Campaign for funding change secures future of faith-based education.
‘We here in Australia are especially blessed with a system of support for religious schools that is rare to find in many places overseas. Our state and federal governments recognise the quality of care given to our young people by so many professionally dedicated teachers. We appreciate their generous support’ (Denis Hart, Archbishop Emeritus of Melbourne).
With the support of the wider Catholic community, Catholic Education Melbourne campaigned for 16 months against funding changes that threatened fee increases and school closures.
In September 2018, that campaign was concluded successfully when the Morrison government and Education Minister Dan Tehan adopted a new approach that is fair and efficient, and recognises the important role of faith-based schools in the education system.
Our success would not have been achieved without the incredible support of school leaders, the families of 210,000 Catholic school students, and other dioceses across Victoria and Australia.
When faced with the significant and seemingly insurmountable challenge of trying to change the Australian Government’s funding model, Victorian Catholic schools were, for a long time, the only voices advocating for our sector. Our efforts inspired other dioceses to have the confidence to take up the fight and bring about the successful outcome.
The campaign against the Turnbull government’s flawed 2017 legislation resulted in an additional $4.6 billion in funding over the next 10 years nationwide. This funding will flow through to Victorian schools and also establish a new fund to guarantee the viability of previously threatened Catholic primary schools.
Under these new arrangements, the Australian Government will replace the existing model based on school Socio-economic Status (SES) scores, which was biased against Catholic and low-fee non-government schools, with a new measure based on parental income tax data. This is in line with the recommendations of the review of SES scores.
Helping to make the case for change was Catholic Education Melbourne research showing that an area-based funding model is less equitable than a model based on family income tax data. Area-based models misrepresent the financial status of many regions. This is particularly apparent in suburbs where there is significant inequality in the financial resources of its residents.
Schools long-disadvantaged by the flaws of the previous methodology will benefit through increased funding.
The new arrangements also ensure that Catholic schools have the same 10-year transition period as independent schools, as opposed to the unfair imposition of a six-year period under the previous model. This gives school leaders and communities more time to prepare for future funding-level changes.
Where the Turnbull government had made no effort to negotiate with the Catholic system about the changes it legislated, the Morrison government’s new approach is constructive and consultative, and a good sign for future policy development.
The policy changes were welcomed by hundreds of Catholic schools and their parent communities. They reinforced the importance of choice in school education for parents making decisions about their children’s future.