will be more secure in future. But we will need to continue to apply pressure if this is to happen.”

Meanwhile, Bishop Anthony is encouraging the Catholic community to keep informed and actively involved in dialogue with their local members of parliament, both Commonwealth and State.

“Many MPs have told me they were very impressed by the mobilisation of the Catholic community on this issue. The battle for justice for our school children, their families and schools, is far from over!”

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