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NSW private schools defend building subsidy scheme

Nine Catholic schools established since 1987 would not have been built without the NSW Government's interest subsidy scheme, according to the Director of the Sydney Archdiocese Catholic Education Office.

Br Kelvin Canavan, who oversees 148 schools, said the scheme was crucial in helping build schools in growth areas. But it was parents who carried the greatest financial burden through fees and building levies, he said.

Since 1987 the archdiocese has spent $372 million on school capital works, with parents now servicing loans of $116 million.

"The State Government would have had to build those nine schools [in Sydney's south and south-west], because the population is there," he said. "Without the subsidy, we would not be building new schools."

The subsidy scheme, which began in 1965, is under attack by the Greens, the Federation of Parents and Citizens' Associations and the Teachers Federation.

Non-government schools can only build facilities comparable in size and cost to public schools to qualify for the interest rebates. Classrooms, for example, must conform to the public school building code.

But the president of the state P&Cs, Sharryn Brownlee, said the Government was subsidising a small number of "gated communities" at the expense of the wider community. "There are public schools waiting for covered outdoor learning areas and we can't even put air-conditioning in every school," she said.

The Greens education spokesman, John Kaye, said money should not keep "pouring into" private school building works while public schools were in "such desperate need of attention".

The State Government will spend $38.4 million on the rebate this financial year, out of a total $586 million in assistance to 900 non-government schools. This is up from $543 million last year.

Sydney Morning Herald

Pull-chain toilets, but kicking the can for the elite (Sydney Morning Herald)
Private schools turn up heat over state aid (21/7/03)
Catholic Education Office
Catholic Education Commission (NSW)
Federation of Parents and Citizens' Associations of NSW

29 Aug 2003