Legal challenge to federal cash for religious teaching
Public school teachers are planning to fund a High Court challenge to the validity of private schools using Federal Government funding for religious purposes.
More than 600 teachers at the NSW Teachers Federation annual conference voted to pay for "a new constitutional challenge" on private school funding, the first attempt since the Defence of Government Schools (DOGS) case more than 20 years ago.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Union President Maree O'Halloran said last month's Industrial Relations Commission rulings on teacher pay rises had revealed that government funding was being used in Catholic schools to promote religious instruction.
The commission last month awarded a higher pay rise to Catholic school executives than their public school counterparts, because they had additional burdens such as responsibility for the "renewal of the church" during school hours. It said principals had a "mission" to "build the faith community".
"The importance of principals in particular in the renewal of the church cannot be overstated," the commission said.
Ms O'Halloran said every piece of school funding legislation stipulated that government funding must be used only for educational purposes.
"A new constitutional challenge will use in part the decision of the Industrial Relations Commission, where the commission chose to refer to the renewal of the faith as a reason for the payment of teachers," she said.
Catholic schools, which account for 70% of non-government schools, receive 80% of their funding from the federal and state governments.
The DOGS case, which was lost 6-1 in 1980, took nine years in preparation and legal argument to challenge the constitutional validity of Commonwealth aid to church schools.
Legal challenge to federal cash for religious teaching (Sydney Morning Herald 6/7/04)
NSW Teachers Federation
Australian Council for the Defence of Government Schools (DOGS)
School Funding - Lies and Truths (ABC Radio National Perspective, 21/6/04)
Diocese of Parramatta Catholic Education Office: Special feature on the recent teaching salaries decisions
Catholic school principals win 19.5% rise (Sydney Morning Herald 11/6/04)
Catholic Senior Staff favoured in wage decision (Online Catholics 16/6/04)
Victorian Catholic teachers get bigger pay rise (CathNews 25/6/04)
6 Jul 2004