School Funding - Principals Message

17 May 2017

Funding for Catholic Schools should never be taken for Granted !!

From The Principal Adam Taylor - Dear Parents and Friends of St Bernard’s,
School funding is front page news again. Many of the St Bernard’s Newsletter readers will be too young to remember the Goulburn
School Strike.
In 1962, when the NSW State Government refused to fund urgent repairs to the Our Lady of Mercy Primary School’s toilet block and
threatened to deregister the school, the entire Catholic community — lay people, religious and clergy alike — met at the
Town Hall. The conservative Catholic citizens of Goulburn determined that they would close all their local schools.
The next morning every student, in their neat Catholic school uniforms and with their Globite school-case in hand, reported to
the local government schools demanding enrolment. They were duly ushered into crowded school halls where they sat on their school-cases and completed hastily prepared worksheets. Within a few days the point was made and the Catholic schools
were reopened. A national dialogue had begun and eventually limited funding for Catholic schools was introduced by a returned Menzies government.

The subsequent election of the Whitlam government in 1972 saw the introduction of the significant and bipartisan Catholic school
funding that we enjoy today.
In 1974, the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) was established by the Australian Bishops to act as a peak body
to negotiate with government, among other things, on matters relating to the funding of Catholic schools. The bishops were
prescient in realising that the newly arrived bipartisan support for the funding of Catholic schools could not nor should not
ever be taken for granted. More than 40 years on, negotiating on and securing government funding continues to be a key work
of the NCEC.
In The Age newspaper of 11 February 2017, Danielle Cronin, the Acting Executive Director of the NCEC was quoted as saying:
“The outstanding issues requiring attention in the school funding model will take more than a few weeks or months to address. There is not sufficient time remaining to define, analyse and negotiate changes to the Schooling Resource Standard and
understand the implications for all schools in advance of the legislative and administrative arrangements that would be required to implement a new funding model for the 2018 school year."’

Ms Cronin confirmed these sentiments in a presentation to Catholic Secondary College
Principals several days later. A further three months passed before the Federal
Government’s announcement last week of an increase in education funding in the
forthcoming budget. It is worthy of note that the announcement appears to have preceded
Federal Cabinet scrutiny and independent of consultation or agreement with the NCEC.
I simply share with you the facts:
• Catholic schools educate over 22% of Victorian children.
Catholic schools have never been fully funded by government. When both
Federal and State Government monies are combined, government supplies
between 70–75% of what it costs to educate a child in Catholic school.
• The remainder of what it costs to educate a child in a Catholic school is made
up of parent contributions.
• The cost of educating a student in a Catholic school is just 85% of what it
costs to educate a student in a government school, reflecting the high levels
of volunteerism and commitment of staff to co-curricular activities in Catholic
• The Catholic community does not seek full funding, recognising that with
parent contributions comes the right to choose.
• The right to choose from a range of educational options is a political tenant
of both sides of Australian politics.
• In the last decade the CPI has averaged less than 3%. This contrasts with
school funding increases reflecting real costs in schools of almost 5.5%.

The current Education Minister, Simon Birmingham believes that the differential funding of
Catholic versus Independent Primary schools is not defensible. That is to say, he believes the
financial capacity of average Catholic primary school parents is the same as Independent
primary school parents. Publicly available data (for example, the MySchool website) does not
support this assertion. Should the funding of each of these sectors be brought to parity, then
the likely outcome will be huge financial pressure on Catholic Primary schools.

Funding of Catholic schools must never be taken for granted. The huge saving to the public
purse which Catholic education represents needs to be constantly reinforced, let alone the
contribution that Catholic schools such as St Bernard’s make to forming good and
community-minded citizens who will contribute to a great Australia of the future.

Discere et agere
Adam Taylor

The Committee