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$100m Blow to Catholic Schools

Last edited 4th May 2017

$100m Blow to Catholic Schools

The Catholic Education Commission of Victoria (CECV) has sounded the alarm on a controversial formula at the heart of the changes that could slow the growth in funding to the sector to just 1.9 per cent after 2021, fuelling concerns that threaten to divide the Coalition backbench ahead of a partyroom “showdown” on Tuesday.

The government moved last night to counter the fears by citing Treasury forecasts that show real funding growth of 3.5 per cent every year on average over the decade to 2027, highlighting a stand-off over a fundamental part of the reform plan. As tensions mount within the Coalition, Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said there might be “further tweaking” based on advice from David Gonski, the head of the review that created the model to fund schools based on their need. “We never completely close our minds,” Mr Joyce said last night. Education Minister Simon Birmingham dialled up the heat on the Catholic sector and premiers by saying critics of his reform were trying to “blackmail or bully” the government to extract more money.

Advisers to the CECV estimate the flexible rate amounts to 1.9 per cent, a big fall in long-term growth that will be legislated to last until 2027 or beyond. Wage deals already locked in by the Victorian Catholics of 3.2 per cent for teachers will produce a funding gap that will compound over the last seven years of the package.

The $25m funding gap in the first year will be spread across all 207,000 students in the state sector, raising costs by about $120 per student in that first year and creating the prospect of higher fees. Because the shortfall grows by $25m each year, the CECV estimates the cost per student could double to $240 in the second year, $360 in the third year and with similar increases afterwards. CECV executive director Stephen Elder said:

“Every school should be scared about this (indexation), not just ours. After the first three years of sugar-coating there will be seven years of pain. These are real funding cuts. And this is the story (Senator Birmingham) is not telling people.”

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