Executive Director of Catholic Education in the Diocese of Parramatta, Greg Whitby, has called for the resumption of constructive, meaningful debate between Catholic leaders and the federal government, and an immediate end to the confusion about what the new funding model will mean for Catholic systemic schools.
“We are now at a point where we have senior government ministers calling the Catholic school leaders ‘dishonest’,” Mr Whitby said. “This kind of language achieves nothing. With so much at stake for so many families, we need the issue of fair school funding for all sorted, and sorted quickly.”
Mr Whitby said that this lack of clarity is making parents who send their children to low-fee paying Catholic schools anxious about fee rises. “It does not need to be this way,” Mr Whitby said.
Mr Whitby said that the main problem with the new model is the proposed change to how funding is allocated to schools.
“The federal government now wants to fund each school according to its suburb’s individual’s Socio Economic Score (SES) rather than averaging out the SES scores for all Catholic schools. This approach assumes that families living in a suburb that has a comparatively SES score can afford high fees. That is just wrong.”
Mr Whitby also took aim at claims in today’s media that Catholic schools are running large surpluses.
“That is simply not true. Every year, we set aside funds to build new schools in areas of high demand. While we are grateful for the small amount of government money we receive to build new schools, we have to meet the costs of land purchase as well as building and development costs. A single secondary school costs more than $50 million. We also need to renovate and renew existing schools.”
“I appreciate the challenges of arriving at a model that everyone can be happy with but I am hopeful that sensible debate will follow in the days ahead.
“It is time to change the game. We need agreement on a model that provides clarity, fairness and certainty for all government and non-government schools. Families deserve that.”