Catholic school "windfall" attacked

A Greens party spokesman has attacked Federal Government policies that have allowed Catholic schools to receive an extra $1.6 billion in funding from 2005-2008 despite the introduction of the "socio-economic status" method of calculating funding for private schools.

Altogether private schools across Australia are receiving at least $2 billion more than their entitlements under the Federal Government's school funding scheme, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

The Catholic system has its funding maintained at a level equal to 58 per cent of the cost of educating a child in the public system. It is seeking to lift that to at least 60 per cent, the Catholic Education Commission's executive director, Dr Brian Croke (photo), told the Herald.

Other independent schools received $428 million above their assessed rate under the Government's controversial "socio-economic status" (SES) method of calculating federal assistance to individual private schools, the paper says.

Under the formula, the schools would normally be entitled to about $23 billion over the four-year period. But because of a "grandfather clause" which protected wealthier schools from losing out if the formula was fully applied, many better-off schools have been able to maintain their funding at a far higher level.

According to Senate Estimates committee data, analysed by the Greens, these schools were funded at more than their formula levels over the period 2005 to 2008 at a cost to the Commonwealth education budget of $2.071 billion.

The Greens education spokesman, John Kaye, an engineering academic with a background in financial modelling, said the figures challenged the Federal Government's approach to private school funding.

"The Howard Government cannot have it both ways. Either they genuinely believe in their SES system or they don't."

However, Dr Croke told the Herald that the Greens criticism represented a failure to understand how the government formula works.

"They are falling into the trap of naively assuming that SES is so scientific that it can be applied absolutely. It is implying there is something dishonest about what the schools are receiving. Funding maintenance is an integral part of the SES-based system."

Private schools rake in $2b windfall (The Age, 20/11/06)
Excel sheet: Every private school in NSW - and what they get (The Age, 20/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
John Kaye's Homepage
National Catholic Education Commission

Veto fears over Govt's chaplaincy funding scheme (CathNews, 30/10/06)
Two-tier grading system no impact on Catholic schools (CathNews, 27/9/06)

20 Nov 2006