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Mixed reaction to Archbishops' statement on Labor education policy

Yesterday's joint Sydney and Melbourne Catholic and Anglican archbishops' criticism of Labor's education policy has met wide but not universal support from within the Catholic Church.

The unprecedented statement endorsed part of Labor's policy, attacked part and sought clarification on the criteria for funding private schools.

Earlier this month, Labor drew up a "hit list" of 67 schools that stand to lose a total of $520 million over four years if it wins government on 9 October. A further 111 private schools would have their federal subsidies frozen at 2004 levels under Labor's plan to redirect money to 2500 poorer Catholic and independent schools.

Sydney Catholic Education Office Executive Director Br Kelvin Canavan says in The Agetoday that Cardinal Pell and Archbishop Hart were concerned that the policy could drive a wedge between Anglican and Catholic schools.

"The Catholic archbishops were concerned that Catholic students would be seen to be benefiting at the expense of Anglican and other students."

He denied that the statement was partisan. "It doesn't say anything about how to vote. It's a factual statement and seeks clarification."

But Brisbane's Archbishop John Bathersby told ABC Radio's AM program this morning that he would have preferred to see a "more constructive" statement that provided a critique of both Coalition and Labor education policies.

"It is constructive to criticise policies. But we have to be even-handed about the situation."

When the policy was announced earlier this month, National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) chairman Monsignor Tom Doyle told The Age that the policy should be applauded for its emphasis on needy students.

Shane Hogan, Headmaster of Sydney's St Ignatius College, Riverview, told the Sydney Morning Herald that the school's fees would need to rise by at least 10% next year if Labor's funding model were implemented, combined with a recent 14% pay rise awarded to non-government teachers.

Labor policy divisive, say Catholics, Anglicans (The Age 29/9/04)
ABC Radio AM (to come)

Joint Statement on the Australian Labor Party's Schools Policy, Great Australian Schools (Archdiocese of Sydney 28/9/04)
Australian Labor Party | Policy Document - Labor's Great Australian Schools Policy (PDF)
Clerics cane funding switch (Australian Financial Review 29/9/04)
Archbishops act for 'mutual advantage' (Online Catholics 29/9/04)
Churches savage Latham (The Australian 29/9/04)
Pitch forked: churches hit ALP (The Courier Mail 29/9/04)
Latham's education policy 'regrettable': churches (ABC TV Lateline 28/9/04)
Parents pay: axiomatic for private schools (The Age 29/9/04)
Business as usual at the elite schools (Sydney Morning Herald 29/9/04)
Big spending not matched by vision (The Australian 29/9/04)
Labor deflects attack on schools policy (ABC 29/9/04)
School funding unites religious leaders (Sydney Morning Herald 29/9/04)
Schools policy makes churches uncomfortable (ABC Canberra 28/9/04)
Labor schools policy 'regrettable': church leaders (ABC Radio PM 28/9/04)
Latham's education policy 'regrettable': churches (ABC TV Lateline 28/9/04)
Labor's education policy targeted to shore up Catholic vote (CathNews 16/9/04)
Catholic schools welcome Labor pledge to shift funding (CathNews 15/9/04)
ALP Education Policy Welcomed by Welfare Group (Brotherhood of St Laurence 14/9/04)

29 Sep 2004