Vic Catholic schools funding at historic low

Victorian government funding for Catholic schools has fallen to "historically low" levels and is the lowest in Australia, the state's Catholic Education offices have revealed in documents released to coincide with the state election.

The result is that low-income families are being priced out of the Catholic schools sector, Catholic educators told The Age, describing it as particularly concerning given the church's "preferential option for the poor".

These comments were made by the Catholic Education offices of Melbourne, Ballarat, Sale and Sandhurst in documents distributed for its state election campaign, the Age says.

The documents show Victorian Government funding for Catholic schools is the lowest in Australia, and $454 less per pupil than for schools in NSW.

"It's serious underfunding," said Bill McMahon, director of Catholic Education in the Diocese of Sale.

"It's either a case of going to parents who really can't afford it and asking for more money ... or asking for us to be funded at the same level as other states."

Denis Higgins, director of Sandhurst diocese's Catholic Education, also warned fee rises might need to be considered.

"It would seem to me inevitable that some fee increases would be required if the State Government doesn't provide some additional resources," he said.

"But you have this dilemma - if you increase the fees, you preclude many of the families you are trying to serve."

Catholic schools in Victoria which educate about 183,000 students, or more than one in five Victorian students, presently funding equal to about 16 per cent of the cost of educating a child in the public sector.

The Catholic Education offices are calling on the next State Government to legislate that recurrent grants for schools must be 25 per cent of the cost of educating a child in a government school.

The Catholic sector's state election request also seeks more than $100 million in extra funds to support programs including students with disabilities, facilities upgrades, land purchases and improvements in information technology.

Low funding hits Catholic schooling (The Age, 13/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
State Election 2006 (Melbourne CEO)

Study shows fees forcing poor students out of Catholic schools (CathNews, 2/3/04)

13 Nov 2006