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Private schools turn up heat over state aid

Catholic schools are seeking an extra $200 million a year from the Federal Government, and all other non-government schools are pushing for funding increases in an intense campaign that guarantees a stormy state aid debate.

Non-government schools are claiming big funding increases - above the record $4.37 billion allocation for 2003-04 - to meet rising costs for teacher salaries, technology, curriculum changes, reducing class sizes and educating disabled students.

General secretary of the Independent Education Union, Dick Shearman, says in a memo to Catholic schools today that the policy has delivered "some of the largest increases in public funding to some of the best resourced schools in Australia".

Executive director of the NSW Catholic Education Commission, Brian Croke, said government grants needed to be raised to pay teacher salaries, which have been "running above inflation". A pay rise is due by next year.

"Educating a child in a regular school, government or non-government, costs more and more each year, above and beyond inflation, but the community does not easily recognise this," he said.

The National Catholic Education Commission wants to boost its 2004 federal funding of $2.85 billion by $200 million a year, raising the formula where it receives 56.2% of average government school costs to 60%.

The Australian Education Union, representing public school teachers, this month set up a $1 million fighting fund to cut money to all non-government schools, especially Catholic schools. Singling out Catholic schools was "counter-productive, misguided and electorally disastrous", said Mr Shearman, who represents non-government school teachers.

The executive director of the NSW Association of Independent Schools, Terry Chapman, said the Anglicans wanted "the same rules to apply to them as apply to the Catholic system".

A new analysis of income for the 2650 Australian non-government schools - taking in government and private funding including fees - says the 1700 Catholic schools get 20% less funding than public schools.

With double the number of schools, the Catholics receive half the level of private funding from fees and philanthropy as the rest of the non-government sector.

Independent schools, including the 3% of elite schools charging fees up to $15,000 a year, receive 4% more money from all sources.

Sydney Morning Herald

Catholic Education Commission (NSW)

21 Jul 2003