‘Increasingly alarmed’: Private and Catholic schools demand the government reveal school funding plans

The Turnbull government says it will announce its plans for school funding by the middle of the year Photo: Michele MossopThe powerful private and Catholic school sectors are demanding the Turnbull government reveal its plans for a new school funding model to begin next year because they are growing “increasingly alarmed” at the lack of detail from Canberra.

Fairfax Media reported this week that Education Minister Simon Birmingham has examined how to slow the funding growth of “over-funded” private schools, a move that would free up money to distribute to schools funded below their Schooling Resource Standard.

Both the Catholic and private sectors are concerned some of their schools could lose out under the new funding arrangements.

The politically-sensitive issue of school funding has been discussed repeatedly in cabinet over recent months, but the government has not finalised its position.

It is understood the government wants to hammer out the new four-year school funding deals at the April COAG meeting between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and state and territory leaders.

Independent Schools Council of Australia executive director Colette Colman said uncertainty over the new funding model was disrupting principals’ planning for the 2018 school year.

“Independent schools call on the Government to urgently resolve this issue,” Ms Colman said.

“The Commonwealth government has made public assurances that the independent school sector would be consulted on proposed changes to current school funding arrangements yet with less than 12 months until the Government’s current funding commitment ends and potential new arrangements are due to take effect, we have not seen any details.”

Ms Colman said the private school sector was particularly vulnerable to funding changes because it cannot move money between schools.

“Sudden alterations to funding would affect schools’ capacity to plan their operations going forward with confidence,” she said.

Acting National Catholic Education Commission executive director Danielle Cronin said time had already run out to overhaul Australia’s school funding system.

“The outstanding issues requiring attention in the school funding model will take more than a few weeks or months to address,” she said.

“There is not sufficient time remaining to define, analyse and negotiate changes to the Schooling Resource Standard and understand the implications for all schools in advance of the legislative and administrative arrangements that would be required to implement a new funding model for the 2018 school year.”

Senator Birmingham, who met with the private school sector last week, said the government was sticking by its timetable to resolve school funding in the first half of this year.

Funding for both public and non-government schools will continue to grow in coming years, he said.

“As a result of the 27 different funding deals struck by the previous Labor Government, we see the similar disparity and inequity in the funding the Commonwealth provides for comparable schools in the government sector as we do in the non-government sector,” he said.

“Similar government schools should be treated consistently by the federal government wherever they are in Australia, just as similar non-government schools should be treated consistently by the federal government wherever they are in Australia.”

Labor education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek called on Mr Turnbull to release his school funding plans because principals are “growing anxious” about the government’s plans.

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