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Study shows fees forcing poor students out of Catholic schools

Poorer Catholic families in Victoria are struggling to send their children to the state's Catholic schools in the face of rising fees due to lack of state government funding.

A joint study by Monash University and the Australian Council for Education Research found one in four parents of children in Year 6 at the state's Catholic primary schools were considering public high schools as an option.

The findings come a day after the Howard Government announced that Australia's 1600 Catholic schools would get an extra $362 million over four years.

Catholic schools in Victoria receive just over 56% of their funding from the federal Government and 16% from the state Government. The remaining 28% is made up through fees and fundraising.

Catholic schools get higher levels of state funding in other states. For example, in NSW and Queensland, 25% of funding is provided by the state governments.

Catholic Education Commission of Victoria executive director Susan Pascoe (pictured) said Catholic schools in Victoria were stretching their budgets to breaking point to provide fee concessions for low-income families.

"Catholic schools are finding it more difficult to match the government sector in class sizes, teacher salaries and educational facilities," Ms Pascoe said.

"The announcement by the federal Government will be fantastic and will translate into about an extra $30 million per annum (in Victoria) which is sorely needed, but that doesn't change the problem with state funding. For the past 10 years now, Victoria has been behind the rest of Australia with state government funding for Catholic schools."

A spokesman for Victorian Education Minister Jacinta Allan said the Government was in negotiations with the Catholic education office. "The money is there. We just want to make sure it is spent in the right way," he said.

Fees force Catholic pupils to go public (The Australian 2/3/04)

More find Catholic schools too costly (The Age 2/3/04)
Australian Council for Educational Research
National Catholic Education Commission
Catholic Education Commission of Victoria
Catholic Education Office (Melbourne)
Jennifer Buckingham: Now, give parents a real choice of schools (The Australian 2/3/04)
Wollongong diocese welcomes school funding (Illawarra Mercury 1/3/04)
Pell says school funding changes 'fit with church values' (CathNews 1/3/04)
Cardinal George Pell: Remarks in response to the Prime Minister's announcement (Archdiocese of Sydney)
Prime Minister | Catholic Schools Funding Announcement, Casimir Catholic College, Marrickville, Sydney, 29 February 2004 | Doorstop Interview, Casimir Catholic College, Marrickville, Sydney, 29 February 2004
PM dangles $362m to Catholic schools (The Australian/ 1/3/04)
Catholic school funding to rise by 50pc (The Advertiser 1/3/04)
Australian Education Union | AEU Response to the Australian Government's 'School Funding - The Facts'

2 Mar 2004